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25 Factors to Consider When Adopting From China

Also available in a printable version

Current as of October 2011. This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency that places from this country for the most current information.



Parental Age

30-49 for non special needs children or to send a dossier to be considered for a child with mild and/or correctable special needs. 30-54 for children whose special needs classify them as a “special focus” child, meaning they have been waiting in China’s system longer and/or have a more complicated medical condition.

Age is determined as of date the dossier (adoption application and supporting paperwork) is officially logged in with the Chinese Adoption Authority (CCCWA).


Length of Marriage

2 years if neither parent has been divorced.

5 years if either parent has been divorced.

Time is determined as of date the dossier is officially logged in with the CCCWA.



No more than 2 divorces allowed per person.


Children in Family

No more than four birth or adopted children in the home. Some exceptions may be considered with special needs kids.


Single Applicant

Single women are allowed to adopt special needs children with a “special focus” designation. Applicants should be experienced in child care or have a child related occupation (doctor, nurse, teacher, etc). The applicant can have no more than two children at home, and the youngest must be at least 6. Single women must have a net worth of $100,000.


Sexual Orientation

Specifically prohibits placement with homosexuals.


Children Available

For non special needs children: 8 to 30 months at time of coming home to the US; average age is a year

For children with special needs: usually 18-36 months.

Older children and children with correctable special needs available.

Sibling groups rare.






Despite what you might have heard, both boys and girls are available, but most boys that need families have special needs or are older.


Adopting more than one unrelated child at same time

Not allowed, unless one child is on the Special Focus special needs list.


Travel in Country

Required. One parent, although many agencies strongly recommend both travel.

Two weeks; if child is adopted from Beijing plan on spending an extra week due to delays with issuing passports in the capital. US State Department will require TB testing as of 7/1/09, and this may add a few additional days to the trip, if the test results are positive. Parents most often travel in groups with bilingual guide

Families adopting a child with special needs often do not travel in groups.


Referral Method

· Non Special Needs: Dossier is submitted to the CCCWA and CCCWA assigns referrals/matches to families.

· Special Needs: Agencies have access to CCCWA’s list of children with special needs and propose the match between child and adoptive family. A shared list exists of children with special needs that all agencies that place children from China have access to. However, CCCWA continues to assign specific special needs referrals (children with a “special focus” designation) to some agencies individually, so not all referrals are shared. Ask your agency if they have specific referrals (or an “individual list”) of SN children if you are interested in this option.


Wait for referral

(after dossier received and registered by China)

· Non Special Needs: 5+ years, and the wait continues to increase. For families submitting a dossier now – an unknown length of time. Slightly quicker for families of Chinese heritage (example, perhaps ~5 yrs instead of 7 years).

· Special Needs: Timing varies, based on parents’ openness to range of child’s special needs, gender, and age. The more open the parents are, the shorter the wait. Referral usually possible within 1-9 months. It is possible to complete the adoption of a child with special needs in approximately one year.


Wait after referral

Non Special Needs adoptions: I-800 families (which most are, now) 3-4 months. Special Needs Adoptions referral comes much earlier in the process and the wait from choosing the child to travel is 4-6 months This is highly variable, and depends on where the dossier is in the internal CCCWA processing when the match is made, and can be up to 9 months.


Approximate Cost

$26,000 to $32,000


Adequacy of medical reports

Standardized medical and developmental forms with all boxes usually checked as normal unless child is classified as special needs.

Information may be dated, but if more than 6 months old, new information can be requested and may be obtained depending on the orphanage.

In the 1990s one study found that approximately 18% of children had undiagnosed medical problems upon arrival home (Miller and Hendrie 2000).

Usually only a single set of growth and developmental measurements are given.

Lab reports considered fairly accurate.

No birth family or prenatal history.

Additional information and testing not usually available unless child has special needs.


Youngest Age Upon Arrival Home

Non Special Needs: 8 months, but average is 10-12 months

Special Needs: mostly 18 months – 3 years old

School age children also available up to age 13.


Orphanage/Foster Care

Usually orphanage, but foster care and group homes becoming more common in some provinces, particularly for care of special needs children.


