China's Lost Children

ABC News employees spoke with the gatekeeper, Ms. Jie, standing at the entrance of the Changde Welfare House. She told us that she speaks on behalf of the orphanage and that it offers money for healthy baby boys and girls younger than 5, but does not pay if the child is disabled.

She said the orphanage currently only has disabled children available for adoption, so the demand for healthy children is high. Some of the children are adopted by well-to-do Chinese families who can't have a baby of their own, but this orphanage also caters to foreigners.

We asked for contact information for some of the families who sold their children to the orphanage. Ms. Jie said the orphanage didn't keep contact information.

"We buy babies from migrant workers and farmers from poor provinces. … After the business is done, these people disappear and never come back," she said. She told us the cash-for-babies practice is legal but, according to Chinese law, it is not. It is against the law to buy or sell a child.

When ABC News contacted the adoption offices of the Changde Welfare House orphanage, staffers who answered the phone refused to give their names. They denied the program exists. "It is just a rumor," one woman told ABC News.

This orphanage is not the only one whose practices are under suspicion.

In the neighboring province of Jiangxi, which adopted more than 2,400 children internationally in 2007, we found what appears to be a similar cash-for-babies plan at the largest international adoption orphanage in China.

Mr. Zhou, the deputy director of the Fuzhou Welfare orphanage, told a caller over the phone, without hesitation, that the orphanage pays around $300 for baby girls.

"We don't want boys. It's quite risky to take boys. They are most likely kidnapped," he said.

Mr. Zhou told the caller that normally the orphanage requests an introduction letter from an employer or neighborhood committee to certify that the baby is not from traffickers. Mr. Zhou also said there is room for "leeway" if a family can't provide this sort of letter. But like the gatekeeper in Changde, Zhou maintains that it is perfectly legal to buy unwanted babies.

When ABC News called the director's office, the orphanage denied the program exists.

"It's against the law for anybody to sell a baby to a family or to an organization, including orphanages. It is a violation of criminal law," according to Chang Yacun, a child law specialist at the Association of China Social Work.

Some orphanages say they truly believe that these money-for-children programs are helping kids here. They believe children will be sold by families that don't want them or that can't afford to take care of them and then adopted by people who can give them a better life. But the increasingly lucrative business of adopting children to well-off Chinese or foreign families has certainly spawned some greed and corruption and may be encouraging child-trafficking.

Di's parents have no idea where he is. But the prospect that Di may have been adopted offers no comfort to them.

"However hard our life is, we would never want the boy to be adopted. We wish we could have him back," his father told us.

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