exposing the dark side of adoption
Register Log in



St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Author: By Patricia Corrigan

Of the Post-Dispatch Staff

Allegations of abuse in Chinese orphanages may delay adoptions for about 35 families here, but the director of an adoption agency in Overland said he thinks the adoptions eventually will take place.

Dwyatt Gantt, director of the

China's Children

agency, said Thursday that several families hoping to travel to China late this month to bring home children have been told to expect at least a month's delay. Chinese officials have stopped approving adoptions since the allegations were made Jan. 6 by a human rights group in New York.

Gail and David Wood

of south St. Louis County had planned to depart next week for China to complete the adoption of a 7-month-old girl. Now, they won't be leaving until late February or early March.

"We are ready to bring her home," Gail Wood said. "We were just waiting for the (Chinese) Ministry of Civil Affairs to sign the final approval. We had no idea that all this might affect us so directly."

In February 1992, the couple adopted a 3-month-old Chinese baby girl. Abigail Wood is now 3. Gail Wood, 39, teaches at Oakville Senior High School in the Mehlville School District. David Wood, 43, is an assistant principal at Twillman Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District.

The couple first heard of the allegations early this month when they went to the China's Children office to pick up a picture of the baby they hope to adopt. The agency, at 9229 Lackland Avenue, is one of the largest in the country handling Chinese adoptions.

Gantt told them that Human Rights Watch was about to report that thousands of children were deliberately starved, abused and left to die unattended in Chinese orphanages. The report was based on material and testimony from Zhang Shuyun, a doctor who says she tried to expose the abuses in China and was rebuffed.

Gantt said the report was inaccurate.

"This is defamation of a nation," he said Thursday. "The way this has been pictured, it is entirely untrue. It is a picture that has been painted with a broad, ugly brush.

"We know the people working in the orphanages, and we know of their deep concern for the children. We have a lot of confidence in them. This report takes one ounce of truth and draws a ton of conclusions."

Gantt said some children in the state-run orphanages may die of failure-to-thrive syndrome and some may die because they are severely ill, but he is convinced that workers do not deliberately leave children to die.

"Once the smoke clears on this issue - and it is only smoke - I am 98 percent certain that adoptions will proceed," he said.

Gantt said China first made children available for adoption outside the country in 1992. His agency, established in August 1993, places about 50 children a month at a cost of about $15,000 each, including travel expenses. Gantt said about 3,000 Chinese children are adopted by families in the U.S. each year. About 1 to 2 percent are boys, he said. The rest are girls.

Mary Neal and her husband, Robert Charity, of Clayton, adopted a 5-month-old Chinese baby girl last May.

"It's mostly the girls that need homes," Neal said. "In traditional China, there seems to be almost a spiritual significance to sons, as it is assumed that daughters will leave the family."

Those beliefs, and the government's policy that each couple have no more than one child, have led to the large numbers of female orphans. Neal said her daughter was found in a crowded market when she was 2 weeks old.

"These babies are not abandoned to die. They are left in public places where people will find them and take them to the orphanages," Neal said. Today, Margaret Meiling Charity is almost 13 months old.

Mary Neal, 43, owns Writing Words, a grant-writing and research business. Robert Charity, 36, is a research professor in the chemistry department at Washington University.

Neal said her experience throughout the adoption process was positive. Though she did not visit an orphanage, she did meet several staff members, and she described them as "committed to helping babies get homes." She said her baby is healthy and bright and has "blossomed" in her new home.

Dr. Aidan Ip, a pediatrician in private practice here, treats several children adopted in China. Originally from Hong Kong, Ip assesses the current situation as "grandstanding on both sides."

"Chinese officials are not accustomed to having their files and their doors thrown open, allowing free access," Ip said. "Here, we demand openness. Less than full disclosure here is considered covering up, but that's not true in China. And now there are lots of misunderstandings and hurt feelings."

Ip said he couldn't say whether the allegations of abuse in orphanages are true. He said there are a lot of sick children in China, and that it sometimes is hard to distinguish from photos between chronically ill children and abused children.

1996 Jan 19