Evaluating Changes in Chinese International Adoption: How China’s Adoption Policies Shaped Adoptive Parent Experiences




Sparkman, Emily

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The year 2021 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the international arrangement that allowed American citizens to adopt children from China. The Chinese government’s decision to implement transnational adoption policies paved the way for thousands of orphaned children to be adopted into new families worldwide. These children became available for adoption following the implementation of China’s One Child Policy effort to control the rapidly growing population in the early 1980s (Andrew 123). Parents will endure months to years of waiting before they have the chance to bring their new child into their family. Although tedious, the Chinese government’s terms of adoption are attractive because they are highly standardized, predictable, and clear. Current adoption statistics report a total of 82,456 adoptions from China into the U.S. between the fiscal years of 1999-2019. However, the annual number of U.S. adoptions from China peaked at 7,903 in the year 2005 and has sharply declined since (US Department of State). This thesis seeks to understand how the major policies affecting Chinese international adoption have shaped adoption experiences for American adoptive parents of Chinese children. Namely, I examine the One Child Policy (1979), the Two-Child Policy (2015), the Foreign NGO Law (2017), and various Chinese government restrictions to adoption eligibility. The study uniquely centers on the voices of 15 American adoptive parents with children from China through a series of interviews aiming to understand their personal experiences with the Chinese International Adoption process. More specifically, I have gathered participants who’ve adopted in years ranging from 1997 through 2017 and compared their adoption processes, changes in feelings associated with Chinese adoption, and experiences as American parents raising Chinese children. It is important to study individual adoptive parent narratives because the aforementioned policies impact each family differently.



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