How children enter government care

Abandonment. The assumption is that babies are abandoned due to legal restrictions on family size, unwed mothers, birth families unable to care for a child’s special need(s), and a societal preference for boys.


Prevalence of FAS

Historically there has been little alcohol use among pregnant women in China; although, social conditions are changing. The assumption is that most were wanted pregnancies, which may indicate better prenatal habits. IA doctors generally report seeing very few children with a concern for FAS.


Number of children placed in the US from 1999-2010




Stable. I know some will disagree with this rating, but in my opinion, even though wait times have increased dramatically, the China adoption process continues to be a relatively predictable, streamlined and transparent process. It has however become more of a special needs adoption program due to the unrealistic wait for a child without special needs.





Post Adoption Reports

Required at 1, 6 and 12 months, and at 2, 3 and 5 yrs from placement date, with supplemental information required in specific reports, such as an update form on the child’s special needs, a physical exam, a school eval, and for children age 10 or older, an essay. Must be prepared by social worker from the agency that prepared the home study.


Hague Treaty



Additional Information

  • IA doctors note that although developmental delays are common when children first arrive home, most children are otherwise in good health.
  • IA doctors note that head circumference measurements are generally average.
  • Adoption finalized in China.
  • If you are applying for a non special needs child, parts of your dossier paperwork will expire during your wait and will have to be renewed at least once. We do not know anything about this.
  • China has very specific health criteria for adoptive parents that they interpret strictly unless you are adopting a child classified as “special focus”. The verbatim translation of the health rules that went into effect on May 1, 2007 follows. Note that time span is computed from the time the dossier is officially logged in. “Both the husband and wife are fully healthy physically and mentally, and do not have the following conditions:
  • AIDS;
  • Mental handicap;
  • Infectious disease within infective stage;
  • Binocular blind or binocular parallax or monocular blind and with no ocular prosthesis;
  • Binaural hearing loss or language function loss; adoption of special needs children who have identical conditions will be exempt from this limitation;
  • A function or dysfunction of limbs or trunk caused by impairment, incompleteness, numbness or deformation; severe facial deformation;
  • Severe diseases which require long term treatment and which affect life expectancy, like malignant tumor, lupus erythematosus, nephrosis, epilepsy, and ect.;
  • Post-surgery of major organs transplantation, not yet 10 years;
  • Schizophrenia;
  • Medication for severe mental disorders, like depression, mania, or anxiety neurosis and etc. stopped not more than 2 years;
  • Body Mass Index greater than or equal to 40.”
  • Neither applicant may have a “significant” criminal record or evidence of:
    • Domestic violence, sexual abuse, abandonment or abuse of children;
    • Use of narcotics or any potentially addictive medication prescribed for mental illness;
    • Alcohol abuse, unless the individual can show she/he has been sober for at least ten years
  • Applications with less significant criminal records will be considered on a case-by-case basis if fewer than three minor criminal convictions (none in the last ten years) and fewer than five minor traffic violations.
  • Time span is computed from the time the dossier is officially logged in.
  • Income requirement guidelines: $30,000 per family plus $10,000 for each child already in home. Minimum net worth of $80,000. Check with agency if investments or self-employment affects these numbers. This is higher for single women – net worth of $100K.
  • Parents are required to make a “donation” to the child welfare institution that cared for the child. Most agencies include this cost in their program fee and this money was included in the cost estimate in this chart. Parents must carry approximately $5,400 in US dollars with them when they travel (exact amount fluctuates with currency exchange rate. It may be possible with some agencies and some regions to wire the money.
  • Home study agency must have either Hague or COA Child and Family accreditation, proof of which is submitted with the dossier.
  • Unlike other Hague countries where U.S. requires a minimum of 10 hours of adoption preparation and education, CCCWA now requires a minimum of 12 hours.
  • CCCWA requires a “psychological report” supplemental to the home study for applicants where the following is applicable.
    • has received or is receiving psychological counseling, training or therapy;
    • may have potential emotional problems which can affect adoption, such as alcohol problems in his/her youth (and has abstained from drinking for at least 10 years, per China’s current requirements);
    • has been mentally or physically abused;
    • has suffered emotional loss or trauma;
    • has other problems which the social worker considers warrant a psychological evaluation.


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