Starting in the early 1990s, and as recently as a few years ago, the large majority of Chinese children adopted by foreigners were healthy baby girls abandoned by their parents, often because of a preference for a son in a country rigidly enforcing a one-child policy.
Between 1995 and 2005, Americans adopted more than 60,000 children from China. The peak was 7,903 in 2005.
Circumstances have changed dramatically since then. China has eased its one-child policy, fewer baby girls are abandoned, domestic adoptions of healthy orphans have increased, and the waiting time for foreigners to adopt a healthy infant has tripled to roughly four years.
As a result, U.S. adoptions from China have plummeted more than 60 percent, to 3,001 last year. And of the children now adopted, roughly three of every five have special medical needs.
One contributing factor is China’s rate of birth defects, which a government family planning commission said increased by nearly 50 percent between 2001-2006.