China Set to Institute Tighter Adoption Rules

Michele Norris talks with Cory Barron of Children's Hope International, an adoption agency based in St. Louis, about the new adoption rules that China is expected to implement on May 1, 2007.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

For Americans looking to adopt children, China has long been a popular foreign source. Last year, Americans adopted nearly 6,500 Chinese children. That was down from nearly 8,000 the year before. And those numbers may continue to fall. China is tightening their rules for foreign adoptions.

The rules, which are expected to take effect May 1st, will bar people who are single, obese, disabled or older than 50 years of age from adopting. They will also bar people who take antidepressants or those with net assets under $80,000. These new regulations present new challenges for prospective parents and adoption agencies. We'll hear from a parent in a few minutes.

First we're joined by Corey Barron. He's the outreach director at Children's Hope International, an adoption agency based in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Barron, thanks so much for joining us.

COREY BARRON: Oh, thank you so much.

NORRIS: Now, I understand your phone has pretty much been ringing off the hook. Who are hearing you from? And who among that group of prospective parents will most likely be affected by this?

BARRON: We hear from thousands of inquiring families every month, so this topic was obviously topic number one over the past several months. Even before China made it official with their new requirements, we have been warning potential parents that there could be some regulations coming down that could fall into these categories.

Matter of fact, we've been using the body mass index over the past four months just in preparation for this change. So we hope it's not catching people off guard, but we still have seen some heartaches from some families that have their hearts set on adopting from China.

NORRIS: If you could you help explain that for us, if prospective parents who are obese are prohibited from participating in these foreign adoptions, how do they determine that?

BARRON: It comes down to that body mass index. And if your index number is over 40, you cannot qualify for China.

NORRIS: The prohibition against any prospective parents who are taking antidepressants, does that apply to anyone who's ever taken antidepressants at any point?

BARRON: What we're hearing right now from the China Center for Adoption Affairs is that yes, you can be a person that has taken medication for depression, but you must have been off it for at least two years. At least that's the way that they're judging it at this point.

What makes it difficult for a lot of prospective families is that probably 70% of the families that come to us for international adoption have had some infertility issues, and that might lead to some short term depression for some people. So you have the infertility and then they possibly might have some depression that in the short term can be handled by antidepressants, well then that actually takes them out of the process for an adoption from China.

So that's a difficult one, but we're letting our families know that as long as you're off the antidepressants for two years, you can still qualify.

NORRIS: Why is China tightening the rules for adoption?

BARRON: China is simply saying to us we have too many people who are coming here to adopt. We cannot handle the number of applications coming in. So the best way for them, they feel, is to limit the number of people who can actually qualify to adopt from China.

NORRIS: Is it possible that this rule change then might be temporary until they actually sort of catch up on the pipeline?

BARRON: That temporary statement was part of the overall announcement by the director of the China Center for Adoption Affairs. He said these new regulations may be temporary and may be reevaluated with time. And we've seen that over and over in China and all the countries - really. And as we tell all our adoptive families, you have to be flexible with international adoption.

NORRIS: Mr. Barron, thanks so much for speaking with us.

BARRON: Well, Thanks for having me today.

NORRIS: Corey Barron is the outreach director at Children's Hope International, that's an adoption agency based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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