The following information is what is known at this time about China's new program. This article will be updated as further details are revealed.
On August 17th , the CCAA sent a special notice to all licensed adoption agencies concerning a new program that will begin on September 1st .
The CCAA is creating a new category of waiting children called "Special Focus" children. These are children who have been on the shared waiting child list for more than 2 months. It is unknown whether or not all children who have been on the list for over 2 months will be included, or if only a select number of these children will now be categorized as Special Focus.
What is known is this: Children who receive this special status will have three unique advantages.
First: they may now be assigned to specific agencies, which can then begin concentrated advocacy to find a family for particular children. Individual advocacy for older and special needs children by a single agency has remarkable advantages over the current system . As it is now, over 2,000 children wait on China's Shared List. Children who were listed months ago receive almost no advocacy or inquiries, as new children are added frequently and receive the most attention.
Second: Adoption agencies may take the time to focus on gathering information and background on specific children, to better match the child with a family who is a good "fit". Older children and those with special needs have the best outcome in families that are well prepared to parent them.
Third: Families pursuing a Special Focus child will have 6 months (instead of 3 months) to get their dossier into CCAA. This will enable families to take the appropriate time needed to learn more about a child's medical or other needs, and make a decision without undue pressure to submit documents.
For some experienced families who are thinking of adopting more than one child, the news only gets better. Families pursuing a Special Focus child will be allowed to adopt a second child, either at the same time or within a one year time frame. One of the children must be Special Focus, but the other can be either healthy, Special Focus or a regular special needs child. CCAA emphasized that families need to be well prepared for the adoption of two children or special needs children in general to avoid tragedies.
Marci Siegel-Kittrel of Associated Services for International Adoption, voiced her enthusiasm for the program, "This is a great opportunity for children who have waited the longest on the Shared List," but added this caution, "We must also focus on the best interest of each child. ASIA will allow families to pursue the adoption of two unrelated children on a case by case basis after the family fulfills some requirements to prepare for the additional challenges of adopting two unrelated children at once or in quick succession."
While several families have requested the opportunity to adopt 2 children at one time, China has officially been against the practice in the past. Over the last few years, the CCAA has unofficially loosened their stance on non-siblings being adopted simultaneously, granting experienced families with the financial ability and support systems in place to do so.
Kelly Rumbaugh, founder of Lady Bugs N Love, came home from China in February of this year with Samantha and Piper. Samantha was just days away from her 14 th birthday, when she would become ineligible for adoption. Piper, age 11 years, has some special needs. "Our daughters did not know each other before adoption," Kelly told us, "This caused me worry because Samantha did not have any special needs, and Piper did. The truth is, both girls have great attitudes. It hasn't been about adopting two older children at the same time. Honestly, it has been the most challenging because we adopted two children while having 3 toddlers as well."
Kelly's advice to other families considering adopting two at once? "I would want to make sure that the family knew that saving money is NOT a reason to adopt two children at once. I would want to make sure that they realize how the dynamics of the family changes when you add a new sibling to the family, let alone two." Any regrets? "It is harder than I thought, but no. Every hug, every smile, is worth it. I just think families need to understand that it is challenging."
Update: Although part of the Notice sent to agencies indicates that there may be some leniency or relaxing of adoptive family qualifications (could this mean singles may be able to adopt in the future?), there are no clear indications of what this may entail. We will update our readers as more information is released.