January 6, 2005 11:29 PM   Subscribe

AdoptionFilter: I have noticed that Asian babies adopted are almost always female. (by surburban white parents, which compromise the vast, vast majority of potential adopters). While the racial mismatch doesnt bother me tremendously (there is a vast disparity between the adopting parents - mostly white, and the kids to be adopted - mostly of color), it does seem sorta troubling that at least with Asian children, it seems to be entirely female. I've tried to research this and havent come up with any stats - does anyone know how much of this is attributable to ratio of male:female babies, and how much if it is some sort of ethnic gender-prefernce (i.e., 'i've always wanted a little China doll?'). And does this follow with other ethnicities?
posted by jare2003 to Society & Culture (35 answers total)
My experience working with a Families with Children from China group was that virtually all the "available for adoption" children were girls. The common denominator was that the girls were put up for adoption due to the birth families preference for sons rather than daughters.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 11:33 PM on January 6, 2005

Response by poster: Very true with China. But I've also noticed this phenomenon with Korean and Vietnamese potential adoptee children too - and as far as I know, there's no similar 'one child' policy in those countries.
posted by jare2003 at 11:48 PM on January 6, 2005

I'm going to agree with mr(s). bubbles and posit that this is mostly a result of a gender preference issue in the East and not the West, though I have no facts to back this up.
posted by onalark at 11:51 PM on January 6, 2005

Female children are considered liabilities in some Asian cultures (particularly in those where the child won't be able to support her parents). Families will put them up for adoption more frequently, therefore the number of children in the adoption pool skews female.

It's not a "China doll" problem. It's that daughters cost money and sons make money, so there are excess daughters to go around.
posted by majick at 11:59 PM on January 6, 2005

The Adoption Encyclopedia has an eye-opening entry on China and adoption, with some sickening statistics:
There are many reasons why many Chinese children are in orphanages and need families, but the most important relates to officials' concern about China's burgeoning population, which led to the "one child per family" policy. As a result of this policy (which had and has exceptions), many families who had girl babies "abandoned" them to orphanages so the parents could "try again" for a male child. Or they already had one child and experienced a second, unplanned pregnancy. Since many adoptive parents are eager to adopt baby girls, the easy availability of female infants was greatly appealing to American adopters.
In the past few years, adoption of Chinese children was most common of international adoptions from East Asia, followed by South Korea by a significant margin.
posted by kathryn at 12:36 AM on January 7, 2005

As someone who is currently going through the adoption process in Australia I can give you an Australian point of view from this side. Yes we are white, suburban adoptive parents and we are adopting from overseas as there were only 2 'local' children placed for adoption in our state last year.

To be honest and to address your first point, we have taken into account the difference in race and culture and will be working hard to balance these factors into our lives. Part of the adoption process here is psych evaluation and discussions to help with this cultural/racial integration. It goes without saying (but I will), that it is up to you as a family to get motivated and learn about the culture and incorporate that into your lives.

As far as I'm aware, we do not get to specify a gender and we really don't wish to. We want another child (we have a biological child) in our family. We feel we can support and love another child, I mean it's the same reasons for wanting to adopt (in our case) as if we were going to have another biological child.

We're adopting through Hong Kong where 95% of the children for adoption are male. Part of the reason in this case , speculating, is that Hong Kong children are mostly 'special needs' which is defined differently in Hong Kong than in most parts of the world. In fact the HK information that we were given stresses that HK has a high expectation of children which, if they fail to live up to standards, these children are classified as special need. Perhaps, as boys can develop behind girls, this could be a part of the reason why HK is different. I also believe that girls are in higher demand to be adopted by domestic adoptions in HK.

Just info: HK special needs include eczema, asthma, lactose intolerance, webbed digits, developmental delay which can be caused by language change from Cantonese to Mandarin or vice versa and being bi-racial.

Having said all of that!! (Long winded I know) when we attended the first adoption seminars, there was a couple present who really wanted to only adopt a daughter because they already had a biological 4yo boy and they wanted him to remain their "special boy" while their potential adopted daughter would be their "special girl".

