Top 10 Myths About Adopting From China

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*UPDATED April 2019 to reflect recent changes in China adoption. 

“Only girls from China need families.” 

“What?! No, only boys need families.”

“No, no, China doesn’t need any families to adopt anymore!”

“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway, because who wants to wait seven years to adopt a child?!”

As a family considering international adoption from China, have you ever found yourself in a conversation like this? At Holt, we hear these misconceptions so often that we thought it time to offer some clarity in the form of a “Top Ten Myths” list about adopting from China.

Please share this list widely to help dispel these common myths and raise awareness about the need for families to adopt from China. Also share with families who may have been deterred from considering China because of misinformation! Despite the #1 myth listed below, so many children in China are waiting for loving adoptive families… Armed with the facts, you can help be their voice and their advocate!

Top 10 myths about adopting from China

Myth #1: China doesn’t need families to adopt anymore.

Fact: To the contrary, we need families for boys and girls with special needs — all age ranges and all levels of need. When you apply to the China program, you will not be “competing” with other families for a small number of children. We have strong partnerships with child caring institutions in China and are receiving new children to find families for every week! You will be offering a loving family to a child who needs one and meeting a strong and urgent need.

Myth #2: Only girls from China need families.

Fact: Twenty years ago, the children coming home from China looked very different from those coming home today. They were almost all healthy infant girls! Most children now living within China’s social welfare system have some degree of medical or developmental condition. They are between the ages of 2-13, and to many families’ surprise, they are about 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys. Most children are under age 5 at the time of placement.

Myth #3: We have to be open to either gender. We can’t say we just want a girl (or a boy)!

Fact: China is one of the few country programs that still allow families to specify gender on their application. Because over 80 percent of all adoptive families prefer girls, most programs — including China — need families to adopt boys. And many programs now require families to be open to either gender. But when you apply to China, you can state from day one that you will only accept referrals for a girl — or a boy! It may take a bit longer to wait for a young girl, but the choice is there for you.

Myth #4: It takes 8+ years to adopt from China.

Fact: Today, the overwhelming majority of children coming home from China — through all agencies — have at least some minor special needs. Last year, Holt placed 199 children, most of whom had special needs. The process to adopt a child with a medical or developmental condition, or an older child, currently stands at 12-24 months from application to placement. That means families are now waiting 1-2 years, not 8, for their child to come home!

Myth #5: Children with special needs are severely disabled and will require very involved, lifelong care.

Fact: While almost all children now coming home from China have special needs, very few of them are severely disabled. Today, many of the children joining families in the U.S. have minor, manageable or correctable — even sometimes self-correcting — conditions. This includes conditions like cleft lip and palate, orthopedic issues, heart conditions, vision or hearing loss or delays to development. While some children will require medical care or physical therapy once home, most will go on to lead full, happy and independent lives.

Myth #6: All children available to adopt through Holt are on the China photolisting.

Fact: Not even close. In fact, most of the children Holt places with families never appear on the photolisting! Only children who need extra help finding families — often older children or children with more involved needs — have online profiles posted for families to browse on their own. Children with more minor special needs are matched way too quickly to ever need a photolisting profile.

Some agencies post to their photolisting information about children who are designated to their agency, as well as all the children currently released on the CCCWA’s shared list. They ask parents to sift through large numbers of child referrals without much support. This can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing for parents. This is the decision of a lifetime and we believe you should have the opportunity to work with as many professionals as possible to inform your decision.

Myth #7: Choosing an agency first will limit my options so I should just search for a child online and then work with whatever agency is assigned to that child.

3280brothers_-_school_pictureFact: We completely understand the appeal of approaching the adoption process child first, agency second. But allow us to explain why this approach is actually counterproductive, and will ultimately limit your options instead of leaving you open to every child who needs a family from China. First off, not all children available for adoption from China have online profiles. And in fact, many of the children with more minor special needs never appear on agency photolistings!

Second, when considering a family for a particular child, China always prefers families who have already completed their homestudy. So if you see a child online who you are interested in adopting but have yet to start the process with an agency, you won’t be in a position to move forward with a match. And in the time it takes to complete your homestudy with an agency, that child will likely be referred to — and possible matched with — another family.

