Three Types of Adoption
Anita and Richard Winner would travel to the ends of the earth for their family. They did just that when they brought Rebecca Xiao Bei to their Wallingford, Pennsylvania, home. Like the majority of Americans wanting to adopt, the Winners chose China. According to the Department of State, 19,237 kids were brought into the U.S. through adoption in 2001. Topping the list of countries was China, which allowed the adoption of 4,681 children that year.
Experiencing tragic food shortages in the 1950s and '60s, China began enforcing a one-child policy that remains in effect today. Because of the cultural importance attached to having boys, some Chinese couples give up their girls, leaving them in places where they know the baby will be quickly discovered, such as at a social service agency, and hope for a boy child the next time around. Increased media exposure, as well as expeditious adoptive procedures enacted by the Chinese government, have helped China become the most common choice for U.S. couples looking to adopt, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national organization dedicated to adoption research and policy improvement. Desperate poverty and social upheaval, such as the fall of the Soviet Union and the conflict in Bosnia, have created a tragic increase in orphans and children put up for adoption in such places as Russia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
An agency guided the Winners through an adoption dossier, or application for international adoption -- a daunting process in itself.
"One of our biggest fears was that we would miss a vital piece of paperwork that would delay the process and result in more waiting for our little girl," says Anita.
In addition to detailed background checks and studies of the Winners' home, the couple needed approval from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization, fingerprints, financial information, a complete biography, and health reports. And that was just for starters. There was paperwork to do for the Chinese government, too, an extensive packing list for the overseas trip, plus donations of clothing and money for the orphanage. Many see the exhaustive process as just one more screen to ensure that people are ready for the rigors of parenthood. And sometimes it's determined that they aren't. Agencies can reject potential parents for a number of reasons, such as a serious criminal history, major money troubles, or inadequate resources (not enough space in the home, for example).
"It makes you wonder how the world would be if biological parents were required to go through such a process before having children," muses Rick.
Once their approval, or referral, came through, they had to travel within weeks. This complicated things a bit. Anita had became pregnant and couldn't fly. And so in June of 1999, Rick and his sister, Dee, joined 14 expectant parents for the two-week voyage to bring their children home.
They first met Rebecca in the city of Nanchang, where water buffalo roamed the streets. The 11-month-old had been abandoned on the steps of a social welfare office when she was three days old.
Her head was shaved and covered with scabs, due to the intense heat and humidity. She was physically weak from the confinement of sharing a crib with other children. When a caregiver brought her to Rick, she shook her head "no" over and over. But Rick and the caregiver passed the girl back and forth between them, whispering soothing words. Over the next few days, she learned to play peekaboo with Rick, who became her constant companion in a stream of strangers.
"With no car seats or high chairs in China, I held her almost continually," Rick says. "Rebecca had a hard time going to sleep. I made up a little song for her, and I would sing it as I walked around and around, until she fell asleep in my arms."
In total, the couple spent nearly $21,000 on the process. Costs for international adoption range from $7,000 to $25,000, according to the Adoption Institute.
Since her adoption, baby Rebecca has forged an unbreakable sibling bond with her sister, Caitlin. "They love each other dearly and protect each other," says Anita. Rebecca changes Caitlin's diaper for her and lays out her own clothes and Caitlin's every night before bed. Recently, Rick took Caitlin for a day trip to New York, and Rebecca and Anita met up with them later. Anita says, "When we saw them coming, Caitlin ran with her arms wide open towards me but then she bypassed me and grabbed Rebecca. They stood there hugging and swinging each other, and they were only separated for about nine hours."