Adoption scandal sheds light on orphanages' struggle

Date: 2009-07-14

By Jane Chen

AN investigation into a child adoption scandal in a southwest China orphanage has brought to light the desperate financial plight of the country's orphanages.

Donations from overseas adopters of abandoned children have become a major source of income for orphanages, today's Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

The orphanage involved in the scandal in Zhengyuan County of Guizhou Province was accused of taking children away from parents who could not afford fines for violating family planning rules and then sending the children overseas for adoption. The orphanage earned US$3,000 for each child placed with a foreign family, according to earlier media reports.

The money from the adoptions was worth 1.1 million yuan (US$160,992.7) and enabled the orphanage to add a new building. The local government shouldered the remaining 2.9 million yuan needed.

The new building, measuring 18,000 square meters, will house more than 80 beds, compared with the 10-plus beds in the existing home, which was built in 1991 with a total area of 20-plus square meters, according to vice director Rao Fujian.

"Without the money, the new building would have been impossible," confirmed Wu Benhua, director of Zhengyuan County Civil Affairs Bureau.

Rao denied the orphanage made profits by giving up children for overseas adoption. All the money earned was used to improve the facility - as ruled by the country.

"We didn't spend a penny of the money for any other purpose than improving the facilities of the orphanage," he stressed.

Rao also denied the orphanage had conspired with family planning officials to snatch babies from their parents as abandoned children. The orphanage just accepted the children, he said. According to law, abandoned children must be sent to local orphanages, he added.

A joint investigation into the orphanage confirmed Rao's claim. There was no economic relationship between the local family planning commission and the orphanage, Yang Jiansheng, leader of the investigation group, told the Southern Metropolis Daily.

Six local Party and government officials have been punished for their roles in the scandal, after a joint investigation by family planning, civil affairs personnel, police and Party disciplinary officials.

The orphanage began taking abandoned babies from June 1995 and from May 2002, it joined the overseas adoption program.

Of the 81 abandoned babies it took, 60 were adopted by overseas families in developed countries. Eleven were adopted by Chinese families. Another 10 were cared for at the orphanage.

The orphanage is on a tight budget as the government finds is hard to cover the costs, according to Rao.

It had to ask its nursing staff to take some children to their homes to look after, as the orphanage was too small and in poor condition.

The carers were paid a few hundred yuan each month for taking care of one child.

Its chef resigned after he was required to work 365 days a year at a monthly wage of 500 yuan, according to Rao.

Many other orphanages face the same financial plight, the Southern Metropolis Daily report said.

Among them is Luoyang City Orphanage in central China's Henan Province, one of the country's 10 best orphanages.

About 75 percent of the orphanage's expenses were financed by donations, its official Zheng Jilong told the newspaper.

Overseas adoption has become a major source of donations. Up to 85 percent of its healthy abandoned children have been adopted by overseas families - more than 50 a year, he pointed out.

The orphanage has 621 children, 90 percent of whom are disabled or ill.

One of those adopted was 17-year-old Jing Jiacheng who was adopted by an American who worked as a volunteer in the orphanage in 2000.

Jing was sent to the orphanage when he was five. It was not clear how he had been abandoned in Henan, as he was born in a village in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

On April 28, Jing managed to meet his biological parents through names and addresses he still remembered.

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