January 5, 2007
ZAHN: So how would you feel if someone told you you couldn't adopt a baby because you're not thin enough, not rich enough, nor attractive enough? We're bringing this story out in the open tonight because that's exactly what's about to happen when Americans try to adopt children from China, and some people say that is downright discriminatory. China is the most popular country Americans go to for foreign adoptions. Last year, nearly 6,500 Chinese children found parents right here in the U.S. John Vause is in Beijing tonight and he joins me live. So, John, what are some of these restrictions that are about to be put in place that we need to be aware of?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, the Chinese government says these new measures are all about finding better homes for Chinese orphans, so as of this coming May, all foreigners, not just Americans, but anyone from overseas wanting to adopt a Chinese orphan must meet some of these following criteria. They must not be morbidly obese, in other words, a body mass index of over 40, they must not have facial deformities, they must not take antidepressants. On the other side of the equation, they must have a net worth of $80,000 or more. They must earn over $30,000 a year. They must also be, this is one of the biggest changes, they also must be a man and a woman who have, in fact, been married for at least two years, aged between 30 and 50. So in other words, no singles. In the past, China was one of the few countries in the world who would allow singles to adopt kids. They've never allowed gay adoption but they have allowed singles in limited numbers to adopt kids but it seems that will be changing as well, Paula.
ZAHN: So what is the Chinese government officially saying about this, and why they want to institute these changes?
VAUSE: Well, the Chinese government is making no apologies for the new criteria. An official that we spoke to Friday told us in part, quote, "Our job is to help the homeless children find warm families, rather than just children for childless families." At the same time we're insisting there's been no change to the actual adoption policy. They're just introducing a preference system, because quite simply, there are so many foreigners who want to come here that they just outnumber the orphans who are available for adoption, and there are lengthy waiting periods for foreigners wanting Chinese kids. They can wait for a year, in many cases sometimes more, Paula.
ZAHN: John Vause, thanks so much for the update. Joining me now, an attorney Sondra Solovay, an author of "Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination." She also has a new book coming out later this year. Welcome back. Some of these rules, I think, are a little bit easier for us to swallow than others. I think some people think it's probably pretty justified that prospective parents have enough money to care for a children, but what about weight restrictions, what about facial deformities, and how that could compromise someone's ability to adopt?
SONDRA SOLOVAY, AUTHOR, "TIPPING THE SCALES OF JUSTICE": These restrictions are definitely troubling. I certainly empathize with the difficult decision of figuring out which adoptive family is going to be the best for a child and the children we're most concerned about. But you simply can't tell by looking at someone if they're going to be a good adoptive parent. We don't have to rent "Mommy Dearest" to remember that a pretty face doesn't mean a pretty family. And certainly you can't tell the amount of love a parent has in their heart by looking at the number on their bathroom scale.
ZAHN: But on the flipside of all this, doesn't China have the right to create whatever rules it wants to, no matter how unpalatable some of them might seem?
SOLOVAY: Sure, they have the right, they have the obligation to do what they think is best to look out for their children. That's absolutely true. It's an interesting point as well, because some of these agencies that are in the U.S. are going to be in quite a predicament, caught between two different rules, rules in the United States prohibiting them from discriminating based on disability, based on weight, based on marital status and the restrictions that China imposed so it's difficult for the agencies, too, but I think we need to bring our attention back to the children and the idea is to find the children the best, most loving homes they can, and those homes don't come in a particular weight limit or a particular size. In fact, we have this idea, I suppose, of a traditional home. But when children come from China to the U.S., many will be placed in homes that are going to be mixed race or mixed ethnicity anyway. These aren't traditional homes and it's the diversity in the U.S. that makes those families understand that they have the same rights as any other family.
ZAHN: How many angry calls are you taking from prospective parents out there about these new regulations?
SOLOVAY: I expect my office is going to be absolutely flooded with calls not only from parents, but from the agencies themselves, wondering about their rights and responsibilities. For example, in San Francisco, you can't discriminate based on weight, so an agency in San Francisco is going to have a difficult time walking that line.
