China adoption news is on my radar because my wife and I are in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. The topic ventures into the media every so often. Some positive (or at least neutral) recent examples are the Meg Ryan adoption and a recent People piece on the adoptive families of Chinese sisters finding one another. Negative media crops up from time to time, as well. Mostly recently The Washington Post featured an article drawing attention to Chinese baby trafficking and its connection to the adoption system.
The author lays out the alleged facts in such a way as to suggest unfair and sensationalistic implications. First, the report leads one to believe that most of the babies involved in the trafficking were abducted. Brian Stuy, who has done much informal research in China and has followed the Hunan trafficking case closely, points out that there is no evidence that any of the babies involved in these prosecutions were abducted. Rather, it appears that they were given up by parents willingly. Moreover, the parents of the trafficked children in question did not sell their babies but rather paid a liaison to insure that the children would get to a family or an orphanage safely. (Most Chinese parents giving up children are doing so out of ponderous cultural pressure, unbelievable economic hardship and in response to China's "one child" population control policy. These parents are forced to relinquish children secretly and illegally in the face of fines that could bankrupt them for life.) The fact that profit may have been made by middlemen is very disturbing.
This more accurate narrative, however, is a far cry from the inference that people have abducted hundreds of children from Chinese parents to be sold and adopted.
Second, the article seems to portray that the real story of Chinese adoption is one of wealthy Westerners going off to China to buy children from orphanages to avoid the complications of adopting elsewhere. The truer and bigger story of Chinese adoption is this: Some 250,000 to as many as one million children are abandoned in China each year. Dozens of thousands are adopted domestically, despite disincentives. People all over the world have opened their minds and hearts to provide homes for these children many of whom, should they remain as orphans, are headed for a future without education, in poverty, and worse. These are caring people sensitive to the complexities of international adoption, learning and bringing Chinese culture into their families so that these children will be able to have the opportunities and freedom of their new homelands, while being secure with and enriched by their culture of birth. (I do not mean these statements to be self-congratulatory. We have done a lot of work, but we are still waiting to adopt.) The adoptive families I know (and know about) are people changing the path of their lives and the shape of their families to provide a home to someone without one.
Child abduction sickens me. But that is a different story. No one wants to turn a blind eye to a report of corruption and selling human beings for profit. But that is yet another story — of people (some trying to help perhaps, some just greedy) in Hunan, who along with their official accomplices are, after all, being prosecuted.
The story of China adoption is a quieter, more complicated one about a huge need and hands from many places carefully reaching across the globe to respond.