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Guangzhou Consulate: Visa Scheduling Change

The Consulate in Guangzhou has changed the procedure for scheduling adoption Visa Interviews. Effective immediatly, the Adoption Unit will not schedule a Visa Interview until the adopting family has the official Permission to Travel from the China Center for Adoption Affairs. This change is being made to reduce the number of no-shows for visa interviews due to agencies scheduling interviews well before travel dates are established. The actual effect (if any) on waiting times will not be fully known until the procedure has been in place for several months.

The Current Situation in China

What is the Situation?

As many of you are aware, there has recently been a great deal of speculation about the status of the international adoption program in China. This is an attempt to outline what we think is happening, and give some guidance to people who are attempting to make sense of lots of conflicting information.

On the positive side, China's commitment to international adoption remains unswerving, the 1992 law governing adoption in China remains in force and unchanged, and adoption processing continues. If you are over 35 and childless, there will be little impact on your plans except that processing will be somewhat slower than in the past. There is still every expectation that you will ultimately be referred a healthy child.

Special Needs Adoption: If you are under 35 or have a child or children are in the home, the China Adoption Law states:

Article 8 The adopter may adopt one child only, male or female. ......disabled children may be adopted irrespective of the restrictions that the adopter shall be childless, reach the age of 35 and adopt one child only.

However, the law does not give a precise definition of "disabled" , and it is this point which is currently under review. (The Chinese do not use the term "special needs", although the meanings are roughly analogous) All children, regardless of their age are being evaluated to determine their health status before referral. All special needs adoptions are presently (Nov. 20, 1996) under review, pending a determination of what children will be classified as special needs cases. A final determination of what will constitute special needs has not yet been made, and it may take several months before this decision is reached.

All dossiers submitted to China since last April are now under review to determine if the families meet the requirements of over 35 and childless to adopt a healthy child. If you are under 35 (either parent) or have prior children, even grown children from a prior marriage, you need to speak to your agency as soon as possible about the medical conditions that may apply to a child who will be referred. This issue affects only those waiting families with prior children or who are under 35 years of age.

If you meet the age and childlessness rules, then your adoption will probably proceed as it always would have, although the dossier processing will certainly take longer than has been the case. It is not possible to make a precise estimate of processing time, but we expect that processing will speed up as the staff at the CCAA eliminates the backlog of dossiers in place and streamlines the adoption process over the next few months.


For several years, the Ministries of Justice and Civil Affairs were jointly in charge of adoption application processing. This caused occasional procedural disagreements between the two ministries and slow downs in processing, so in May of 1996 it was decided that the Ministry of Civil Affairs would assume full responsibility for initiating child referrals and reviewing adoption applications for correctness and to determine that the applications and referrals were fully consistent with Chinese law.

The first consequence of this reorganization was that a large number of dossiers, probably more than a thousand, were delayed for several months before they were transferred to the Civil Affairs offices. When these dossiers finally arrived at Civil Affairs, the adoption process became overloaded, because there was now only one office trying to deal with a workload that was previously spread over two ministries. Although there was never a decrease in the absolute number of adoptions processed, a longer turn around time on dossier processing occurred because of the increased numbers of dossiers in process in Civil Affairs. The rate of adoption processing may have slowed in the last 3-4 weeks, but statistics are not yet available.

The second consequence of the reorganization was staff turnover. When the CCAA was put under the sole jurisdiction of Civil Affairs, a new Director, Mr. Guo SiJin was appointed for the CCAA and the staff of the CCAA was expanded. Mr. Guo has stated that his goal is to process all dossiers in the backlog as quickly as possible and to make the system run smoothly and quickly. Due to the many new staff, American adoption agencies have had to rebuild working relationships and contacts with new CCAA staffers. In recent weeks, many agencies have sent their representatives or directors to Beijing to meet with Mr. Guo and his staff. It will be some time before this process is complete, but then we should see dossier processing moving more quickly.

What's Next?

The Chinese authorities are acting to assure the long-term stability and legality of international adoption in China. FCC does not believe that any attempt to interfere in internal Chinese government decision-making or to change internal Chinese policies can have a positive impact.

Many agencies have sent representatives to China (often the executive directors) to discuss the adoption program with the Chinese authorities. Waiting families and prospective parents have strong advocacy taking place on their behalf. The committment of the Chinese to a strong international adoption program remains unchanged. Although it is difficult advice to give and difficult advice to accept, the best course for individual families may be simply to wait.

A very current source of updates is the a-parent-china mailing list. This source allows waiting parents to pool information and post what is learned from all sources. However, the current situation has given rise to a number of unfounded rumors, almost all of which paint the current situation as much more dire than it probably is! If you read this list, please remember that not everything that is stated is necessarily correct. If you post to this list, please try to post factual information, or qualify information that is conjecture or plausible speculation.

