It used to be that China opened its arms and orphanages to Americans seeking to adopt Chinese girls. These days, it's more difficult — and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Some things are bad, though, like this:
The new regulations require, among other things, that adoptive parents be married, under 50, not classified as clinically obese, not have taken antidepressant medications in the past two years, not have facial deformities and meet certain educational and economic requirements.
I don't know why Prozac and "facial deformities" are disqualifying factors, honestly, though I can certainly see age and ability to care for the child being decent ones.
But it's not just the new requirements which halved the number of American adoptions between 2005 and 2008.
While the Chinese government does not release domestic adoption figures, U.S.-based adoption agencies say more Chinese children are being adopted in China. "You have this cultural shift along with the economic shift, where more and more people cannot only afford to adopt a child, but culturally it's more accepted," says Cory Barron, foundation director at Children's Hope International.
So, actually, it's not a terrible thing, if it is a result of (or results in) adoption becoming more acceptable in China and fewer children languishing in orphanages before their adoption.
And the sexism that resulted in so many girls being put of for adoption under China's one-child policy? That might be easing some, too.
A slow shift in gender perception may also be playing a role. While girls still make up 95% of children at orphanages, Zhong says that, too, has shifted. "People's attitude toward having girls is changing dramatically," Zhong says. "I have friends [in China] who have girls, and they are just so excited."
That's actually a really positive sign — especially given that sex-selective abortion and adoption have already resulted in demographic shifts that aren't sustainable in China.
But there's another benefit as well:
Today, China has a backlog of approved applicants from around the world and is just now placing children into the homes of families who were approved for adoption in March 2006.
For some families, that's too long, and so they look to China's "waiting child" list of children with special needs, ranging from cleft lips or deafness to more severe physical and mental disabilities. Prospective parents can read about a child's disability in a national database and decide if it is something they can take on. "Kids who would probably never be adopted in China and maybe wouldn't have been adopted in the U.S. are now getting homes," Barron says.
So, children who not only wouldn't stand a good chance of adoption but might also lack access to the best medical care for them (cleft lip and palate surgery is widely available and simple in the States and Europe, for instance) might stand a much better chance at getting that care. It's not the most ideal situation for American parents, perhaps, but it sounds like the situation for Americans might be getting worse because the situation for little Chinese girls is getting a little better. And that's a damn good trade-off.