Academic journal article China Perspectives

Recognising Adoption: Family Relationships Tested by Birth Control

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Recognising Adoption: Family Relationships Tested by Birth Control

Article excerpt

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In the history of the Chinese family, adoption practices have always ex- isted and have been prevalent In all sections of society. ® That Is so to the present day. Everyone Interviewed In China knew someone associated with adoption directly or Indirectly. Nevertheless, going by official figures, the number of adoptions In China Is extremely low, especially seen against a population of nearly a billion and a half: according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China (PRC),® a mere 46,000 adoptions were registered In 2007:22 percent (10,000) were International adoptions,® and 78 percent (36,000) domestic. The official figures do not reflect reality as observed during fieldwork because the majority of adoptions are not reg- ularised with the authorities. take place through private arrangements and generally without recourse to a public Institution such as an orphanage, which Is not a place Chinese families turn to when seeking to adopt a child.

This contrast between official and actual practices stems from the diffi- culties met when starting the adoption process conforming to the legal measures In place. The adoption Issue Is framed as a legal one and Is ex- pected to mainly meet the requirements of family planning,® (and thus birth control jihua shengyu L+ÄJifef?): only childless couples are allowed to adopt. Nevertheless, an exception Is possible through Article 8 of the Adoption Law, which allows couples with a child to adopt another one If the latter Is an orphan or has been abandoned. This article gives couples who already have a child but who want to adopt the possibility of legally circumventing the one-child family planning constraint. Therefore, those seeking to adopt often leave unclear the origin of the adopted child, stating that the child was found and that they had harboured no previous plan or project for adoption.

Moreover, this elbow room for families wanting to adopt Is further enlarged thanks to legal gaps as regards possession of personal documents.® In fact, a child born In China does not Immediately get Individual documents. His or her name Is written In the family's residence permit, the hukou (which labels families as agricultural or non-agricultural). Who registers the child? It Is the local authority, the police station, or, before 1984, the production brigade (shengchan dui ifei^PA).® In the case of an adoption, all that Is done Is to enter the child's name In the residence permit without making out personal documents. This weak legal status of the child facilitates transfer from one family to another. The fact that a person Is not taken note of legally and ad- ministratively right from birth effectively gives rise to private adoptions.

Whether or not a family that adopts a child had prior Intention of doing so, It does not usually Inform the authorities Immediately. At first a rela- tionship Is built between the family and the child taken In, establishing an effective adoption In the private sphere without making It official. However, sooner or later, the child Integrated Into the family has to figure In the res- idence permit of the adoptive parents. They then turn to the government to request administrative and legal recognition of the child. This act seeks to fully legitimise the adopted child's place In the family as well as citizen- ship of the PRC. In the majority of families Interviewed, registration of the adoptee In the family permit was done a posteriori, that Is to say, after the relationship was solidly built.<8) Legalisation of the family relationship Is a delicate Issue for both families and the authorities. This article aims at analysing this situation.

It should be stressed that given the difficulties In the process of legalising private adoptions, families hesitate to discuss It. Moreover, the real number of adoptions (and therefore of abandoned children or those handed over) often remains hidden. …

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