A number of families have stated their intention to divert to another country, particularly Korea or Vietnam. This is an individual decision that depends on the particular needs of your family. However, we do not yet know how different China adoption rules will be than in the past. We hope that the current uncertainties about the precise definition of special needs classification and the length of time required to process an adoption application for a healthy child referral if the family meets the Chinese requirements will be resolved quickly.

Fortunately, the Chinese are well aware of the deep love that we have for the children we've adopted. In return, potential China adoptive families should be comforted by the continued commitment of the Chinese government to international adoption and the advocacy for it by a large number of Chinese officials. Reproduced below is a statement from the Chinese embassy given in thanks for our support of the Chinese international adoption program when Human Rights Watch issued a flawed report on Chinese orphanages. We have no reason to think that they've forgotten the common love that we share with them for these precious children. Please be patient. Any further solid information, as opposed to rumors and speculation, will be posted on the F.C.C. web site as quickly as possible.


The Ambassador has received hundreds of letters recently from many adoptive parents of Chinese children and other friends regarding the accusations in a recent Human Rights Watch/Asia report. One letter says, "It is grossly unfair to suggest China is letting children die in orphanages based on one person's dated and uncorroborated report on one orphanage." Another comments, "While the orphanage needed many things--more light, a paint job, toys--the facility was heated, the nurses were attentive, and the children were well fed, overbundled and bored. Several U.S. adoption experts tell me this description matches the conditions they routinely encounter."

The Ambassador wishes to take this opportunity to express his sincere thanks to all those who have written him to offer their sympathy and support. Their letters have confirmed the point the Embassy is trying to make. That is we in China care for our children. The many adoptive families' own stories of adoption seem to fall on the deaf ear of the Human Rights Watch/Asia.

China has made tremendous efforts for the protection, happiness and development of the children including the less fortunate ones in the country. The reason is simple, the Chinese Government firmly believes that children are the future of the country and society.

Please rest assured that the Embassy will continue to work with its many friends here to help advance the cause of child care and protection in China.

CCAA Resumes China Adoptions

The China Center for Adoption Affairs has posted an announcement on their website on June 24, 2003 stating that as WHO has removed China from the list of areas where local SARS transmission has occured, it is resuming normal operations. These are the specific measures now in place:

  1. CCAA will resume mailing referral packages to adoption agencies.
  2. CCAA will resume signing and mailing the Travel Permission letters. The period of validity of Travel Permission letters already sent where parents have not traveled will be extended from the current 3 months to 6 months.
  3. Travel Permission letters already issued are valid for 6 months.
  4. Travel Permission letters issued after June 24, 2003 will be valid for the ususal 3 month period.
  5. Consultation with CCAA is needed before travel.

CCAA Suspends China Adoptions

The China Center for Adoption Affairs has posted an announcement on their website on May 15, 2003 stating that due to the SARS epidemic, it was taking measures to reduce the possible spread of the disease due to adoption travel. These are the specific measures now in place until further notice:

  1. CCAA will postpone mailing referral packages to adoption agencies.
  2. CCAA will postpone signing and mailing the Travel Permission letters. The period of validity of Travel Permission letters already sent where parents have not traveled will be extended from the current 3 months to 6 months.
  3. Parents who have Travel Permission but who have not traveled to China are strongly urged to postpone travel if at all possible.
  4. CCAA will continue to process applications during the suspension of travel.
  5. CCAA will resume sending referral letters and travel permission letters as soon as the health situation in China allows. Notice will be published on the CCAA website.

Commentary and opinion

by Jim Weaver, FCC webmaster

It has been reported that CCAA will evaluate the situation monthly: "What they have told us is that they will evaluate the SARS situation in early June, and if it's appropriate, they will mail out referrals then. If not, they will re-evaluate it in a month," said Sharon Knoepfler, China program coordinator of World Association Children and Parents in an article in the Seattle Times, 5/17/03.

CCAA has taken this step for a number of reasons. The first is that the situation inside of China has become very difficult in some areas. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), SARS is now found in 10 provinces in China. Travel restrictions are in place in some parts of the country and anyone showing any sign of respiratory disease is immediately put in quarantine for 10 days. China has put into place some very strict measures to try and contain the SARS epidemic. Evading quarantine can now be punished by up to 7 years in jail. The situation is very fluid and changes literally from day to day. This makes the complex coordination needed for adoption travel extremely difficult.

A separate consideration is the health of the adopting parents. SARS is a potentially fatal disease. Fifteen percent of all patients in the age range of 45-64 die from the disease according to WHO data. For the 25-44 age range, the death rate is 6%. In the U.S. there have already been several possible cases of SARS among people who have traveled to China for an adoption, according to press reports. While all of those in the U.S. who became sick have recovered, there will be parents who would die from this disease if travel continues. As much as we all want to get the children home with us, it is worth a delay of a few months to avoid a potentially fatal disease.

