The one child policy still remains in the city. One of our guides told us that she and her husband who were recently married are able to have 2 children because both of them were from single-family homes. I asked her if she was happy that she could have 2 children and she said yes but that it was very expensive to have more than one child so people would not usually want to. I think we validated that when she saw the price to get our laundry done at a local laundry mat (and that was 10 days worth and we wore some clothes a few days in a row). If a girl who is not married gets pregnant she would never keep the child (although it is not illegal) because if she did that child would most likely not get a birth certificate and then would not be able to go to school. The real difficulty would be the way that society and the families would treat that child. They really would have no hope for a future. Our guides don’t know of any single parent families. I guess that would contribute greatly to why they have changed the policy, which does not allow single parents to adopt anymore. There is an age that people have to be to have a child after they get married. Our guide in Guilin told us that you also have to apply to get your birth certificate before even getting pregnant. The government would decide what year would be the best one for you to have a child as there may already be too many babies being born in that year. On the other hand our guide in Chengdu who is much younger and newly married said that you are not told when to have the baby anymore and you apply to get the certificate after you have the baby. I think the policy has changed. If a couple has their one child and she gets pregnant they can either choose to abort (at any time in the pregnancy) or pay a very large fine (200,000 Yuan which is about $4000 Canadian). This is a great deal of money for many so would be unheard of. They can then pay the fine again for any additional children. It is illegal in China for a doctor to tell the sex of the baby to the parents however people are still able to find out illegally and then can abort if it is not the gender that they want. Although in the cities people are happy to have girls, boys are still the desired sex and some people will abort and try again in order to have a son. There is a great deal of pressure from parents and the older generations. It is interesting to talk to our guides about how they were not wanted by their fathers when they were born and that it took a long time for them to warm up to them. The know that boys are more desirable. An interesting and very different concept to try and understand.
In the last 2 years it sounds like things have improved a great deal for those people living in the country. Years ago the farmland was divided according to the number of people in your family. Then up until 2 years ago farmers had to give the government a certain percentage of what they earned. Now farmers are able to keep all of their farming profits so they are feeling very happy and lucky. The government is now looking at making a change in the future that if you are a farmer and wish to rent your land to someone and then go work in the city you will be able to. Up to now if you are a farmer you can only farm your land and cannot get any kind of a job in the city. If you work in the city you may not decide to become a farmer. The job of your family in the past will decide what you will be and what your children will also do in their lives. Another recent change is that children living in the country now get free schooling from Grade 1 and up which is so important because in the past if children went so school it was only the son and the daughter would stay at home and work. There is no social assistance of any kind or any money for farmers once they get older. Basically they never retire and live and work on the farms until they die. Medical issues are a big problem as if someone gets sick they will not get any kind of medical care and will stay sick or die. The lack of care is evident from the fact that many of these people have little or no dental care and have few teeth as they get older.
As far as the situation for children born in the country, boys are still the choice gender for a couple of reasons. As you can see from the fact that a village would be named after a family (such as the one that we visited), the passing down of the family name is still very important. The family name means a great deal to people in China. The second reason for wanting a boy is to pass on the land when the parents die. If they have a girl then there is no one to pass the land to (as she would marry into her husband’s family). Families that live in the country are allowed to have one child, however if it is a girl they are allowed to try for one more to have a boy. I asked how they can monitor that this happens, as obviously they would not have the money to pay a fine to have more than the allotted number of children. The response was that every village has a village committee and if someone gets pregnant and they should not be (like they have had their quota of children) they will take the woman to have an abortion. The only hope for the woman to have the baby is to leave the village and have the baby elsewhere (perhaps with family who live somewhere else) and then return once the baby is born. They cannot do anything once the baby is born and if the family does not have any money they will take all of their furniture and are told to stay in their house. They would also deal with the pressure in the village that they should not be there and that the family did something wrong.
The number of adoptions has decreased significantly over the past 4 years (since our group traveled in 2005) for two reasons. All 3 of our guides have given us the same reasons. Firstly the living conditions have improved a great deal and people have more money to bring up a child. Secondly domestic adoption has opened up so many of the babies are going to homes within China. If a couple has one child they can adopt a child as well. I asked about the process to adopt here in China and they said that they have to make a lot of money, fill out a lot of paperwork (medicals, police checks, etc.) and show that they will love the child and that they do not want the child for any other reason. It sounds like it is not an easy process and that they have to abide by many of the same regulations that we do at home. It takes them about 6 months and they can choose the child that they want from the orphanages. People here (including our guides) think it is interesting and they can’t understand that we would be so open about adopting our daughter. They said that if you adopted a child in China you would not let the child or anyone else know that she/he is not your biological child. Because the child does not have your blood (which is obviously very important) people would look down upon your family and new child.
Today our guide told us that there were over 2500 adoptions in Hunan in 2005, which was the year that we went for our girls. Then the following year there were half as many. There was a slight increase in 2007 and in 2008 there were only 401 adoptions in the province. Interesting to know for those of you that are waiting to go back. He also said that most of the babies in the orphanages have some kind of medical need and that there are few babies that are considered to be ‘healthy’.
Tomorrow morning we go with our guide to purchase supplies that the orphanage asked for when I enquired about what we could bring. He will take us to a local store to buy clothes for 6 month-old babies, medium sized diapers and local infant formula that they feed the babies. The following day we do the 4 hour drive to Chenzhou and visit a school. Then the day after we visit the orphanage where Kayla and the babies in her travel group lived for the first year or so of their lives. Our guide does not think that the new orphanage is open yet (which was being build on the same grounds) but we will see when we get there. He gave us a piece of paper from the Hunan administration to read that stated that we would not take any photos of the children, we would not ask any questions to any staff that were not instructed to talk to us and that we would not ask to see our daughter’s file or ask for pictures in it. He did say that Chenzhou is a large orphanage and that these rules do not really apply there so we will see what happens. We are really excited about this part of the trip as this was our main reason that we wanted to come prior to the adoption part of the trip where we will receive our little Anya. Two more weeks and we will be a family of seven!!!