ZAHN: Well, Sondra Solovay, we're going to leave that there and get more reaction now. Thank you for your time. From our panel.
SOLOVAY: Thank you.
ZAHN: One more time. Cenk Uygur, Roland Martin, Solangel Maldonado. Obviously the Chinese government is making it clear it wants to be more selective will prospective parents, it wants to place these children in the best family environment it can. Isn't that justified?
MALDONADO: Absolutely. I think we all know that China is a sovereign country. It has the right to place whatever restrictions on foreigners who are seeking to adopt their children that it wants. And adoption is really about supply and demand, and the reality is that there are many more Americans, many more Westerners seeking to adopt children from China than there are children available so the Chinese government can decide to do whatever it wants.
MARTIN: OK, why? What's the big deal with Chinese children? Enlighten me, please, help me out.
ZAHN: You understand this better than anybody. Why don't we see more Americans adopting black foster children?
MARTIN: That's my point. What's the big deal with Chinese children? Why the infatuation?
ZAHN: You think it's something with the color of their skin? Is that what you're driving at?
MARTIN: Maybe they think they can adopt a smart kid that is going to grow up to be a doctor? I don't know. They need to realize that's called training, not just inherent, it will happen when they're born. Angel, help me out.
MALDONADO: Absolutely. This is something I've been looking into for a long time. Americans have this love affair with girls from China. There is this belief, this perception, irrational as it might be that if you adopt a little girl from China, she's going to be intelligent, she's going to be more lovable.
MARTIN: Like the porcelain doll.
MALDONADO: We definitely see that idea of the beautiful Chinese little girl, as compared to do, they really want to adopt a black boy.
ZAHN: What difference does it make if the prospective parent has a facial deformity and the prospective parent weighs 70 more pounds than the scale says they should weigh.
UYGUR: I love the idea of them weighing people. All right. So you know, first of all, okay, so gay parents are out. That's a clear rule, but then also Dennis Hastert's out because he's way too fat. They put him on the scale, sorry. But I'd probably be out. I don't know, maybe I'd have to go on an exercise regimen, to do the body mass indexes they pinch you in all of these different places.
ZAHN: You can fake it, suck it in.
UYGUR: Not me.
MARTIN: Paula, you raise the question -- China, first of all, they do have the right to do it, but the flipside is what is the infatuation by Americans and other foreigners when it comes to adopting Chinese children? That is a real issue there, and why do we avoid other children and not just -- children who are here in America, who are looking for homes, and who just like Chinese orphans want a nice place to live.
ZAHN: But realistically, how are you ever going to change that bias?
UYGUR: I think a lot of people are looking for Muslim children these days.
ZAHN: Yeah, right.
UYGUR: Because we started the Iraq war and there's so many orphans. I'm sure they're getting a lot of Iraqi children, right? No, of course, they think it's cute and they're smart and it's really dumb, actually, of course. Roland's right, it's all in the training and it's a shame because all over the world there's other kids that need to be adopted especially in Africa, but for once, the celebrities are doing the right thing there trying to foster that.
MARTIN: Call the queen of Africa, Angelina Jolie. She can hook you up.
MALDONADO: I think what we need to do is we need to break down some of the misconceptions. For example, people believe if they're adopting a child from China, the child is going to be healthier than a child they adopt in the United States and that is just not true. Even if the child is born...
ZAHN: It defies logic. The quality of the medical care many of these kids have suffered through the first several months of life.
MARTIN: What also ignores logic is that China is having an explosion when it comes to obesity as well so maybe they should start their own million pound challenge like we started in Chicago to deal with Chinese folks who don't want to have overweight kids.
ZAHN: What are some of the other assumptions you think people in America make about the native intelligence of children based on whether you're Hispanic -- We had a guest on the other night when you were with us suggesting that Hispanic parents don't take education as seriously as some other sets of our population. There's a very complicated picture here.