Sorry if that was slightly of topic jare2003, but I hope some of it helped :)
posted by Civa at 2:58 AM on January 7, 2005

I can't believe this is news to some people! Chinese girls were commonly abandoned or even killed because of the gov't regulations on having only one child, and the predominance of a preference for having a son and an heir, as opposed to a daughter who will just be someone else's daughter-in-law. Westerners started adopting the abandoned girls - it was even kind of "trendy" for a minute a decade or so ago...
posted by mdn at 6:02 AM on January 7, 2005

I can't believe this is news to some people!

Er...who is it news to? Closest I can guess is kathryn, but that's a little bit iffy, and it's pretty clear it isn't news to anyone else in the thread.
posted by Bugbread at 6:08 AM on January 7, 2005

Why go straight for the racist, "they must want a 'china doll'" explanation, in cases where the adoptive family has made a conscious choice (as opposed to the more likely scenario of, there are many more girls on the "market" and therefore they are immediately available--if not the ONLY babies available at a certain agency).

I know for myself, if I were to consider foreign adoption and was looking for an Asian baby to adopt, I would want a female because the chance of improving HER life (as a child born into what is considered an inferior gender) is even greater. I consider myself a feminist, and would consider it a great joy to help a little girl grow up to do things like go to school, use her mind, have her own dreams and goals, etc.

Americans 'preferred' Amerasian orphans from Vietnam way back when, in part because they knew these children faced horrible obstacles as biracial children in their home country. I know other people who have deliberately adopted children from other countries who have disabilities that made them 'disposable', or more likely to live a life short on dignity, in their home countries, but which are easily managed and mainstreamed here. Do these people have a 'disabled child' fetish?
posted by availablelight at 6:10 AM on January 7, 2005

We have friends who adopted a boy from Korea. They said boys are more likely to be put up for adoption in Korea, and the agency they worked with would only allow you to adopt a girl two years after you successfully adopted a boy.
posted by whatnot at 7:02 AM on January 7, 2005

The supply side has been well addressed above.

The DEMAND side for Asian adoptions is quite clear -- the anixiety with which prospective adoptive rightly regard domestic adoption. Birth parents have a wide variety of legal avenues to seek to reverse placements months or years later, and can seek, whether consensually via open adoption, or non-consensually, to get involved even if they don't want to disrupt the adoption.
posted by MattD at 7:09 AM on January 7, 2005

Some friends have recently been looking into adoption. Already having two boys, they really wanted a girl so the boys would be less apt to compare themselves. However, no stateside adoption agency would let them specify gender. Their only option was overseas. They didn't care where she came from or what she looked like, they just wanted a girl. I suspect this is true for others.
posted by wallaby at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2005

I would first research your observation and find out how true it is.

I'm surprised to hear you that sons are more available in Korea. Yes, only China has the "one child" policy, but in many of these countries it is the first born male that is expected to inherit the family's business, carry on the name, etc. My expectation would have been that girls would be much easier to adopt.
posted by xammerboy at 7:51 AM on January 7, 2005

Xammerboy: The difference is that, in a country without a single child policy, parents are likely to just have more kids until they get a boy, unless they're so poor that they can't afford any more. Korea has way too low poverty levels for this to cause much of a difference there.
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 AM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: all: I realize what you are saying about China - i'm referring to a number of Asian countries - i am well aware of the 'one child' rule in China.

availablelight: I *did* not go straight for the 'racist' explanation - it's an observation i've made over my lifetime by observing the relationship between adopted female Asian children (mostly Korean/Chinese/Vietnamese) and their adopting parents, largely by those in rural/suburban areas (apologies for the US bias there, i forgot to say where i was in the post). I've noticed better attention to this by parents in more cosmopolitian areas - where the kid isn't

(to disclose fully - i'm half Chinese and i have a number of friends who were adopted from Asian countries)

What Civa and their spouse are doing by working to make the cultural/racial adjustment easy for their child (kudos t both of you!) does not always happen.
posted by jare2003 at 8:16 AM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: I just found out about the Adoption Encyclopedia, so I did some research.