Myth #8: All adoption agencies are pretty much the same.

Fact: We cannot stress enough the importance of choosing an agency you trust and feel comfortable working with. Different agencies also have different relationships and partnerships in China that can significantly impact your adoption process. Here are a few key facts about Holt International and the Holt China program:

  • Holt has over 60 years of unparalleled international adoption experience, including more than two decades providing adoption, foster care and other child welfare services in China.
  • Holt has strong relationships with the Chinese government and with several children’s welfare institutes.
  • Holt has a highly dedicated and experienced team of over 25 Holt staff members in China who get to know each child and can follow up with local orphanages when families have questions.
  • We have a strong track record of successfully matching families with children from the CCCWA shared list, including children with minor special needs and children designated as Special Focus.
  • Our child-centered approach means that Holt seeks a family comfortable and prepared to care for each child’s unique needs.
  • Holt has a long-term commitment to child welfare and family preservation projects in China, regardless of the changing adoption environment.
Myth #9: We don’t meet all of the eligibility requirements so there’s no point in trying!

Eligibility for the China program is flexible in many cases. The central adoption authority in China often makes exceptions for families open to children who fit the Special Focus profile, such as those featured on our photolisting.

From experience, we have learned that there are nuances to China’s program eligibility that are not detailed in basic country criteria. We highly recommend contacting our adoption advisors with questions about a stated eligibility requirement. Adopting from China is a wonderful option for many families, so please check with us before closing the door due to an eligibility concern.

Myth #10: I will be expected to go outside my comfort zone and accept the first child “assigned” by my agency.

Fact: This is a common misconception among families considering adoption. It is unique to the China program that families truly drive the match process. From the beginning, families determine their level of comfort when considering age, gender and special needs, and may change their specifications at any time. You know your family best and are best equipped to determine whether to parent a particular child! If we present a child referral and you choose to decline, there is no penalty. No black mark. No going to the end of an imaginary list. We will simply try again, this time with greater clarity.

To learn more about adopting through Holt’s China program, click here.

Or if you still have any questions not answered here, contact our adoption advisors at


6 Replies to “Top 10 Myths About Adopting From China”

  1. Both Nancy and I are humbled and so happy that our beautiful son, Liam, is being used to help dispel myths about adopting children. He continues to step through life with God’s love and the love of family and close friends. He also is breaking down the myth of “demure and quiet Chinese people” one victim at a time!!!!LOL!!
    He turns six on Thursday!!

  2. Thanks, Mark, for sharing this adorable picture with us! Photos can dispel myths in and of themselves — and often better than anything we could ever write. 😉 Take care, and Happy Birthday Liam!

  3. There are a number of adoption agencies out there. We had had our dossier in China since 2006 with one of those agencies. This agency merged with Holt last year and after being given incorrect information from them, we contacted Holt’s main office. Within days, we received a referral from Holt, for a BEAUTIFUL 8, nearly 9 year old girl. She has been in the US now for under a month. 2 points here: It SHOULD NOT take years and years for this to happen. Thankfully Holt responded and we were able to move forward. Should you have been with an agency and don’t feel you are receiving the best possible communication and service, PLEASE contact Holt International. I have to believe the years of waiting were for a purpose, but with so many children in need, I would HIGHLY recommend Holt International. I also believe Holt did make sure there were no other families dangling as we were.

  4. We adopted our first child through Holt’s China Special Needs program. Our son was 2 years old when he came home, and he is AMAZING! Holt was great, so we used them to adopt 2 more sons and 2 daughters, all waiting children. Special needs children are the same as you and same as me. NO one is perfect!

  5. We have two daughters from China adopted with Holt. Our youngest,now 17, was a special needs adoption. She had a documented hearing loss with an unknown reason for the loss. When she came home at age 2 she had ear tubes placed and worked with a speech therapist for her speaking delays. She also had a physical therapist because her balance was poor due to her inner ear disorder.
    Our daughter has minor hearing loss now, her speech is perfect, she is a high school athlete and honor student.
    We are so grateful we said yes when Holt called and said, “we have a child we think meets the criteria you indicated you are comfortable with”

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