Older children are three times as likely to be adopted by foreign applicants than domestic applicants, despite a legal change in 2011 giving priority to adopters within Taiwan.
The number of domestic adoptions were growing steadily before the COVID-19 pandemic, said Cathwel Service, a branch of the US Catholic Relief Service that among other social welfare initiatives helps connect children with adoptive families.
From 2012 to 2018, there were more than 200 adoptions per year, peaking at 340, Cathwel Service chief executive officer Ting Yen-chi (丁雁琪) said.
Domestic adoptions over the period rose significantly following a 2011 amendment to the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法) to prioritize domestic adopters, growing from 80 in 2012 to 137 in 2018, she added.
However, the vast majority of children adopted by domestic families were younger than three, Ting said.
A total of 624 children were adopted during this period, but only 160, or about one-fourth, joined families in Taiwan, she said.
Taiwanese parents prefer to raise children from infancy and tend not to adopt children with health issues or complex family backgrounds, Ting said.
Biological parents in challenging circumstances are first given the chance to raise their child with assistance, but if their home situation does not improve by the time the child becomes two or three, they are taken to court to request revocation of their parental rights, she said.
By the time this process is completed, the child is often older than three and beyond the preferred adoption age, she added.
Adoptive families are always informed of the child’s background to ensure they are a good fit and to give the child a chance to later reconnect with their roots, Ting said.
However, Taiwanese parents often have a hard time accepting the situation after learning the developmental challenges they might face, she said.
On the other hand, foreign couples, due to religious or cultural reasons, are relatively more willing to adopt children with special needs, she added.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made adopting from abroad more difficult, as the New Taipei City Social Welfare Department made clear through two recent examples.
Although one nine-year-old boy was ready to join his new family in Australia, the imposition of travel restrictions meant it was “hard for foreigners to come and for Taiwanese to leave,” it said.
Determined to make it work despite the restrictions, the adoption agency approached a friend who knew the boy and also had plans to travel to Australia, the department said.
It also contacted the airline to arrange for a flight attendant to accompany the child on his flight to ease his anxiety and make sure he was delivered safely to his awaiting family, it added.
In another case, seven-year-old Hsiao Wen (小文), during his more than four years at an orphanage, discovered that he had two brothers who were both adopted by the same family in the US, the department said.
The family was contacted about Hsiao Wen and agreed to a trial adoption, it said.
Since travel was not possible, he got to know the family remotely through his eldest brother, who speaks Chinese, it said.
Once all the paperwork was completed, the parents decided to bring the entire family to Taiwan to meet Hsiao Wen in person, it said.
In November last year, he flew with his new family back to the US and according to the adoption agency, the three brothers are getting along just fine, the department said.
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