UYGUR: And America is changing and some of the assumptions are going to change because of that. What really happens isn't of course that Asians are smarter. Immigrant families foster a culture where they work hard and emphasize education so Jewish families went through that, Asian families went through that. But now Eastern European families are coming and doing the same thing and African families are coming and doing the same thing. So I can't wait for 10, 20 years down the line, everybody's like I've got to have an African child. Because they're all geniuses.
MARTIN: Remember, those are learned traits that you learn based upon how you have been raised.
UYGUR: Of course.
MARTIN: You are simply not born, hey that, kid will have a great work ethic because they were born to an immigrant family. It simply doesn't work that way because you got some lazy immigrant families. What do you think the assumptions Americans make about kids of Asian descent even here in America, they'll work hard, they'll own their store someday.
UYGUR: They'll be brilliant.
ZAHN: All right. Hispanic...
MALDONADO: Well the idea about Hispanic kids, it's sort of mixed. I think the stereotypes about Hispanic kids are both positive and negative. They believe that Hispanic kids are likely to work harder than black kids, but they also believe that they're not going to be as intelligent as Asian kids.
ZAHN: Muslim kids.
UYGUR: They're going to grow up to be violent. Who is adopting a Muslim kid? Has anyone adopted a Muslim kid in the last 20 years in America?
MARTIN: You've got somebody sitting there saying, keep the Muslim kid out of chemistry class. Keep them away.
ZAHN: How about black kids? Do you think the average American out there makes the assumption they'll be lazy and never make it through high school?
MARTIN: I think they probably assume they're going to sing for them like Jay Z and play like in the NBC.
ZAHN: Anybody would love to have Jay Z's career.
MARTIN: I'd rather have Bob Johnson's. He's a billionaire and Jay Z isn't.
ZAHN: Thank you, Roland Martin, Solangel Maldonado. Thank you, all. Appreciate your time.
First of all, let me say that Zahn lost it as far as keeping the discussion on track.
I want to point out the flaws or problems with the statements here.
First, China has the right to make, change, or interpret their rules regarding international adoptions any way they see fit. The U.S. does the same thing here with their foster to adopt system. They have definite rules as to whom they deem as fit parents... and I don't hear this horrible outcry from the domestic adoption community. Now all of a sudden, China, which has had flexible and less exclusive adoption rules, decides for their childrens' best interests that they wish to tighten the IA belt, so to speak, is being derided for doing so. They are doing so for the best options for their children. Why in the hell should China apologize? They have nothing to apologize for.... they are doing what they think is best.
For Sondra Solovay - here's my take. If it's for American adoptions that you want to fight so that morbidly obese people are allowed to adopt - then go ahead if you want to. But DON'T equate China with the U.S. China has its rules. The adoption is completed in China. You cannot impose American standards on a foreign country. Get a freaking handle on this issue... Yes, any of us can drop dead at any moment (feel free at any time to do so yourself, honey), but the fact is, morbidly obese people have a higher risk of dying than do people who are of healthy weight. And China has the right to determine what kind of adoptive parent their children will be placed with. It's kind of hard for someone who is 300 pounds to run with or after a young child who may place themselves in danger - or to be physically playful with them. It is much better to try and place the child with a parent that has a better than average chance of living to watch their kids grow up and become adults, with all the help and advice they'll need from their parents.
Solovay is a moron when it comes to international adoption. There's nothing she can do about the Chinese rules. And anyone who calls her office to complain is an idiot. She expects her office to be flooded with calls. Agencies and prospective parents wondering what happened to their rights? What the f* is she talking about? Last time I checked, the U.S. Constitution only said we had the right to Pursue happiness, not to be guaranteed any damn thing we want just because we're Americans. No wonder so many nations hate us. A bunch of spoiled brats throwing fits because we want our own way.
Why do people adopt from China in the first place? That is a loaded question... but not so simple as the panel would have you believe. First they call us racists because we didn't adopt a black child in foster care, but instead adopted a Chinese child. Excuse me... but someone needs to get a handle on the foster care system in this country. It's terribly difficult for a white couple to adopt a black child through foster care, because you work with a social worker who, for better or worse, believes that placing a black child in a white home is cultural genocide. Why aren't these agencies working harder to find black families to adopt these children, if that's what the social workers think!? And if that's not the case, then why don't you understand that not everyone can take a child into their home to raise and love, wanting to adopt the child, but then to have the child taken from you... not everyone has the stomach to do that.
