COUPLE ONE OF MANY AREA FAMILIES ADOPTING CHINESE CHILDREN
Four-year-old Macey Geer will have her first Christmas on American soil this year.
Kate Geer and her husband adopted Macey from Sichuan, China, in July as their second child and little sister to their 6-year-old son, Ian.
The adoption ended nine months of paperwork, waiting and sending care packages to Macey.
Through her “paperwork pregnancy,” Kate Geer said, about the only thing that has surprised her during the adoption process is discovering how many families in Grand Junction are similar to hers.
“There are quite a few families in Grand Junction with adopted Chinese children,” said Joy Potter, owner of Creative Avenues, 128 S. Fifth St. “It’s like this undercurrent that no one knows about.”
Marilyn Robinson, who has adopted three daughters from China, heads a support group, unofficially dubbed the Western Slope Families with Children from Asia.
The group has grown from two families to a network of about 30 families since China began allowing international adoption in 1992.
“It’s a very tight-knit community,” Robinson said.
Robinson spearheaded an effort this fall to establish the first Chinese language class at Creative Avenues that would teach the basics of hearing, speaking, reading and writing Mandarin. Parents with children adopted from China requested it.
“We’ve been trying to get something like that for 10 years,” Robinson said. “When you adopt internationally, that child can lose their culture, their roots. Language is a way to preserve that.”
Robinson said the families get together every year to celebrate the Chinese New Year, and older adopted children often baby-sit for families with younger children and act as role models.
Kate and Ian Geer took the class at Creative Avenues but began studying Mandarin Chinese about a year ago, when the family had decided to adopt a child from China, Kate Geer said.
Geer said her goal is for her children to be bilingual, so it’s not unusual for Macey to start a sentence in English and end it in Mandarin, or for Ian and Macey to fight over toys in Mandarin, or for the family to ask each other questions in Mandarin during outings to the store.
Potter said the introductory classes filled up quickly, and most families already have signed up for the next-level class, scheduled for next year.
“We knew it would be important to preserve Macey’s culture,” Geer said. “But once we started learning, I realized how important the language is. Chinese really is the language of the future.”
Josh Zhong, president of Denver-based Chinese Children Adoption International, the largest agency in the United States that specializes in adoptions from China, said international adoption of Chinese children is slowing because fewer children are being abandoned to adoption, thanks to a surge in China’s economic prosperity.
China also clamped down on its adoption procedures in mid-2007 after hitting a peak of 7,903 children adopted by foreigners in 2005, according to the U.S. State Department.
Single parents no longer are allowed to adopt Chinese children, and couples, defined as a man and woman, must have been married for at least two years with no more than two divorces between them. Prospective parents must have a net worth of more than $80,000, and there is a weight restriction, among other health requirements.
“Chinese adoption was getting too popular, in a way,” Zhong said.
As a result, the adoption-processing times increased from six months to three years, Zhong said, and many prospective parents don’t have the patience.
Kate Geer said adopting Macey took about nine months because Macey, who has a palette deformity for which she has since had corrective surgery, was classified as a special-needs child. China processes adoptions of special-needs children faster, Geer said, but she and her husband still had to meet all the requirements.
The number of Chinese children adopted into the U.S. tumbled from its 2005 peak to 3,911 in 2008, according to the State Department.
With a spiraling economy, Zhong said he estimates the figure will continue to fall because adopting a Chinese child can cost a family as much as $18,000.
Robinson said some local families interested in adopting internationally have decided to adopt children from other, less stringent and backlogged countries such as Guatemala and Ethiopia.
“There are kind of like these windows in international adoption,” Robinson said. “As countries revisit their policies, you tend to see waves of adoption from one particular country.”