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China may broaden adoption law

Foreign families may be able to adopt orphans or abandoned children who are not under State care, a senior adoption official revealed to China Daily in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

Updated: 2012-07-06 02:29

By He Dan ( China Daily)

Children under State care have been eligible for adoption since the early 1980s, said Zhang Shifeng, who heads the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption. Regulations are being drafted to broaden the category for those eligible for adoption to include "children in plight".

The term refers to orphans who cannot receive basic care from close relatives and children whose parents, for whatever reason, were unable to provide due care, Zhang said.

Adoption by foreign families was an effective way to permanently resettle "children in plight", he said.

The Adoption Law, which was issued in 1992 and amended in 1998, stipulates that children aged 14 or younger are qualified for adoption if they have lost parents or were abandoned. They were also eligible if their parents were not in a position to raise them properly.

The law states that legal guardians of parentless children, child welfare institutions and birth parents who are experiencing difficulty are entitled to place a child for adoption.

Research conducted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2009 showed that there were more than 600,000 children who had lost their parents but lived outside formal State care.

"Some parentless children live with their grandparents or other relatives, but this does not guarantee that they are being properly taken care of," Zhang said.

"During visits to various areas, we often encounter a situation where grandparents may be too old to raise a child, uncles and aunts may not treat the child well or even abuse the child if they have their own children," he said.

To guarantee children's rights, the adoption center is drawing up regulations that will help these children to find a caring and loving home in China or overseas, he said.

Meanwhile, some provinces including Henan, Jiangsu and Guizhou have started pilot projects.

Luoning county in Central China's Henan province launched a pilot overseas adoption project in 2007 for orphans or abandoned children living outside formal State care.

Du Liming, deputy director of the civil affairs bureau in Luoning, said the foreign family adoption procedure for children not living in State care was stricter than for those who were.

The stricter procedure included a clause that a local community committee should appoint someone as the legal guardian for the child and the adoption contract between the legal guardian and applicant family cannot take effect unless it had been notarized.

Wang Changshui, 11, lived rough after his father died from cancer and his mother was paralyzed from the neck down after falling in a domestic accident.

Du said Wang's mother, who lived on government subsidies and relied on care from her 70-year-old mother-in-law, agreed to give up custody of her two children.

Now, Wang and his 13-year-old sister are living in a local child welfare institution, waiting for overseas adoption, Du said.

Official statistics show that nationally some 100 orphans who live outside of child welfare institutions have been adopted by foreign families.

The adoption center has also received six applications from parents who want to place their children for overseas adoption.

"We have followed the fortunes of adopted children overseas, and feedback shows that adoptive families have provided a loving and caring environment for those children,'' Zhang said.

Beth Alpert, a mother of two adopted daughters from China, welcomed the proposed adoption policy.

"Adoption was the best thing for my family, it changed my life. I know many families in America would love to have Chinese children if they (those children) needed a home," Alpert said.

Tong Xiaojun, a professor who specializes on children's rights from the school of social work at the China Youth University for Political Sciences in Beijing, said policy innovation will benefit children outside State care.

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