China’s Abolishing Its One-Child Policy & What it May Mean for Potential Adoptive Parents Worldwide

One-child poster in Zhongdian (Photo credit: Arian Zwegers), from

One-child poster in Zhongdian (Photo credit: Arian Zwegers), from

On November 15, 2013 news was finally confirmed that China’s One-Child Policy was no more.

With the interest of our Invisible Red Thread blog readers in mind, we wanted to explore how this recent decision may impact those who still hope to adopt from China. The reactions to the long-awaited change have been mainly enthusiastic. Dr. Changfu Chang, award-winning documentary filmmaker and part of The Invisible Red Thread’s creative team, even posted a celebratory message on his personal Facebook page. “As of November 15 the controversial 33-year-old one-child policy is eased, and has been de facto abolished!” he wrote. However the news can also be misleading – not to mention that it might be accompanied by another slew of long-term repercussions for China.

What exactly does the new policy allow for?

The simplified version is that a couple with one person from a one-child family can now have two children. Any more than 2 children per family is still a violation of national policy.

Of course, no policy is that straight forward. The official Deputy Director of the government’s Family Planning Commission reinforced the fact that the new policy is simply a relaxation of the current stance where a second child is allowed if both husband and wife were from a one-child family (as opposed to now needing only one person out of the two). After five years of research, the government’s goal is to address various social issues (population aging, labor force shortage, etc), to increase the number of projected births (while keeping the population under the peak of 1.5 billion by 2013), and to keep an eye on the sustainability of their resources if there is a sudden jump in second-child births. To control the possible hike, the second-child permit will be issued on a “seniority” basis; meaning older couples that already have a child get first priority.

What does this mean for adoptive parents and China’s popularity on the international adoption scene?

There are obvious positive effects of the policy, such as a more balanced male-female ratio, a decrease in forced sterilization and illegal abortions, as well as an easy solution to the problem of China’s aging workforce. However, for adoptive parents outside of China, the adoption process is already longer and more emotionally straining than it was during China’s adoption boom in the 90s. What especially interested us was whether or not the current changes to the One Child Policy mean that even less Chinese babies will be available for adoption by non-Chinese parents?

According to, the changes to the international adoption scene will be less drastic than we think. “The policy has always seemed more universal than it really is. Only just over a third of families are restricted to one child.” In fact, as of 2012, the percentage of parents still obligated to follow the policy of one-child per family was only around 36 percent. The reason is because there are already a large number of exceptions made to the policy for government officials, elites, residents of rural areas, and families where the first child was a girl.

Not to mention that Chinese couples now believe having only one child is the ideal scenario since apartments, healthcare and schooling are expensive. In a recent interview on NPR News’ “Tell Me More”, international adoption experts discussed a questionnaire sent out to Chinese micro-bloggers after the policy change become official. The response was that “especially in urban centers, the cost of raising a child would all deter them from considering having a second child, even if it was allowed by the government.”

No one knows what will happen as a result of the change, but there is undoubtedly still a demand for adoptive parents. The policy will most likely take a back seat to other pressing realities, such as increased paperwork and complicated international regulations. Canada adoption agencies are beginning to face more and more difficult procedures, meaning higher annual fees for parents using their services. The Globe and Mail states that Citizenship and Immigration Canada estimates the current cost of completing an adoption in Canada to be anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000. This might explain why the number of international adoptions is in decline. There were 1,968 international adoptions in 2010, which is around 160 less international adoptions than in 2009 and around 200 less than in 2003.

More Chinese families like Shumin Zhu’s from The Invisible Red Thread, are adopting babies within China. According to CNN and statistics from China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, the demand is there. Especially now that the one child policy no longer applies, families with older children who have less interested in having a second biological child will look to adopt from Chinese orphanages and foster homes. “The number of children filling [China’s] orphanages is climbing – rising to 92,000 in 2011, almost a 50% rise from 2004.”

If there are more adoptions of Chinese babies from Chinese couples, sources foresee a shift in the prioritizing of Chinese special needs babies, children with medical conditions and older children for transnational adoptions. (As a side note, the no-adoption list of countries that are now saying no to international adoptions because of complex political agreements now includes Haiti, Guatemala, Cambodia, Nepal.)

As a result, the wait for a healthy baby can be anywhere from five to 15 years, and the conditions are extremely strict. China will not accept single parents, obese parents, same-sex couples, or families with a poor medical history.

So the elimination of the One Child policy may well have an affect on China’s population, but it is not the only factor affecting the changing face of the international adoption scene. China remains the number one source of adoptive children according to, with Ethiopia and Russia coming in second and third respectively. But what has long been a legacy of newborn girls needing a home may be changing.

Article by: Sophia Loffreda

To read more on the one-child policy, check out our sources below:

This entry was posted in Adoption, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s