This post is part of a series looking at adoption trends, both here in the United States and in Taiwan.
Domestic adoption is on the decline in Taiwan, according to reports from the country’s Child Welfare League Foundation in 2005. While the foundation is working to change misperceptions and attitudes about adoption within Taiwan, it has also sought help finding homes for children by looking overseas to countries like the US.
The Child Welfare League Foundation reported that approximately five thousand children are abandoned each year, but only about 10 percent of those children will find an adoptive family in Taiwan.
“Many unwanted children stay in the custody of the [Child Welfare League Foundation] or in temporary foster care until they are seven or eight years old, and still cannot find adopters. If they fail to find adopting parents overseas, those children will eventually be sent to orphanages, the foundation said.” — Taipei Times, July 4, 2005
While there are many different circumstances that may lead a birthmother to choose adoption for her child, I believe there are two aspects of Asian culture which help explain the availability of children for adoption overseas.
First, while single-parenting has become more acceptable here in the United States in recent years, children born out-of-wedlock in Asian countries are often placed for adoption because of cultural norms and expectations. Secondly, there continues to be a stigma on adopting an unrelated child in Asian society, despite efforts by some governments to change this way of thinking. This Wikipedia explanation of South Korean society provides more insight on the level of importance placed on bloodlines in Korean families:
“Many families would go through excessive and expensive procedures such as surrogacy or in vitro fertilization to ensure that their offspring are at least related than to accept a child of a complete stranger into their family. Indeed, it was the case until recently that Korean citizenship was directly tied to family bloodline. Children not a part of a Korean family (i.e., orphans) were not legal citizens of Korea. Another reason is the stigma of adoption. Ninety-five percent of families who do adopt choose babies less than a month old so that they can pass them off as their natural born offspring, overlooking older adoptable children (Yun, Korea Times, 1997).”
China is also trying to change the “taboo” societal view of domestic adoption, as reported in this article from USA Today last November. Does that explain the slowdown of child referrals to Americans seeking to adopt a child from China? I don’t know. I hope and pray, though, that the orphans needing homes will be able to find loving parents, whether in their native country or abroad.