Adoption agency will be a first for Texas

Date: 1996-05-13

Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Author: Clara G. Herrera

One couple has already called asking if they could adopt a child by Christmas.

About a half-dozen other prospective parents have called requesting information, and Snow T. Wu, the executive director of Great Wall China Adoption, hasn't even opened the doors yet.

Beginning May 20, Wu's agency will be the first in Austin to specialize in adoptions from China. But it's more than simply a new adoption agency making its home in Austin, according to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.

``As far as we know this is the first agency in Texas to deal exclusively with adoptions from China,'' said Linda Edwards, spokeswoman for the state department that licenses child-placing agencies.

More people who want to adopt infants are turning to international adoptions. There are 176 child-placing agencies in Texas that include adoptions and foster care. Of those, about half provide international adoptions to a variety of countries, including China, Edwards said. In Austin, six child-placing agencies exist and five provide international adoptions.

``Actually, the number is growing as adoptions become moredifficult in this country. Adoption agencies are branching out to international adoptions because it's becoming more difficult for them to locate babies in this country,'' Edwards said.

Wu, who was born in Beijing, worked with the Chinese government for seven years helping foreigners adopt Chinese children. When she moved to Austin five years ago with her husband, she began studying the adoption and immigration laws of the United States.

``When I was working there I saw children get adopted, andit made me so happy. I thought, if I can do that here, why not? That's really why I started this agency. I felt like this is my mission to do this. We know the culture. We know the language,'' Wu said.

In addition to having an Austin office of four people, Great Wall China Adoption will have an office in China of with 10 staff members who will act as intermediaries between the Chinese government and adoptive parents, Wu said. Costs for adoptions will be about $11,000, including air fare for one adult to China, Wu said.

According to Janie Cravens, of Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, a nonprofit Austin adoption support group, adoption costs in Texas can range from $12,000 to $20,000. Texans can wait from six months to two years to adopt an infant in the United States, Cravens said. In some states people can wait as long as five years.

Speedier process

Wu said families may find China a more accessible option because adoptions are quicker to arrange. After paperwork is complete, the process takes six to 10 months.

Because of China's restrictions on family size, many children -- 95 percent of them girls -- are abandoned, Wu said. There are no waiting lists to adopt Chinese children, and the minimum age to adopt is 35 years old. Only one parent is required to make the trip to China.

The Austin agency will work with Marywood, a local adoption service, which will offer educational services for families considering international adoptions and will arrange family visits after the adoption is complete.

A local agency dealing directly with adoptions in China provides Central Texans with another option, said Carolyn Chamberlain, a spokeswoman for Marywood. Different people prefer different ways of adopting.

``A lot of people tell me it's very exciting to travel to another country, and some families may prefer not to have that contact with birth families,'' Chamberlain said. ``I think there are some risks in international adoptions. You are dealing with two countries, and there are the political aspects of the country you are dealing with.''

One couple's experience

Finding an international agency with strong ties in China makes the process easier because a lot of it is paperwork, said Christine Blair. Blair and her husband adopted a daughter from China in December. They also hope to adopt another child from China in a few years.

The couple worked locally with Marywood and internationally with an adoption agency in Hawaii. The process cost them about $20,000. Though they were pleased with their service, most of it was conducted through phone calls , and other parents who accompanied them to China don't live close enoughfor visits, Blair said.

``We became good friends, and all the other children live in Hawaii, so they can't play with each other,'' Blair said. ``We miss that. One of the advantages with an international group in Austin is that the international link gets stronger.

``At the same time, frankly, this agency needs to prove itself in being efficient, and by efficent I mean organized,'' Blair said. ``It sounds like it has good contacts, so I'm optimistic.''

Certainties and mysteries

One of the appeals of international adoptions is that prospective parents already know the child is available, and they can choose a boyor a girl, Cravens said.

Many times in the United States, adoptive parents dealing with the birth mother may not know the sex of the child before it's born or the mother may change her mind about adoption, Cravens said.

But not knowing the child's parents in international adoptions leaves families with little medical history and later in life could be traumatic for children seeking answers to where they came from, Cravens said.

``That child, when they grow up, is going to be so hungry to know what happened to the birth mother? Why did she make this decision? Usually, there is no social, medical or genetic history available in an international adoption,'' she said.

(from box)

For more information on the Great Wall Adoption Agency, 5555 N. Lamar Blvd., call 323-9595.

Caption:
Chinese artwork decorates the interior of Great Wall China Adoption. The middle character means `double happiness,' says director Snow T. Wu.; Julie Chang, left, and Snow T. Wu say they already have had about a half-dozen inquiries although their adoption agency, the first in Texas to specialize in placing Chinese children, has not officially opened yet. The Chinese character on the wall means `home.'
Tom Lankes

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