In the Transracial Adoption entry, there are laws regulating that only parents with some Native American blood can adopt Native American children.

Also: "Black and biracial infants and children are considered to have special needs even when they are physically normal and of a normal intelligence. Unfortunately, ethnicity alone is often sufficient criteria to categorize these children as having a "special need."

Wow. I was aware that black babies and other babies of color are normally free, but wow....
posted by jare2003 at 8:32 AM on January 7, 2005

Er...who is it news to?

I was merely assuming there was a reason for the question to be asked.
posted by mdn at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: Actually, a friend just sent this Slate article to me. Apparently female preference is common in adoptions, no matter the supply...(though the excess of girls in say, China, is part of the reason for the disparity in sex ratio in children offered)

Numbers vary, but it's pretty safe to say that somewhere between 70 percent and 90 percent of parents looking to adopt register some preference for a girl with an agency. It doesn't matter if they're adopting from China, where girls far outnumber boys; from Russia, where the numbers are about even; or from Cambodia, where there is typically a glut of orphan boys and a paucity of girls. Everywhere, demand tends to favor the feminine.

And, as the case of Cambodia suggests, demand can in fact exert an influence on supply—and not a happy one. In the late '90s, Cambodia became a popular source for American adoptions, thanks to a relatively quick, cheap, and tidy process. But for whatever reason (some cite a Cambodian tradition that girls are expected to take care of their parents when they get older), Cambodia didn't offer the standard Asian profile of adoptable children. Boys outnumbered girls by a healthy margin. So what happened was what you would expect to happen in an underpoliced free market: Market pressure built up, until certain enterprising Cambodian adoption suppliers, or "facilitators," stepped in and found a way to meet demand.

posted by jare2003 at 8:52 AM on January 7, 2005

Slightly off-topic: a while back I read an article (can't remember where) that stated Chinese men are already having problems finding wives due to the one-child policy.
posted by deborah at 8:56 AM on January 7, 2005

"I've noticed better attention to this by parents in more cosmopolitan areas - where the kid isn't" [sentence unfinished]

Better attention to what? I thought this was about, "Do white people adopt Asian girls because of their desire for a stereotypically submissive 'China doll.' who fulfills all of their colonialist racist fantasies."

I do know that urban (adoptive) parents seem to have many more resources available to help their adoptive children (of either gender) connect with their native culture, and other trans-cultural/trans-racial adoptees. But as you mentioned yourself, "the racial mismatch doesnt [sic] bother [you] tremendously." It's the perception that people have some sort of dark motivation for "choosing" girls--a theory that seems to be debunked by some basic research and personal anecdotes on the part of people responding to this thread.

I can be as cynical about human nature as the next person, but there ought to be some sort of Occam's Razor for the social sciences that says, "Do not assume someone is being victimized or some sort of racism is occurring if a simpler and more logical explanation exists." The desire to feel offended is a strong one indeed--and one that cuts across lines of race, religion, privilege, etc.
posted by availablelight at 9:02 AM on January 7, 2005

[On preview: Americans prefer female Russian orphans because they want their own little Matrioshki doll?]
posted by availablelight at 9:06 AM on January 7, 2005

Thanks, Civa. I think you helped more people than you may know.
posted by squirrel at 9:08 AM on January 7, 2005

I was merely assuming there was a reason for the question to be asked.

mdn: Ah, ok, I see the cause of the misunderstanding. After the initial question, when someone points out the gender disparity in China, Jare2003 (the question poster) says, "Very true with China. But I've also noticed this phenomenon with Korean and Vietnamese potential adoptee children too - and as far as I know, there's no similar 'one child' policy in those countries."

