They Got It All Wrong

Post #1
February 19, 2013

They Got it All Wrong
by Joshua Zhong

The newly-released 2012 Annual Report on Inter-country Adoption by the Office of Children’s Issues of the U.S. State Department relayed yet another depressing piece of news to the adoption community and millions of children waiting for a forever family: Compared with 2011, inter-country adoption has seen another 7% decrease ( This marks the seventh consecutive annual drop of international adoptions by American families since 2006.

As the numbers keep dropping, politicians, adoption advocates, adoption agencies, the media, and adoptive families start to point fingers, trying to locate the causes behind the continuing slow-down of international adoption.

Some blame the Hague Convention for leveling unrealistic and unreasonable adoption requirements and financial burden on adoption countries and agencies alike in the name of protecting orphans around the world.

Others blame the U.S government for not standing up to the Hague Treaty and for being too harsh on countries who have been trying hard to meet Hague and US requirements.

Some blame UNICEF for keeping orphans and abandoned children in an institutionalized orphanage environment in the name of protecting the children’s cultural heritage, despite the likelihood that such cultures may mean “nothing but death” to these children.

Some blame the corrupt and heartless politicians in other countries for not caring for their homeless children and using these very unfortunate children as bargaining chips with the US.

And still others blame the Council on Accreditation for monopolizing the Hague accreditation market and, consequently and unintentionally forcing many adoption agencies, especially smaller agencies, to either take on an unbearable financial burden, shut down their services, or transfer their high costs to adoptive families, who then are scared away by outrageous adoption expenses.

Looking at the overall international adoption landscape, all these accusations may have their own validity and be applicable to one country or another. However, as far as adoption from China is concerned, they’ve got it all wrong.

Overpopulation in the government-run orphanages as a result of the One-Child Policy forced China to publish its first-ever adoption law, which opened China’s doors to international adoption in 1992. Since then, and to this day, it can be safely said that no country in the past two decades has been more committed to international adoption than China.

  • China was one of the original participants at the Hague Convention (May 29, 1993) on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. China deposited its instrument of ratification of the Hague Convention on September 16, 2005, as the 67th State to join this global Convention, two years ahead of the US (
  • China works closely with UNICEF and enjoys a very cooperative relationship in promoting the interests of orphaned children (
  • The Chinese government, as represented by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the China Center for Children’s Welfare & Adoption (CCCWA), is a strong supporter of international and domestic adoption and has built China’s international adoption program into a world model, despite many challenges throughout the years ( and

However, since the peak year of 2005, when China placed close to 14,000 orphans internationally, adoption numbers from China have been on a gradual decline, with a meager 3,311 placements in 2012.

Then, if it is not for the afore-mentioned reasons, what is causing the continued decline of China’s international adoption?

To quote political campaign strategist James Carville: It’s the economy, stupid.

When I left China in 1989, China’s GDP was $3.04 trillion. My salary as an English teacher was ¥54 (about $7.00) per month. In 1992, when China first opened its doors to international adoption, China’s GDP was $4.99 trillion, ranked #9 in the world standings. Fast-forward to the end of 2011… China was ranked #2, with an annual GDP of more than $7.2 trillion, just behind the US ($15.7 trillion in 2012). According to a report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) on February 10, 2013, China’s GDP, measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, will be nearly $20 trillion, surpassing the comparable figure for the US to become the largest economy in the world.

The astonishing economic success in China is transforming the once poor and closed Chinese society at an unprecedented scale and speed. People’s living standards are quickly rising; people’s attitudes toward the traditional larger family and girls are rapidly changing, i.e family size is getting smaller and girls are more valued; people are becoming more receptive to the practice of domestic adoption; the government’s once-rigid One-Child Policy is becoming more lenient and many families are able to work around the system and keep their over-quota births. This all boils down to one thing: fewer and fewer healthy girls are abandoned every year.

While China’s international adoption program reached its peak in 2005 with about 14,000 placements, China’s domestic adoption numbers reached over 30,000 the same year. But since then, both domestic and international adoption have been on a decline from -2.7% to -22% annually, except in 2009 where domestic adoption saw a 4% increase and 2012 when international adoption to the US saw a 4.2% increase, which was mainly a result of the increased placement of children with special needs (China National Statistics by the Ministry of Civil Affairs).

