China’s Pathway to Parenthood

For over ten years, with the exception of 2008, China has placed more children into the United States than any other country in the world. Over 50,000 children have found loving homes in this time period. However, much has changed over those ten years in the adoption process. Still, there are thousands of infants, toddlers, and older children waiting for families in China, all of whom have varying needs.

While the wait for a healthy infant girl has extended to over 6 years for inter-country adoptive parents, most families that are open to some medical needs or an older child find the process expedited through China's online system and have had their children join their family in less than two years, or even within one year, from start to finish!

Want to learn more? Let's explore the two paths to parenthood for families in China!

China has an "on-line system" which allows approved agencies to view information on children who are currently waiting for a family. Approximately once a month, these agencies are informed that new children will be added to the list. If a family has a dossier logged into the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA), China's Central Authority for placement of children, they are eligible to have their agency "lock" a child for them to consider. What an exciting day that is! How long does it take for this to happen? That depends on a family's openness and the needs of the children who are posted that month; the average wait for a referral is 0-6 months. After referral acceptance, most families travel 4-5 months later, so you can see that this can be a quick process. This program is best suited for families who are prepared to parent a child with special needs that are considered mild and/or correctable. Some commonly seen needs include:

  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Heart murmur/congenital heart condition
  • Limb difference(s)
  • Older children with resolved health issues
  • Ear deformity, hearing loss in one ear
  • Repaired meningocele
  • Club feet/dislocated hip
  • Hepatitis B

This path requires adoptive parents be married (2 years if first marriage and 5 years for those who have been divorced) and be between the ages of 30-49 (at the time their dossier is logged in by CCCWA). Other requirements include BMI index of 40 or less, overall good health, a high school diploma or equivalent, and a net worth of $80,000.

If a child has been on the waiting list for 60 days or longer, or if CCCWA finds a child's condition may be more complex, then a child is considered "Special Focus," so some eligibility requirements are relaxed. This is best suited for those prepared to parent a child with special needs that are considered life-long, and may require more intensive follow-up treatment, and/or an older child. Eligibility requirements are more relaxed for "Special Focus" children, meaning single women may adopt through this program and the age of the parents can stretch to 54 years old. Additionally, families may review a child's file prior to submitting a dossier to China. Some common needs of children who wait 60 days or longer are:

  • cerebral palsy
  • ambiguous genitalia
  • albinism
  • vision and hearing impaired
  • digestive disorders
  • Meningocele (unrepaired)
  • 6-13 year olds

An important note, China will only accept home studies from Hague or COA accredited agencies. If there is any possibility you would consider adopting from China, you must have a home study from one of these agencies. An up-to-date listing can be found at

We live in a magnificent country with excellent medical care. So many conditions can be corrected or managed, yet children continue wait. Maybe you could open your heart and life to a child from China. And, possibly, you could be a parent in a year!

Susan Orban is the Intake and Outreach Specialist at Children's Home Society

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