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China’s Orphan Boys

8 May 2018

When we decided that God was calling us to find our son in China, I was a little surprised at the enthusiasm from advocates and consultants. Of course they’re happy to work with anyone who wants to adopt at all, but we quickly learned we were in a kind of minority as a family who wants to adopt a boy from China.


chinese orphan boys


And two facts got stuck on repeat:

  • Most (about 75%) of the orphans in China are boys.
  • Most of the international adoption community wants to adopt girls from China.

It is such a reality that we soon discovered that even though we’re working from a very short list of medical conditions we feel we can take on (because we both work and we don’t have stellar health insurance), our expected wait time to be matched with a child might still be shorter than we expected just because we want a boy.

And no one really knows why.

China’s Orphans

In recent years, China has reported that they have about 600,000 orphans, but other sources estimate the number is closer to one million. 


chinese orphan boys


Abandoning children is illegal in China, but it happens—roughly 10,000 times each year—and the stories are often desperate and ugly and heartbreaking.

So in 2011, China started opening “baby hatches”—small hatches, drawers, or outer rooms attached to hospitals and orphanages. They are secure, usually guarded, and climate-controlled. Parents can leave an infant or toddler, ring a bell, and leave; the child will be collected in five to ten minutes.

Many of the hatches had to be closed within weeks, because they were completely overwhelmed with abandoned children. China had to restructure and expand the program, because some institutions were taking in more than 100 children every week.

The other side of the coin is that the number of children being adopted from China has plummeted (on trend with the number of international adoptions overall). 2017 saw the lowest number of Chinese orphans put in families since records became available.


number of china adoptions

Source: U.S. Dept of State


China’s Orphan Boys

I hesitated to ask our Coordinator about the orphan boy issue, but when I finally did, she didn’t really have an answer either:

Regarding the paradox we are seeing around the number of boys versus girls available for adoption and the preference there seems to be for families to be matched with a girl, this is something, unfortunately, I do not have a good answer for you on … There have always been boys available for adoption and it seems there is just very little knowledge that this is the case, particularly with the understanding of the cultural preference for families to have male children.

Is it because of China’s old One Child Policy, and the international community is still stuck on “saving” baby girls from China? Maybe.

Is it because Chinese families are limited to one or two children, so they only want perfectly healthy boys? Maybe.

There probably isn’t one reason — just a terribly perfect storm for boys born in China.

Amy, from Love Without Boundaries, wrote an article, based on her historical experience, a few years ago that explores the idea: “The Adoption of Boys”. It’s a few years old, and things are definitely changing, but — as we’ve seen in our own experience — they’re not changing fast enough for China’s orphan boys. Amy wrote (emphasis mine),

When I made the “Adopt a Boy” video, I wasn’t being facetious when I said that being orphaned and a boy was one of the most difficult special needs to overcome. If an adoption agency got a new list with eight babies who had cleft (four girls, four boys), the girls would be chosen first and the boys would need special cheerleading. Thankfully we are seeing that slowly change. How wonderful that more boys are finding families now! But we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that the majority of families even today are open to adopting boys from China. Multiple times I have called an agency to advocate for a boy in our program only to be told, “We don’t have a single client right now open to boys.”


Source: Love Without Boundaries

I’ve seen this in my own inbox. Our agency sends an email every month, to families in the China program, featuring Chinese children they could not match with families that month. A few months ago, I got two: the usual email and then a second one featuring four, three-year-old boys with very minor medical needs. One was simply listed as, “low birth weight.”

Two days later I got another email, practically begging families to consider changing their paperwork so they could be matched with boys. The agency knew they were going to get a new batch of children’s files, and that many would be boys:

We are excited to announce that there is currently little to no wait time right now for LID* families open to adopting a boy with commonly seen medical needs! … If your family is LID or getting ready to be and you are on the fence about adopting a boy, now is a great time to consider making changes to your waiting child application. It is also important to note that if you are building your dossier and are open to a boy, please work diligently to get your dossier completed and submitted ASAP!!

*LID is “log-in date;” it means your paperwork has been received in China.

It’s a terribly perfect storm.