Before 2006, the wait time for a child match for international adoption from China was under 12 months. By the end of 2006, in less than a year, the time frame had expanded to 18 months. And it kept growing.

To prevent the wait time from getting out of control, China decided to publish a new set of more restrictive adoption qualifications in December 2006 and implemented it in May 2007. This was not an anti-international adoption move. It was purely a realistic calculation in the face of a shrinking pool of available adoptable children.

It is worth noticing that even the Chinese government was not anticipating the quick decline of the orphan population. In mid 2006, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs launched the very ambitious ¥1.5 billion (about $250 million) Blue Sky Project to renovate, expand or build new and larger orphanages across the country. As of the end of 2011, a total of ¥1.7 billion collected through the national charity lottery had been spent on 452 orphanages which had added 50,000 additional beds. Ironically, many of these orphanages sit half empty today, with over 90% of their children with medical conditions.

The thing is, whatever is happening in China is great for the children: Fewer and fewer abandonments. Isn’t that what we are working for?

China is a huge adoption country and with 3,311 international placements in 2012, it is still the largest international adoption country in the world. Its rise and fall predicate and dominate the overall rise and fall of international adoption worldwide.

Yes, it may be true that burdensome regulations and practices by the Hague Convention, the naïve emphasis on keeping cultural heritage by UNICEF, politicians’ low motivation and corruption in many adoption countries, and a whole bunch of other possible causes have contributed one way or another to the current “depressing” international adoption situation, but the economic success in China, as well as in some other countries such as Russia, South Korea, and Vietnam, has no doubt played a very important, but often neglected role.

Of course, what has happened recently with the Russian government’s sudden suspension of its international adoption program is more of a nationalistic nostalgia than genuine care for its orphans — truly a great sadness for all and especially for the thousands of vulnerable children.

It is my belief that the unavoidable and yet very exciting trend of international adoption is that it will continue to decline as more and more countries are able to focus their attention and energy on growing and strengthening their economies, as people become more self-reliant economically so they no longer have to make the painful decision of keeping or abandoning their children, and as the protection of the interest of children around the world finally becomes a respected norm in many formally poverty-driven, war-torn, and politically unstable countries.

Adoption is about giving a homeless child a loving and permanent home. Adoption is a charity that meets a specific need in so far as there are still orphaned and abandoned children around the world looking for a caring family. However, adoption is not about finding babies for families. It should be other way around. Adoption is not about imperialistically forcing other countries to open their doors to us all the time simply because we want to adopt. Adoption is not about trying with all our might to keep adoptions going simply because many loving families are willing to fill adoption agencies’ pockets with money.

From the day CCAI was established in 1992, I have been praying daily that I would be out of a job soon. International adoption is beautiful, but temporary. The day that we lose our jobs will truly be a day of joy and celebration for all children.


Joshua Zhong is the President and Co-Founder of CCAI.
This is a personal post. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should they be attributed to, CCAI.

The First Waiting Child Medical Needs Conference a Huge Success!

This past Saturday, CCAI organized the first Waiting Child Medical Conference of its kind in the USA.  What a HUGE success!  With 100+ prospective parents in attendance and over 70 others joining us from all over the country on Livestream, it is safe to say that our weekend was fantastic.

We want to thank Dr. Mitchell, professor of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery; Dr. Allen, professor of pediatric otolaryngology; Dr. Benson, pediatric orthopedic surgeon; and Dr. Kobak, senior instructor of pediatric gastroenterology, for their objective, informative and passionate presentations.  We also want to thank all of the parents who sat on our parent panels who graciously offered their experiences to help answer some burning questions from prospective families.

Adoption of children with medical conditions, or Waiting Child Adoption,  has become the dominating focus of China adoption today.  However, looking at that Medical Conditions Checklist often feels like looking at an overwhelmingly-endless phonebook of nonsense.  As a child-centered agency, CCAI believes strongly that it is every adoption agencies’ responsibility to provide and encourage in-depth research and education for prospective families in order to ensure that  they are truly well-prepared on their life-changing journey to their child.  We are so glad to be able to organize this wonderful event and hope you will join us for our next Medical Needs Conference!

