China is imposing new restrictions on foreign adoptions, barring applicants who are unmarried, obese, over 50 or who take antidepressants, according to U.S. adoption agencies.
The restrictions are meant to limit adoptions to “only the most qualified families,” said the Web site of one agency, Harrah’s Adoption International Mission in Spring, Texas. The agency said China has pledged to try to make more children available to those who qualify.
The move comes amid a surge in foreign applications to adopt Chinese children. The United States is the No. 1 destination for children adopted abroad, but the number going to Europe and elsewhere is rising.
An employee of the government-run China Center of Adoption Affairs, the agency that oversees foreign adoptions, said it has issued new guidelines but refused to confirm the details released by the American agencies. He wouldn’t give his name.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing said it was looking into reports of the new regulations. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with embassy rules.
Americans adopted 7,906 children from China in 2005, raising the total since 1989 to 48,504, according to the Joint Council on International Children’s Services in Alexandria, Va., an association of adoption agencies and parents’ groups. The group’s Web site lists 110 U.S. groups that arrange adoptions from China.
Under the new rules, only people who have been married for at least two years will be eligible to adopt, according to Harrah’s, the New Beginnings Family and Children’s Services Inc. of Mineola, N.Y., and Families Thru International Adoption Inc. of Evansville, Ind.
Beijing previously allowed adoptions by unmarried foreigners.
The agencies said Chinese officials disclosed the rules at a Dec. 8 meeting in Beijing. They take effect May 1.
Body Mass Index checked
Among other restrictions, couples must have a Body Mass Index — a measure of obesity — of no more than 40 and be aged 30-50, with people up to age 55 considered for children with special needs, according to the agencies.
The rules bar parents who take medication for psychiatric conditions including depression and anxiety or have a “severe facial deformity.”
The China Center for Adoption Affairs has said it is trying to increase the number of children available by creating a new charity to improve conditions in orphanages and “keep infants and young children alive and well enough to be adopted,” Harrah’s said.
Many Chinese children adopted abroad are girls who are given up by couples who, bound by rules that limit most urban families to one child, want to try for a son. Others are left at orphanages or by the roadside by unmarried mothers or poor families.
A sharp increase in foreign applications for adoption has led to a backlog in approvals, with waiting times rising from six months in early 2005 to as much as 15 months now, according to adoption agencies.
Applicants ‘still have time’
Keith Wallace, head of Families Thru International Adoption Inc., said he is advising families that the rules go into affect for all applications submitted after May 1 and that those already in the adoption process should be exempt from the new restrictions.
“They still have time” to get their applications in before the May 1 deadline, he said.
Wallace said he has received some questions about the new rules, mainly from those who have already started the process.
“We explain that it’s China’s right to set restrictions,” he said. “You and I might not agree with a particular one, but we will respect it.”