Are we witnessing the end of China adoption? Or just the most massive slowdown I've seen since 2001, when we began paperchasing for JieJie? Consider:
JieJie's adoption process:
Jan '01, begin paperchasing
July '01, submit paperwork
wait: 15 months
Sept '02, receive referral in the mail
Nov '02, travel to China and complete adoption
MeiMei's adoption process:
Jan '03, notified our agency we wanted to paperchase for #2, are told there is a waiting period of a year between completing one adoption and applying for the next. Spent 2003 settling in and getting our papers together for submission as soon as allowed.
Feb '04, submit paperwork
wait: 7 months
Sept. '04, receive referral in the mail
Nov. '04, travel to China to complete adoption
In both cases, it was about two full years. Since adopting MeiMei, we've seen friends who waited longer to submit their paperwork settle into a third year of waiting, with no immediate hope for a referral. Obviously the Beijing Olympics is delaying things, as did the SARS epidemic (remember that?), but still, I've seen posts on adoption message boards that some adoption agencies are telling families to consider whether they can handle a wait of five years or more.
There is much speculation as to why this slowdown is happening. I don't have an answer, but I have heard that this cycle happens often in international adoption, that adoptions from a particular country can accelerate, crest, and then subside, for many different reasons. For now, I am just so, so grateful for my daughters, for good timing, and for this family of ours. I hope that our friends B & C, and BK & MC, and S & J, and F & K who are still, still waiting will hear good news soon.
You might read this and think I've forgotten about the babies, who are, after all half of this equation! There is good news on that front. I'm seeing more donations and volunteerism that improve the conditions at many orphanages in China, even those whose babies are not even eligible to be adopted by their benefactors (orphanages have to have enough staff on hand to do the adoption related paperwork, which only happens AFTER they have enough staff to care for the immediate needs of the babies). The increased wait times for hopeful parents do not mean increased waits for the babies, who are still likely to be around a year old at time of adoption.
But man, the wait...our agency (Americans Adopting Orphans) now has a one-dossier-two-countries program, in which you can adopt from a country other than China, and have time to settle in with baby #1, while waiting for baby #2 from China. This was unheard of when we were in process.
Times have changed.