-- by Brian H. Stuy
The news this week that Chinese Family Planning officials had raided a small farming community in rural Hunan Province and confiscated nearly twenty young children has citizens in China understandably outraged. Family Planning officials are already despised by most Chinese, due to their ability to blatantly and capriciously impose their will on local families. As the New York Times described it, villages and towns are often "private fiefdoms run by local party officials." This story, in which Family Planning confiscated children to "sell" to overseas foreign families through the area orphanage, has ignited a firestorm of outrage in China, most of it directed at the Family Planning establishment.
This anger is largely misdirected. Although the Family Planning officials are certainly guilty of myriad sins, the majority of the guilt for these events should be directed at the orphanages themselves.
Most would assume that orphanages in China are set up to care for abandoned children found scattered around the countryside. What is usually overlooked is that with the introduction of international adoption in 1992, fees paid by foreign families has become a substantial source of revenue for China's social welfare program, revenue that is used to build lavish and impressive orphanages and Old Folk's Homes, used to "benefit" local and Provincial authorities, and used to pay the salaries of an entire bureaucratic structure dedicated to international adoptions. Everyone involved in China's international adoption program has an incentive to keep the program going. The payoff is obvious -- for every child adopted by a foreign family, the orphanage receives $5,000 (35,000 yuan) in "donations".
The Gaoping Family Planning confiscations has its root not in the Family Planning restrictions, but in the Shaoyang orphanage. Area residents reveal that before 2000, Family Planning officials would punish a family for having an overquota child by smashing their furniture or destroying their homes. "Since 2000 they haven't smashed homes. They abduct children," one local resident stated. The change occurred when the orphanage began to reward the Family Planning official who confiscated a child with 1,000 yuan cash. Now, instead of having to expend energy smashing a couch or end table, the officials could simply take the child and be paid nearly a month's salary as a reward.
In 2005, six orphanages in Hunan Province were caught buying babies from area traffickers. Although those six orphanages largely ceased participating in the international adoption program after the exposure, many other orphanages inside China have continued to buy babies from traffickers unimpeded. Press stories by ABC News, the L.A. Times, and others show that buying babies is still prevalent, and statistical analysis reveals that a majority of children adopted from China entered the orphanage through Family Planning confiscations, outright purchase, or through other "incentive" programs. Rather than being safe-havens for unwanted and abandoned children, China's orphanages are more accurately described as businesses, seeking to maximize its benefit like any other profit-seeking enterprise.
China's problems are by no means unique, as similar scandals have been seen in Ethiopia, Guatamala, Vietnam, Romania, and nearly every other sending country on earth. These problems will persist until the "profit-making" structure of international adoption is changed. Until an orphanage can no longer receive substantial cash donations from foreign families for a child that they can obtain for relatively little outlay, enterprising orphanage directors will
continue to make "deals with the devil", whether that be area baby traffickers or the local Family Planning officials.
**Brian Stuy is the owner of Research-China.Org, a firm committed to obtaining pre-adoption information for children adopted from China. He is a member of PEAR (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform). He can be contacted at BrianStuy@Research-China.Org.
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