Four months after the disastrous Sichuan earthquake, only one of 88 orphaned children eligible for adoption has found a new home, Sichuan officials announced.
Zhang Anyun, a 10-year-old pupil with the Hanwang Central Primary School in Mianzhu, was adopted by an unnamed couple from the provincial capital of Chengdu last Friday, according to Li Boshan, an official with the Mianzhu municipal bureau of civil affairs.
The Sichuan provincial department of civil affairs announced on Aug 23 that qualified mainland families could adopt 88 children orphaned in the May 12 earthquake.
One reason for the slow response is that many of the orphans are handicapped, sources from the department said.
Of 532 children who lost their parents in the magnitude 8 quake which killed nearly 70,000 people, 240 are under 14. Most of them have grandparents or other relatives as guardians. Only 88 in the hard hit cities of Deyang, Mianzhu, Mianyang and Guangyuan and the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture have no relatives to care for them, according to deputy department chief Chen Kefu.
Zhang Anyun's parents were both killed when their rented apartment in Hanwang town in Mianzhu collapsed. According to Chen, Sichuan gives priority to the relatives of orphans, but Zhang's grandparents are over 80 and could not afford to support him.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs states that only childless Chinese over 30 can be considered adoptive parents.
Only children under 14 can be adopted.
Children over 10 must give their permission to be adopted.
"Zhang Anyun signed his name agreeing to be adopted after living with the couple for some time in Chengdu," Li of the Mianzhu municipal bureau said.
The status of orphans can only be determined with death certificates of both parents issued by police or hospitals.
Those whose parents are missing must wait for two years for a court to declare their parents dead, according to Jiang Tao, chief of the division in charge of adoption in the Sichuan provincial department of civil affairs.
Most of those intending to adopt quake orphans are hoping for children like Zhang, who are not handicapped.
They would also prefer them to be under six years old.
However, many of the children were handicapped in the quake, which has made adoptive parents hesitate, according to Jiang's division.
Of the 88 eligible children, 28 are between 5 and 10 years old and 54 are between 10 and 14 years-old.
Most of them suffer from physical or other handicaps.
In the meantime, the provincial government has set up temporary foster homes or boarding schools and has provided a monthly allowance of 600 yuan for each orphan.
(China Daily September 8, 2008)