Start the Countdown: 14 Years

Children in China “age out” of the orphanage system on their 14th birthdays, which means they are no longer eligible to be adopted.


chinese boy aging out

“Ben,” age 13. Photo from AWAA blog.

In an article on aging out, one Great Wall employee wrote,

One thing I noticed when I was in China was just how many older boys there are that need to be adopted. Many of these boys are healthy or just have very minor needs, and because girls tend to be more popular with families who are adopting from China, they have been passed over for years. There is nothing wrong with most of these boys, most of them don’t have bad behaviors and are not aggressive as some people believe that adolescent orphaned boys are. They have just been passed over for years because of the mere fact that they are boys, and for many of them, that is their only special need.

There’s no way to really say what happens to these kids when they turn 14. There are no studies with statistics, and no one tries to find them years later to see how they’ve done.

Some are allowed to finish school. Sometimes orphanage workers can help them find minimum wage jobs. Occasionally they stay on as caretakers in the orphanage. Sometimes they are released onto the streets with the clothes on their backs and their medical needs unattended to.

Wherever they end up, they end up alone. They don’t have families to meet with on Chinese New Year. No one is cheering them on. They may find some kind of community, but not a family.

Wanted: #boymom

I love that so many people in our lives are excited about our adoption, and I love answering questions and talking about it. One statement I hear a lot wraps up with something like, “… I could never do that.”

But really … you could. You wouldn’t do it perfectly, and neither will we. But an imperfect, loving family is still a loving family, which is more than most of China’s orphan boys have to look forward to. And yes it’s hard, but only when you’re looking at the paperwork.

Before we got a name or a picture, I would look at our Man Cub and think, “If I had to do all this for him … I would do it without question.” And once we saw our Chinese son, the difficulties and the expenses seemed even smaller. What wouldn’t I do for either of my boys?

Extra prayer request this week for all the boys in Chinese orphanages, and the hearts of all the families considering adoption.

Adoption Updates

Still not much to update.

  • Paperwork — We’re still waiting for our Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from China, which we expect anytime in the next 30 days or so. Then we send the last big envelope of paperwork to Immigration for permission to bring our boy home.
  • Finances — Still applying for grants; still waiting for answers. The art show is less than two weeks away, and I’m super excited about the art rolling in! And there are two weeks left for this month’s t-shirt (and we need to sell one more for them to go to print).

“How can I help?”

  • Prayer requests — If you’re praying, please pray for the paperwork in China, for the grant applications being reviewed, and for the funds and the fundraisers in general. We’re still praying for our little man, of course: for safety and comfort, for healing, and that God would prepare his heart to meet us.
  • Facebook love — If you’re down for it, it would be great if you could share the art show event and/or the t-shirt campaign. If you’re coming to the art show, please RSVP on Facebook (helps if it looks like there’s a crowd).
  • Art show — Come! Even if you’re broke. 😉 If you want to help set up/clean up let me know. I’m sure we could use the help.

Thanks lovelies!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Gloria permalink
    8 May 2018 11:45 AM

    I didn’t realize there were so many boys available for adoption. Praying for them!

  2. 8 May 2018 4:32 PM

    I’m happy I’ve been able to learn so much about the adoption world through your guys’ journey. So much of this stuff I would have never bothered to look into without seeing your hearts for it.

  3. 8 May 2018 6:33 PM

    I’m praying for you guys, can’t wait to welcome a new member of the family

    • Lex permalink*
      9 May 2018 9:16 AM

      Thanks! Can’t wait for you all to see him!

  4. Amy N permalink
    8 May 2018 9:15 PM

    Stories like this just break you heart. So much need in the world.

    • Lex permalink*
      9 May 2018 9:17 AM

      You’re going to be a great nainai. 😉

  5. Jennifer permalink
    9 May 2018 8:17 AM

    I’m in tears because I would adopt an older Chinese boy in a heart beat. But why does it have to be so difficult and expensive?!

    • Lex permalink*
      9 May 2018 9:20 AM

      Gurl, I know. I keep looking at our man cub, though, and going, “If I had to do all this for him, I wouldn’t even think twice.” 🙂 If you ever want more info, you know I’ll talk about it ’til I run out of air. 😉 And I know some great people who can help.

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