First Steps of the Adoption Process: What Happens in China

Friends and supporters of LWB often ask us if the children we feature on our website or social media are eligible for adoption. While LWB isn’t directly involved in the adoption process, many of the orphanages we work with do participate in international adoptions. So we do know a little something about the basic procedures involved in registering a child for adoption in China.

PearlchopsticksPearl, who is waiting on the Shared List

For those who may be wondering about all of these different steps in adoption registration in China, we have included an outline below.

1. The critical first step is that a “Finding Ad” must be placed in the local newspaper. This announcement will normally run for about three months and lets the public know that an unidentified child has been found.

2. After placing the finding ad, if no biological family is found, the orphanage prepares the child’s adoption file.  The adoption file typically includes photographs, information on the child, developmental notes, and results from a physical examination.

3. The completed adoption file goes to Provincial Civil Affairs, a governing body in the child’s home province, for review and approval. The national government is now using an electronic filing system in many provinces, so some orphanages can send the electronic file and then follow it with the paper file. If anything in the file doesn’t meet the provincial requirements, the file can be sent back for more information. Each province has their own provincial adoption authority, and each province works at their own pace. Some provinces can review and approve a child’s file in a matter of days, while others can take several months.

4. If everything passes inspection at the provincial level, then the child’s adoption file is sent on to CCCWA in Beijing, which is the central authority responsible for all adoptions in China, for final review.

5. Once at the CCCWA, the child’s adoption file can be matched to a family in several ways. If the child has no known medical needs, the file could be directly matched to a family who has been waiting in queue for a referral through the “Non-Special Needs” (NSN) path.

If the child has medical needs or is older than age 8 (usually), the adoption file can go to one of two places:  the Shared List (a secure listing that can be seen by many agencies), or one specific agency who then works to match the child to a family. More and more orphanages in China are now signing formal “One-to-One” partnerships with adoption agencies. These agreements allow an individual agency to place the children from a specific orphanage for a set period of time (often for one year).

If a child’s adoption file goes to the Shared List, then almost every adoption agency has the ability to view and “lock” the file for a family. On the nights when the CCCWA releases new groups of waiting children to the Shared List, it can be quite frantic for the adoption agencies to try and read files and match to waiting families.

Bobby1Bobby, a boy whose file is on the Shared List.

Luke4Luke has been waiting on the Shared List for quite some time and has a $3,000 Adoption Assistance Grant!

Niamh smallerNiamh, also on the Shared List

DavidDavid has been waiting on the Shared List for many years. He has a $3,000 Adoption Assistance Grant!

DolorescerealDolores, still waiting for a family of her own.

Once a child’s file has been chosen by a family, then it is time to send in a formal Letter of Intent (LOI) to bring the child home, and the process to finalize all the paperwork begins. While we encourage orphanages to process adoption files for every eligible child in our programs, LWB does not necessarily know where a file will end up unless the orphanage has a known One-to-One partnership. We often find out that children in our program are available for adoption when we see agencies or families advocating online for them. We try to watch the waiting child online groups closely!

We sometimes are told by an orphanage that a child’s file has gone to the CCCWA, but then we never hear anything more. Where did his file go? Does he have a family? Some orphanages can look online through the national computer system to see if a child shows as ‘matched,’ but they do not get information on who the family is until they get the formal travel notice just a few weeks before adoption.

The other thing that makes it difficult to track where kids from our programs end up is the fact that the CCCWA has formal partnerships with over a dozen countries around the world for adoption. LWB children have been adopted to the U.S., Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, France, Italy, Canada and more! And of course, more and more children are being domestically adopted in China.

Patrick Strikes A PosePatrick, now Henry, who found his family!

No matter where the child ends up, we always look forward to hearing the most wonderful news — that a child has been chosen by a FOREVER family!

Love Without Boundaries proudly advocates for adoption but is not an adoption agency. We invite you to contact [email protected] with questions about a child we have featured and encourage you to contact your adoption agency for more information about China’s Waiting Child Program.

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2 Comments to “First Steps of the Adoption Process: What Happens in China”

  1. Rebecca 1 May 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    No wonder the process takes so long!!! It takes a long time to even read about the process. My blessings to those who are patiently waiting in the process!

  2. Claunat 1 May 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Hello. I have already sent an email to the address above, but have received no response. I am interested in adopting a girl from China. How long does it usually take them to respond?

    Thank you for your time, and may God bless your beautiful work continuously.


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