Date: 1993-07-06

State, The (Columbia, SC)
Author: FRAN H. ZUPAN, Staff Writer

As Maj. Greg and Paula Hoover of Columbia waited in the Chinese orphanage to meet the little girl they would adopt last month, they made a video for her to treasure.

"We sure are thankful they brought you this far," Greg Hoover said on camera. ". . . We'll try to do a good job where they left off."

Minutes later, Greg Hoover was shaking a rattle and making faces at 9 1/2- month-old Amy Li, as his wife held her.

The Hoovers are among five South Carolina couples who have traveled to China since April to adopt Chinese infants abandoned by their biological parents. The babies, all girls, were abandoned because the government severely penalizes couples who have more than one child and because Chinese parents favor boys who carry on the family name, and often a family business.

Many couples who want to adopt infants have turned to international agencies, such as Christian World Adoption of Mount Pleasant, the agency used by the Hoovers. They make the decision after finding that the pool of healthy, white babies in the United States has diminished, because of birth control, abortion and an increasing acceptance of unmarried mothers.

While adoptions by Americans of children from South Korea, South America and Romania have become more difficult, they have become more common in China. The American consul issued 206 visas to adopted Chinese children in fiscal year 1992, compared with 61 in fiscal year 1991, the year it loosened its restrictions against foreign adoptions. Last Oct. 1 through Dec. 3, it issued 114 visas to adopted Chinese children.

Then, in February, the Chinese suspended new foreign adoptions while they rewrote adoption regulations.

Once the new regulations are written, Christian World Adoption plans to make another trip to China for couples and single women wanting to adopt, said Tomilee Harding, the agency's director. Seven couples and three single women have signed up for the trip, scheduled for November.

The cost of a Chinese adoption is $15,765 for a couple and less for a single mother. That includes a $4,000 donation to the orphanage, $3,900 to Christian World Adoption, $3,500 in air fare for two and $1,000 in legal fees in China.

Nine inches of paperwork

The Chinese currently require that adoptive parents be between 35 and 55 and childless.

The Hoovers, both 36, wanted to adopt, but didn't want to wait. Paula Hoover said one private adoption agency told her the shortest wait for an American baby would be a year and a half.

In South Carolina, the Department of Social Services has a waiting list of 1,397 prospective parents and has stopped processing applications for healthy, white infants.

The wait might be shorter if adoptive parents go through private agencies -- but not always. In that case, the birth mother often selects the family she wants to receive her baby. Teen mothers frequently think that adoptive parents in their 30s or 40s are too old, Harding said.

The Hoovers had contacted Christian World Adoption about a South American adoption when they heard about the China program. When Greg Hoover was stationed in South Korea, his unit "adopted" a Korean orphanage, and he spent most of his Sunday afternoons there, so "we kind of had an affinity for Asian children," said Paula Hoover, a former Air Force officer.

They began the adoption process in October by getting their paperwork in order.

When completed, it was 9 inches thick, Paula Hoover said. Included were letters of reference, medical histories, criminal records' checks, interviews with the couple and a social worker's study of their home. Everything had to be notarized, translated into Chinese and stamped by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., or New York City.

Because Paula Hoover was ill and Greg Hoover's job kept him at Fort Jackson, they missed a group trip in April. They traveled to Shanghai alone in late May, where they met a guide.

The Hoovers adopted Amy from the Institute for Social Welfare in Yue Yang, population 500,000, a small town by Chinese standards in Hunan province. The institute cares for abandoned babies, handicapped children and elderly people who have no families.

Another South Carolina couple, Kim and John Thompson of North, traveled through Beijing with the group in April. They adopted Darcy Lian, who was 6 months old.

The trips lasted two weeks. Once the Americans reached China, Chinese facilitators navigated the bureaucratic maze necessary to finalize the adoptions.

Neither the Hoovers nor the Thompsons had trouble getting their babies back to the States. But some couples on the April trip did have trouble because of the requirement that adoptive parents be childless. They had no biological children -- but did have older adopted children -- and were held up by the American consul in Guangzhou over the interpretation of the requirement.

U.S. senators intervened to get visas for their babies, Kim Thompson said.

Bundled-up babies

While both families found the personnel in the Yue Yang orphanage to be caring and friendly, the orphanage director apologized to the American group because it did not meet American standards, said Kim Thompson, a teacher at Pelion High School.

The Chinese traditionally swaddle their infants in layers of quiltlike clothing, and these babies were bundled up, partly to keep them from crawling and partly to keep them warm in the unheated facility, the Thompsons said. April weather was cooler than South Carolina's, with daytime temperatures in the low 60s and nighttime temperatures in the high 40s, Kim Thompson said.

Both Amy and Darcy had bald spots on their heads from lying on their backs. The older babies were held in the cribs with ropes across their bellies to keep them from falling out. Some cribs held two babies, Paula Hoover said.

The first thing the new parents did was put disposable diapers on their little girls, who had been dressed in cloth diapers as thin as a man's shirt.

The babies were malnourished. Darcy weighed 11 pounds at 6 months and gained almost 2 pounds the first two weeks with the Thompsons. Amy weighed a little more than 13 pounds at 9 1/2 months.

Orphanage workers had enlarged the holes in the bottles' nipples to speed up the feeding process and fed the babies by propping the bottles in the cribs, Kim Thompson said.

"When we first got her," she said, "she would eat desperately, and when she was finished, she was done."

Many of the children in China's orphanages die, and Paula Hoover thinks her daughter would have been one of them had she not been adopted.

"She was just skin and bones," she said.

Although the babies, unused to a lot of attention, were uncommunicative with their new parents at first, that has changed.

"When we first got here, she didn't even care if you were in the same room," said John Thompson, a teacher at Barnwell High School. "Now she wants you to be looking at her."

Paula Hoover said Amy "will look up at you with the biggest grin on her face that she's so happy to be here."

The couples plan to teach their daughters about their original culture. They have kept the girls' Chinese names as middle names, and they bought books and other gifts in China to give them as they grow up.

The babies will get green cards soon, granting them permission to live in America. Citizenship should follow in a year or two.

They will be raised as American children.

"This is her country," John Thompson said of Darcy. "This is her culture. This is where she belongs."

1. Greg and Paula Hoover with Amy, 10 months, above. The Hoovers brought their daughter from China about four weeks ago. Linda Stelter / The State

2. Kim and John Thompson of North, with Darcy, 9 months, left.

3. Darcy Thompson, 9 months old, hasn't learned to crawl or walk, so she rolls wherever she wants to go. She's with her adoptive parents, Kim and John Thompson of North. Tim Dominick / The State
Photos, color and bw


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