Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2003

SARS prompts China to suspend overseas adoptions

May 17, 2003

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— Hundreds of Americans on the verge of adopting children from China are suddenly in limbo after Beijing's decision to suspend foreign adoptions because of SARS.

"My heart fell to my toes when I read the news," said Pete Uhl of San Antonio, Texas. But he and his wife are determined to press ahead with nearly complete arrangements to adopt a baby girl from China; the indefinite delay, he said Friday, "is just another bump in the road."

About 5,000 Chinese children are adopted by Americans each year, more than from any other foreign country. The adoptions frequently take 15 months or more to complete, at a cost to parents of $10,000 to $15,000.

Citing the persisting dangers posed by severe acute respiratory syndrome, the China Center of Adoption Affairs said Thursday that it had temporarily stopped sending documents to adoptive parents authorizing them to come to China. The government-run agency said other aspects of the adoption process would continue, such as selecting children who are candidates for overseas adoption.

Chinese officials said parents who already had received travel authorization and made flight plans would be allowed to come to China and pick up their children.

Susan Cox of Holt International, an agency in Eugene, Ore., that handles more than 300 adoptions from China annually, said some parents with permission to travel were nonetheless postponing their trip, while most planned to proceed.

"We're trying to stay calm, but we're conscious of the fact that this is something that's never happened before," she said. "We're going down the road without a roadmap."

Diana Prause of Great Wall China Adoption in Austin, Texas, said what China was doing was appropriate. Still, "a lot of families are caught in limbo -- we feel for them."

Uhl, 53, and his wife, Sandra, 50, are among the Great Wall clients directly affected by the suspension.

They had hoped to get their first photograph of their daughter-to-be within a few weeks, as well as a travel go-ahead. Now, nearly 18 months after the childless couple decided to adopt, they have no idea of the timetable.

"We've been waiting and waiting," Uhl said. "We don't care how long -- we just want a baby."

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