So the reason the question is asked is that Jare2003 doesn't know why there are so many more non-Chinese females than males adopted. The China part isn't news to him.
posted by Bugbread at 9:11 AM on January 7, 2005

Speaking as the father of two adopted korean boys (3 1/2 and 1 1/2), when we went through the process, our agency explained it this way. Parents living in different countries have different reasons for putting children up for adoption. In China, it's mostly the one child policy, and as mentioned above, most chinese parents look for a son who can take care of them in the future, so there are more chinese girls being put up for adoption (which I belive is illegal, and so you don't get much medical or background information). In Vietnam and Cambodia, it's a poverty issue, and while there is some preference towards keeping boys, it's more even.

In Korea, it turns out, there is still a significant social stigma towards single mothers. It seemed like the US in the 40's or 50's in this way. From Korea, there is pretty much a 50/50 boy girl ration. There is a lot of background information about the parents available, and good medical care, so it seemed like an easy choice for us.

At the same time, there is some preference here in the US for asian girls. Now why that is, I couldn't say. My wife and I were interested in the first available child, and we were told that it would almost always be a boy, because the waiting list for girls is longer.

All that said, we're the proud parents of the two best boys around, and couldn't be any happy with our decision, except that we didn't make it earlier.
posted by Read at 9:12 AM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: availablelight: I apologize if I came off as intending to peg white parents as having racist tendencies by adopting Asian children, but i never made any assertion of that time. I never said: "Do white people adopt Asian girls because of their desire for a stereotypically submissive 'China doll.' who fulfills all of their colonialist racist fantasies." or anything close to that.

I've made that assertion i made in the question from personal experience. (and i noted it was from personal experience. I've heard a number of white parents refer to their adopted Asian child as a 'China doll').

And that is why I posted it as an AskMefi question. I wanted to see what other people thought.

There are many more Asian females dating/married with White males than Asian males dating/married with White females . This is largely attributable to media/film perceptions created of asian males, and the different perceptions created of asian females. There is plenty of research around this issue. If you want, i will be happy to provide it, but i didnt want to go off on a tangent.

Is it not fair to ask if cultural perceptions play into the reason more asian females are adopted, then?
posted by jare2003 at 9:16 AM on January 7, 2005

I've heard a number of white parents refer to their adopted Asian child as a 'China doll')

Ack, that's dreadful.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2005

China to make sex-selective abortions a crime.
posted by orange clock at 9:56 AM on January 7, 2005

As far as China's one-child policy:

"MEI-MING has lain this way for 10 days now tied up in urine-soaked blankets, scabs of dried mucus growing across her eyes, her face shrinking to a skull, malnutrition slowly shriveling her two-year-old body.

Each morning a fellow inmate at her Guangdong orphanage goes into the dark fetid room where she lies alone to see if she is dead. The orphanage staff paid to look after her, do not visit. They call her room the "dying room" and they have abandoned her there for the same reason her parents abandoned her shortly after she was born. Her problem is simple and she has a condition which in modern China makes her next to useless, a burden on the state with an almost zero chance of adoption. She is a girl."
The Dying Rooms

As for:

there are laws regulating that only parents with some Native American blood can adopt Native American children.

This is not true, strictly speaking. What you are referring to is the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq (ICWA). ICWA was enacting in 1978 to protect the best interests of Indian children. Prior to 1978, as many as 25 to 35 percent of the Indian children in many states were removed from their homes and placed in non-Indian homes by state courts, welfare agencies, and private adoption agencies. Non-Indian judges and social workers--failing to appreciate traditional Indian child-rearing practices--perceived day-to-day life in the children's Indian homes as contrary to the children's best interests. A long hard battle was fought against these racist practices culminating in ICWA. The goal of ICWA is to ensure that Indian children are placed in homes that will reflect the unique values of Indian culture.

ICWA provides that in cases of foster care and adoption, preference is given in the following order: (1) a member of the Indian child's extended family (including non-Indian members of the family), (2) a foster home licensed or approved by the child's tribe, (3) an Indian foster home licensed or approved by a non-Indian agency or authority, or (4) an institution for children that has the approval of an Indian tribe. Note that nowhere does it refer to "blood" and neither did the article that was referred to. I mention this because this is term that for some reason is used a lot when referring to Indian heritage, as opposed to Black, Asian, or any other race.