Speaking from personal experience, our family was one of those caught up in the suspension in 1996 when China implemented a major reorganization of their adoption process. Our paperwork went to China in April of 1996 when it took about 3 months to get a referral. The suspension began in May and continued until late August. Due to the resulting backlog in applications, we did not get our referral until February of 1997 and did not travel until May of 1997. It was a difficult time for all of the families caught in a very uncertain situation. I can understand the feelings of the families currently in limbo due to the SARS situation. We did get through it and our daughter is the joy of our family. The families now waiting will ultimately get their children, and looking back in later years will be able to say "It was tough to wait, but it sure was worth it".

CCAA Posts Reply to Agency Quota Comments

CCAA has posted a reply to the many comments received in response to the announcement of quotas. The full text is re-posted below. The document makes three points.

  1. The quota on overall numbers of adoptions is temporary until they can clear the massive backlog of dossiers already stacked up at CCAA.
  2. Adoptions of children with medical special needs will still be fast tracked and do NOT count against an agencies overall quota.
  3. The 5% limit for dossiers from single parents is not changed.

Here is the original text minus unusual special characters. The text on the CCAA website is at: http://www.china-ccaa.org/ccaa-tz4y.htm.




November 28, 2001

Open Letter of Matters Concerning Receipt of Application Documents for Adoption

To the adoption agencies and organizations concerned:

Many adoption agencies and organizations have written letters and sent faxes to the China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) since the Center sent out the Notice of Receiving Application Documents for Adoption in the Year 2002, expressing their understanding of and support to the measures taken by the CCAA to overcome the problem of the piles of documents in stock and shorten the period of time for examining and approving adoption applications and also putting forward many excellent suggestions at the same time as to how to further regulate the adoption work and the qualifications of the adoption organizations. For this, the CCAA would like to express the sincerest thanks to the adoption agencies and organizations for their positive coordination and friendly cooperation. Now we would like to elaborate the following three explanatory points on matters you are concerned about:

  1. The question concerning the receipt of the amount of application documents for adoption. As is expounded in the Notice, the measure for putting the receipt of the amount of application documents for adoption under control in the year 2002 is a temporary one for the purpose of solving the problem of the pileup of documents in stock at the present stage, as it has caused the waiting time for the adoption to prolong much longer than ever before, and it is a readjustment of the method of work, and not a change of adoptive policy. In so doing, it has purely taken into account the interests of the adopters and the adoption organizations. The adoption agencies and organizations concerned are kindly requested to actively cooperate with us and submit the application documents for adoption according to the checked and ratified amount.
  2. The question of adopting children of special needs. The CCAA has all along attached great importance to the work of adoption of children of special needs. In recent years, many of them have found their homes through the method of authorizing the adoption organizations to seek adoptive families. In 2002, the China Center of Adoption Affairs will continue to authorize adoption organizations to seek adoptive families for the children of special needs. To make sure this work can be smoothly carried out, the CCAA has adopted the following two measures:
    One, the number of adoption of the children of special needs by adoptive families through the adoption organizations authorized by the CCAA will not be restricted by the 2002 amount.
    Two, Green Passage will continue to be through for expediting the adoption process for their benefits, so that they can go home as early as possible for medical treatment.

    Specific practice:
    (1) The adoption agencies and organizations willing to take up the task of seeking adoptive families to adopt children of special needs may put forward their written applications to the CCAA, and the CCAA will send the materials concerning the children of special needs to the adoption agencies and organizations concerned after it has examined and approved their applications. After the adoption agencies and organizations concerned have identified the adoptive families, they should send to the CCAA the conditions of the adoptive families together with their plans for medical treatment of the children of special needs. With the verification and consent of the CCAA, they will go through the formalities according to the adoption procedures;
    (2) To seek adoptive families for the children of special needs is a task even more complicated than the ordinary adoption. The peculiarities on the part of the children of special needs call for more superior conditions of the adoptive families than that of the other adoptive families. For example, the adopters should be imbued with the kind of love for the children of special needs; the fine psychological preparedness and quality for raising them; the skill and mental preparedness for taking care of them; they should have stable occupation and relatively high financial income as well as the environment and conditions beneficial to the rehabilitation of the children of special needs. Apart from all this, the adoption agencies and organizations should give more loving care and more consideration for these adoptive families in rendering services to them.

  3. The question of single adopters. When checking and ratifying the amount of application documents for adoption in the year 2002, the CCAA has fixed the number of application documents for adoption by single adopters at not more than 5% of the total amount. In so doing, it has proceeded completely from the consideration of the immediate interests of the adopted children as required by our working principle of Everything for the Children. Therefore, we have to choose the family environment best suited to the healthy growth of the adoptees.

Thank you for your cooperation.

China Center of Adoption Affairs

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