For those who could not attend CCAI’s Waiting Child Medical Needs Conference in person, CCAI professionally recorded the entire event and will have official videos of the Conference available on our website shortly!  In the meantime, all four informational talks may be viewed on Livestream for the next month.

Congenital Heart Disease: Please visit
Limb Differences: Please visit
Cleft Lip & Palate: Please visit 
Gastrointestinal Disorders: Please visit

UPDATE:  The livestream videos of the Medical Needs Conference are no longer available.  Official video of all four sessions will be made available on our website very soon.  Thank you!

JCCC Chinese New Year Celebration: Thank You!

Last Friday, CCAI’s Joyous Chinese Cultural Center celebrated the Chinese New Year in high form!  Families fought rush hour from all over Colorado to help ring in the Year of the Snake with their children.  Watching all of our beautiful JCCC students perform their songs and dances that they had been working so hard on; You could not help but smile and maybe even get a little bit teary-eyed!  For some of our oldest students, this Chinese New Year celebration was their last as JCCC students as they prepare to head off to college.  It is hard to believe that it has been 16 1/2 years since JCCC opened its doors in September 1996.  To see our students graduate high school and go on to do great things in college…it is a beautiful thing and we are proud beyond words.

The Joyous Chinese Cultural Center and all of our events would not be possible if it wasn’t for the fantastic, passionate, dedicated parents who drop off and pick up their amazing children every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday!  If you’ve just started or have been making the trip for 16 1/2 years, thank you!  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the opportunity to teach your children and learn what joy and love feels like.

As always, please visit our website,, and find us on Facebook.  We want to stay in touch!

Happy Chinese New Year!  We will see you soon!

Empowered To Connect: Post Adoption Conference in FL & IL

Much of CCAI’s Post Adoption Center’s class curriculum is based upon Dr. Karyn Purvis’ fantastic work in her Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) and Empowered To Connect programs.  A month ago, our own social workers received training in these programs.

Dr. Purvis will be speaking THIS WEEKEND in Orlando, FL!  Our CCAI-FL staff and many of our social workers will be attending this amazing event and we want you to be there, too!  This two-day conference will feature Dr. Karyn Purvis of Texas Christian University, a leading expert in the field of research-based interventions for children from hard places, of whom CCAI holds in the highest regard.

Dr. Purvis’s Empowered to Connect Conference will also be making its way to Chicago, IL this April!

Conference Locations, Dates & Cost:

  • Orlando, FL – February 15th & 16th, 2013 (at First Baptist Orlando)
  • Chicago, IL – April 19th & 20th, 2013 (at The Chapel, Barrington Campus)

Cost: Early-bird Registration is $35/individual OR $50/married-couple (Early-bird pricing is available for Chicago until February 19th).

Visit or for more details and to register online today!

This promises to be a fantastic learning opportunity for all adoptive families and anyone who works with children.  If you plan to attend, please email us at so we can look for you!  We hope to see you there!

Read our previous post about this, HERE.

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Xin Nian Kuai Le!  Gong Xi Fa Cai!  Happy Year of the Snake!

CCAI’s JCCC teachers and their families rang in the Chinese New Year together this weekend with a delicious potluck and good company.  From the food, you’d think our teachers were all gourmet chefs! Yum!

Colorado friends — Help us celebrate Chinese New Year with our incredible JCCC students!

Join us THIS FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15th at Mission Hills Church to support our wonderful students as they show off their Chinese folk dances, songs, and individual musical and talent performances!

Get your tickets HERE!  We can’t wait to celebrate with you!

Heroes of My Life III – Dr. Ralph Covell

It was a little over one month ago when we last visited Dr. Ralph Covell at his nursing facility in Denver and sang “Happy Birthday” for his 90th birthday.

CCAI co-founders, Josh and Lily, celebrated CCAI’s founding Board Member Dr. Covell’s 90th birthday and presented him with the CCAI Legacy Award for his 20 years of passionate support for CCAI.

Last night, I received a message from Ralph’s oldest son, Kevin, informing us of some very sad news: Ralph passed away peacefully on February 2nd in his sleep…

This is how the public knew this amazingly humble man:

Dr. Ralph Covell served as Senior Professor of World Christianity at Denver Seminary. He joined the faculty in 1966 as Director of Admissions and assumed the role of Dean in 1979. He retired from Denver Seminary in 1990.