Mondanado is another example of the fine idiocy of the left. I know of no one who has adopted a child from China expecting the child to become a doctor, that they will be more intelligent than any other child, that they'll be more lovable. Excuse me... stupid much?
Uygur: you are the biggest liberal dumbass I have heard from in a while... your comments are purely for ratings and lend no merit to the discussion. What exactly was your expertise in international adoption???? Oh... YOU DON'T HAVE ANY EXPERTISE. Why did CNN decide you would be a good choice to comment on this? I sure as hell can't think of any.
First of all, I don't know of ANY Muslim country where international adoption is allowed on a regular basis. Go to the State Department's website and choose any Muslim country and you'll find they do not allow International Adoption to non-related foreigners, or, there are a few exceptions, but you have to officially become a Muslim yourself, and have documentation stating so. Or, it is so difficult to adopt a child from a Muslim country that it is simply not pursued due to the amount of effort that may or may not end up with a child placed with you for adoption. Did anyone think to check that out before they actually made any statements regarding adopting Muslim children? No? Anybody? Anybody? (I hear crickets in the background.)
And the remark from Martin about keeping the Muslim kid out of the chemistry class... can we be a bit more racist, please?
Why is one set of kids likely to be more healthy than another? Let's look at what happens to the child while in utero. Yes, some of their pre-determined IQ will be from heredity. But then, we have to consider what happens to the child while they are subject to everything the mother does. You get mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy (which leads to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a combination of mental and birth defects, which is highly prevalent in Eastern European countries) , they may take drugs (such as heroin, crack, meth, opium), and don't get the proper kind of nutrition (which also leads to birth defects as well as lower IQ). Also there is the problem of heavy metals and other chemical that can be in the air or water that is part of the pregnant mother's environment. These kinds of problems are found throughout the world... and for China, the ones that most affect the children would be nutrition, air and water quality, and lastly drugs. Alcohol doesn't seem to be as big a problem in China as it does in Russian and other Eastern European nations.
Not to mention the developmental delays a lot of these children experience by being in orphanages, which further complicate any other physical, mental, or emotional problems they may have been born with. So, if someone has done their research, where in the hell do they get the idea that these kids will be healthier than say, a baby in the U.S.? To be honest, we are not seeing China's worst-case children (health-wise) being adopted internationally unless a parent chooses to adopt a special needs child. The children as a whole, as represented by the IA community, are fairly healthy, because that is what the parents have asked for - healthy children.
Our daughter came to us with some issues. She couldn't walk on her own at 18 months, a developmental issue due to orphanage care. She has allergies and asthma. She has eczema. But overall she is healthy, because that is what we asked for... a healthy child. Anyone who watches any of her videos can see she is a fairly smart kid. Is she smart because she is Chinese? I have no idea. But we have given her lots of attention, lots of learning opportunities, and have nurtured her curiosity and fed her healthy foods (and yes, she gets candy, too). Perhaps every child has a potential they are born with. How that potential is nurtured outside the womb is probably as important as what they are given via their DNA. And absolutely there is an issue as to the kind of care these children get in the orphanages. Our daughter came from a small orphanage that had 5 children to one caregiver. A darn good ratio for an orphanage.
It drives me crazy when ignorance is fashionable, and it appeared to me that no one did any homework on IA and all its complicated issues, and CNN didn't pick any experts on IA issues. Let's just put a smile on our faces, make some snide racial comments about what they believe all Americans think about the races, and voila! We are experts. Stupid liberal experts.
OH, and it seems that all of the IA parents that wrote/emailed CNN have had their voices heard... or so we think. There is to be a follow up on the story with (hopefully) some actual experts in the field on IA. This is to "redress the issue". Yeah, you should do whatever it takes to wipe the egg off of your faces so you can appear to be giving a "fair and balanced" view of what is going on here. It will air tonight from 8-9 pm on CNN.