China Restricts Adoption Policies

China announced plans Wednesday to tighten restrictions on adoptions by foreigners. The nation will give last priority to foreign citizens who are older than 50 and ban adoptions to those who are obese, single, disfigured or on antidepressant medication.

Stated bluntly, if you are too fat, you can't adopt a Chinese baby.

The laundry list of new restrictions on adoptions by foreigners is ostensibly aimed at assuring the babies a stable home conducive to good physical, mental and financial health. The changes are scheduled to take effect May 1, 2007, but already exert an influence.

This policy is misguided, discriminatory and shameful.

Admittedly, the new restrictions set the bar rather high for acceptable weight. Those with a body mass index above 40 will not be allowed to adopt. Overweight is defined as a BMI above 25; obesity is defined in three stages, beginning at a BMI of 30.

That said -- a woman 5 feet 4 inches tall is overweight at 145 pounds; stage 1 obese at 175 pounds; stage 2 obese at 205 pounds; and stage 3 obese at 230 pounds. No question, a BMI of 40 is quite high.

The policy would be worse, in practice, if the bar were set lower. But it's bad in principle as it is.

Preventing adoption based on weight, no matter what weight, only makes sense if there is evidence that parental BMI is legitimately linked to the quality of a child's life and health or the kind of parenting he or she receives. To my knowledge, that link doesn't exist

I've searched the medical literature for studies that link parental weight or BMI with quality of life in children and found nothing. I could find no studies that demonstrate a link between the BMI and the capacity to love. I found no system that correlates weight, waist circumference or any other measure of body size with the quality of parenting.

As for a link between parental weight and weight in their biological children, that's a well established fact in the medical literature: heavy parents are more likely to have heavy children. You barely even need to search the medical literature to make this case -- just look around. Kids tend to look like their parents.

The fact that kids tend to look like their parents in ways that have nothing to do with weight -- such as hair color and eye color -- is important. But I don't suppose the Chinese are worrying that if blue-eyed parents adopt Chinese babies, the babies' eye color will change.

The science clearly and consistently indicates that body shape and size in children resembles that of their biological parents for the same reason that eye color does -- because of genes.

There is no link -- repeat none -- between the weight of adults who were adopted as children and the weights of their adoptive parents, as has been confirmed by the famous decades-long Danish Adoption Study. More than 20 years of scientific studies have shown that nature, not nurture, explains the weight outcomes of adopted children.

Adopted children don't take on the body type or body weights of their adoptive parents. The science that supports that fact is not only persuasive, it is almost shocking. Virtually none of the variation in the BMI of adults who were adopted as children is explained by the weight of their adoptive parents, according to the research.

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