The following was originally published in the Shenzhen Daily.
One day, your parents are gone. Your home is gone. You don’t know where you are. You are in a new, strange place. There are other people around you who seem nice, but they are not your parents. There are other children in this place. You cry and cry and wait and wait, but Mommy and Daddy never come back. Sometimes the other children disappear from this new place. Sometimes the caretakers leave and new ones arrive. You have trouble trusting or bonding with anyone because you never know if they will leave you too.
One day, two new people take you away. You never met them before and don’t know where you are going. They try to hold and kiss you, but why? Will you go back to that place with the other children? Will these people leave just like Mommy and Daddy did?
Even though adoption is a joyous occasion for adoptive parents, parents know that adoption only comes after great loss. Even very little adopted children have experienced loss and abandonment. Adopted children need time to adjust and bond with their new family just like any new baby.
China has very progressive maternity leave allowances. Chinese mothers are entitled to a minimum of 98 days of paid maternity leave. Some provinces, cities and employers offer much more than this. Many parts of China are currently extending their parental leave policies for mothers and fathers because of the new two-child policy. However, Chinese law does not allow for parental leave for adoptive parents.
As demonstrated by the illustration above, parental leave for adoptive parents is a necessity. While adoptive mothers do not need time off work for their bodies to heal after a birth, the emotional turmoil that accompanies an adopted child means that the child needs time to get to know her new parents and her new surroundings. New parents need this time as well. Adding a child to your life is always a momentous and life-changing event!
I understand that the main reason why adoptive parents are not taken into consideration in China’s parental leave laws is because adoption was not always popular in China in the past, but that is quickly changing! Prior to 2009, only about 7,000 families adopted children in China annually. But by 2011, that number soared to over 31,000. Today, as many as 45,000 families adopt children in China every year. It is time for China’s parental leave policies to catch up!
That number is far behind other countries, though. In America, there are over 130,000 adoptions every year, including over 10,000 annual adoptions of Chinese children. But in America parental leave is the same for birth parents and adoptive parents.
One way China can help support adoptive parents and encourage domestic adoption is by extending parental leave to include adoptive parents. While many families have no problem covering the costs of adoption, quitting their jobs or taking extended unpaid leave to care for the new child is out of the question for most families. How wonderful would it be if Chinese orphans could be adopted by more families in their home country? And now that China has changed the one-child policy to a two-child policy, many more parents might choose to grow their families through adoption instead of birth if they didn’t have to risk losing their jobs to do so.
Adoptive parents are not asking for special treatment – they are simply asking for equal treatment. Adopted children deserve time to bond with their new mommies and daddies just like any other baby.