As for:

Also: "Black and biracial infants and children are considered to have special needs even when they are physically normal and of a normal intelligence. Unfortunately, ethnicity alone is often sufficient criteria to categorize these children as having a "special need."

In Minnesota, all children of color and children with disabilities are considered "special needs." The reason being that those children wait longer to be adopted. There are even incentives to people who adopt special needs kids. For example, you can adopt special needs children if even you are single or gay. The legal fees are paid by the Sate. The child's health insurance until adulthood is paid by the Sate. College is paid by the State and many adoptive parents receive a monthly stipend.

I have several friends Black friends who were adopted. All of them adopted by white families. Each and everyone of them wishes that they were adopted by Black families. All of them have had emotional trauma caused by the cross-racial adoptions. You would think that a "loving" family would be enough, no matter the race, but apparently it isn't enough. At least not enough for the adoptees that I've known.
posted by Juicylicious at 10:57 AM on January 7, 2005

Maybe it's different when one is adopted, but I grew up with only the white side of my family (my father's side is black; my parents split before I was three), and I cannot say I really care. I mean, I might have a better answer for people who ask me why I "talk so white" ("Because I grew up with white people?"), but in a number of ways growing up with white folks, I think, had its advantages.
posted by dame at 11:24 AM on January 7, 2005

It is definitely different Dame. You grew up with your biological family. The adoptees that I know had to deal with the whole adoption/abandonement issue, as well as the racial issue. I will add that I have been told anecdotally that cross-racially adopted children are sexually abused at a higher rate than none cross-racial adoptees.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:33 AM on January 7, 2005

Well, the question is, do you think that something about the adopted issue makes the racial one come out more? Because for me, the racial issue, while interesting, isn't terribly important.
posted by dame at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2005

I have to emphasize that my knowledge is based on information that I've received from friends and acquaintances. I'm not an expert in this area.

I would say: yes.

I think that adoptees first deal with "why was I given up?" Then they deal with "I don't look like my family." Then they have to search out role models that not only share their race, but can provide cultural identity.

I have one girlfriend who was adopted by a white family in an affluent, but small town. She was the only adopted child in a family of seven children. There were very few Black families in the town that she grew up in. From her first memory, she knew that she was "different." She grew up and moved to Minneapolis. She also dealt with "why do talk white?" Eventually she found her biological mother in Illinois. She learned that she had a biological family in Atlanta. Believing that she would be more accepted as an intelligent Black woman in Atlanta, she moved there. Since relocating, she has felt ostracized and alienated because she's articulate, educated and "talks white." She doesn't have the cultural references that become handy when trying integrate yourself into a new social setting. She also didn't have strong family ties that would help her create a network. It's been a miserable experience for her. Although she emphatically loves her adopted family, she feels that had she been raised in a Black home, she would not feel the alienation that she feels today from her peers.
posted by Juicylicious at 12:12 PM on January 7, 2005

surburban white parents, which compromise the vast, vast majority of potential adopters

I think you're after comprise rather than compromise. Very different connotation which I'm sure you didn't mean.
posted by Miko at 3:13 PM on January 7, 2005

I can't believe this is news to some people!

Er...who is it news to? Closest I can guess is kathryn, but that's a little bit iffy, and it's pretty clear it isn't news to anyone else in the thread.

er, no. sorry that my comment is poorly worded; i meant to say that the eye-opening part was the gap between china and south korea.

i am ethnically chinese (technically taiwanese if you are keeping track) and have had firsthand knowledge of the gender divide within the culture. in my family's family tree book, my father, his brothers, and my brother are included, alongside all other male relatives bearing the family surname. i, being a female, am not.
posted by kathryn at 4:08 PM on January 7, 2005

I don't know what to tell you about China, but a Cambodian friend of mine told me all adoption outside the country is banned in Cambodia, even to Cambodian citizens in the US, mainly because of the child sex trade.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:08 PM on January 7, 2005

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