Dr. Covell received a Ph.D. from the University of Denver, and an honorary D.D. from Denver Seminary. He earned a Th.M. from Fuller Theological Seminary, a B.Th. and a B.D. from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from Eastern Baptist College.

He served as a missionary with CBFMS (now World Venture) in China and Taiwan for twenty years. He translated the New Testament into the language of the Sediq, a Malayo-Polynesian people living in the mountains of Taiwan, and continued to be an advisor on the nearly-completed translation of the Old Testament. He also acted as translation consultant for the Bible Societies of Taiwan. He is the co-author of An Extension Seminary Primer with Peter Wagner and has written W.A.P. Martin: Pioneer of Progress in China; Confucius, the Buddha, and Christ; A History of the Gospel in China; Mission Impossible: The Unreached Nosu on China’s Frontier; The Liberating Gospel in China: The Christian Faith Among China’s Minority Peoples; and Pentecost of the Hills in Taiwan: The Christian Faith among the Original Inhabitants.

For me personally, and for CCAI as an organization, Dr. Covell meant so much more.

On January 5, 1987, I enrolled at the Graduate School of Columbia Bible College.  Ten months later, when I informed my financial sponsor that I desired to continue my education instead of returning to China as an evangelist by the year’s end, all of my financial support was revoked and I was left with no choice but to give up my dream.

Then a miracle happened. As I was doing research on my final paper, I came across Confucius, the Buddha, and Christ, a book by Dr. Ralph Covell.  On the back cover introduction, it stated that Dr. Covell was a former missionary to China and he spoke Chinese!

All I could think about was how sweet it would be to be able to talk to an American who knows China and speaks my language!

I quickly sent a letter to Dr. Covell introducing myself, my financial need, and my determination to finish my seminary graduate studies.  A week later, I got his response:

We would like to invite you to study at Denver Seminary and will give you a partial scholarship.  You need to work for the rest of your tuition.

And that was it.  On Christmas day, 1987, my wife Lily and I stuffed all our meek belongings into a 1973 Mercury Zepher and got on the highway for the first time in our lives.  Five days later, we finally and nerve-wrackingly entered the City of Denver that had just been blanketed by one of the heaviest snow falls in the city’s history.  Our car had just barely crept onto the Denver Seminary parking lot before deciding to give up. There, standing before us, was a man whose picture I had saw just a few weeks before.

Huan Ying (Welcome)!  I am Ralph Covell.”  It was the first time since coming to the USA in November 1986 that I heard the ear-soothing Chinese from the mouth of a Caucasian American! I rushed to shake his big but cold hands.  He had obviously been waiting outside for us for a while.

Oh, by the way,” he continued, “I couldn’t tell you since you were on the road, but we have decided to give you a full scholarship.”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  I quickly translated what he had just said to my wife who did not speak any English at the time.  …I just remember running to each other and crying…

For the next one and a half years,  Dr. Covell served as my academic advisor and spiritual mentor.  With his unyielding faith and trust and constant encouragement, advice and prayers, I became the first seminary graduate from mainland China since 1949 when the atheist government took over the country. In September 1989, Dr. Covell, together with seven other wonderful Christian leaders, put his hand on my head and pronounced my ordination.

In mid 1992, when Lily and I felt the call to launch an adoption agency for the sake of bringing hope and homes to some of the thousands of girls forced to be abandoned by their parents as a result of the infamous one-child policy, we went to Dr. Covell again asking him to serve as the founding Chairman of CCAI’s Board. With no hesitation and a tremendous passion for the suffering children, he calmly said, “Yes.

Dr. Covell served as the Chairman of CCAI’s Board until 2006, then as a member continuously until this past December, when we presented him with the CCAI Legacy Award.  Under his leadership, CCAI became the largest and most respected China-focus adoption agency in the world by 1999 and continues to this day.

Godly, wise, patient, loving, forgiving, and trusting.  These are just a few incredible characteristics Dr. Ralph Covell amazingly demonstrated and practiced on a daily basis.  For me, he is more than a board member, spiritual mentor and advisor.  He is my hero and he will be missed.

Heroes of My Life I – Toni Milkon
Heroes of My Life II – Dr. Jack and Liz Layman