“Why do you want to adopt a baby no one else wants?”
This is one of the most common and offensive questions when it comes to adoption. Many people are genuinely curious about the adoption process, which is understandable, and I’m happy to help educate people about the joys of building their family through adoption. But the idea that adopted children are people “no one wants” is wrong.
While some birth parents might give up their children because they weren’t ready to become a parent, for the most part, parents who put their children up for adoption here in China want to keep their children. Birth control pills, condoms, and abortions are all readily accessible here. And while China’s sex-ed is lacking and unwanted/unexpected pregnancies do happen, almost 100% of children who are abandoned here in China have a significant special need. These parents want to parent their children. It is only because of extreme circumstances that they are forced to relinquish their kids.
There are two main driving forces resulting in abandonment and adoption in China.
The first is China’s family planning policy. Once a one-child policy, now a two-child policy, it really doesn’t matter how many children the government wants to include in their draconian method of unnecessarily controlling the country’s population. By limiting how many children a family can have, parents are forced to make horrifying choices that most of us in the world can never imagine.
You might be able to sit in the comfort of your home and think, “I could never give up my child just because the government told me to,” but you’ve never had the government actually tell you that. If a government official came into your home today and told you that if you didn’t give up your much-loved second child, you would lose your job and your home, you would not be able to access healthcare, and your other child would not be able to go to school, what would you do? Really? Again, it is so easy to say, “I’d rather be homeless” when you have a home. I know this sounds like something out a dystopian novel, but it has been going on here in China – for every single family – for more than thirty years. Countless loved, wanted children have ended up in the adoption system because of this disgusting policy.
And the family planning policy extends to adoption. There are actually many families in China who would love to adopt but can’t because they already have one or two children. Chinese adoptees are not “unwanted” by their birth families or by Chinese adoptive families – they are simply not allowed to stay with their families or be adopted. In Xinran’s book Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother, she gets deeply personal about her experience trying to adopt a little girl after she had already given birth to her son.
Being forced to have only a limited number of children feeds directly into the second reason many children are abandoned in China – no access to medical services for children with special needs.
Here in China, it is extremely rare to see people with disabilities. I can count on one hand how many people in wheelchairs I have seen. Or blind people. Or people using sign language.
This is a bit of circular reasoning. In China, there are no services for disabled persons. For example, there are many places you simply cannot access if you are in a wheelchair. Therefore, you never see disabled people in public. So why build services for disabled persons if there aren’t any in public? But you never see them in public because there are no services for them…and so on.
When it comes to having children, many people realize the difficulties that people with disabilities face. Chinese families also have a very dependent set-up. There is no social security system from the government or retirement benefits from your employer. Parents raise their children, and the children show thanks by supporting their parents in their old age. If a child is born with a disability, the likelihood that the child will then be able to earn enough to support their parent later is greatly diminished. So many children with disabilities are abandoned at birth or abandoned later if a healthier sibling comes along.
Even if a family wanted to keep the child with a disability, as I already said, the services don’t exist. Where we currently live, speech and physical therapists don’t exist. And even if they did, many people won’t know what they are, how to access them, or be able to afford them.
Even though my husband and I have access to top quality medical care and have the money to pursue it, raising a child with special needs is hard. There have been many days when I have felt frustrated and alone and worry about our daughter’s future. I can’t imagine the agony our daughter’s birth parents endured before they made the painful decision to let her go.
So before you think – or hear someone else say – that an adoptee was “unwanted,” stop. The child was probably desperatly loved and wanted by far more people than you realize.