Sunday, January 07, 2007

Paula Zahn

It seems like every couple months the media comes out with a new story that gets the Chinese Adoption community in an uproar. Usually the uproar is caused by ignorance on the part of the media, or by just trying to sensationalize a story. The media seems to really have picked up lately on the new restrictions for Chinese adoptions and on Friday night CNN's Paula Zahn Now had a panel on to discuss the new restrictions. It started innocently enough with a simple statement of the new regulations. From there it got ugly, real ugly. Jen and I didn't actually see the show live but we have a transcript which I have posted a link to here. You will need to scroll about 2/3rds of the way down to find the part where they discuss Chinese adoptions. The people on the show were obviously not experts in adoption, or China so they really came across as ignorant and even racist with some of the comments that were made. One of the panelists is a Muslim talk show host, another is a Law professor and there was also an editor of a newspaper. I think these people were brought on to primarily discuss some of the other issue of the show, it is just too bad that they didn't have anyone on to debate that had knowledge of the Chinese adoption process. Just since 2001 over 30,000 families in the United States have adopted children from China. It is easy to understand that the Chinese adoption community has a pretty powerful lobby. The show aired on Friday night, on Saturday morning the transcripts were posted all over the Chinese Adoption message boards. By Saturday night contact information and email addresses were posted for executives at CNN and the advertisers on the Paula Zahn show and a letter writing campaign was organized. So while I was watching the Patriots beat the Jets this afternoon Jen put her English degree to work and wrote the below letter and sent it to CNN:

Re: Paula Zahn Now Broadcast 1-5-07

I am very distressed over the information presented on Friday night’s Paula Zahn Now. My husband and I have been waiting for a year to be matched with a baby girl from China. The panelists on Paula Zahn’s show did a disservice to all families with children from China as well as to the greater population of people who are unfamiliar with China’s adoption program. Some information was misrepresented and biased to sensationalize adoptions from China. The panelists had their own agendas and belief systems that they wanted to be conveyed to CNN’s audience. However, the primary individuals who the topics centered on—families with children from China and their advocates—were blatantly absent.

Ms. Zahn’s opening with the loaded question “So how would you feel if someone told you you couldn't adopt a baby because you're not thin enough, not rich enough, nor attractive enough?” is intended to hook the audience with thoughts of discrimination and immediate outrage. Yet, China’s guidelines set minimum requirements for prospective adoptive parents. China wants their children to go to homes with parents who earn at least $30,000 a year, which is $15,000 per parent. In my state of Massachusetts, the minimum wage is $7.50/hr ( which means that two parents making minimum wage could pursue an adoption from China. China is looking for parents who have at least $80,000 in net worth. This means the worth of homes (even with a mortgage), cars, possessions, 401k funds, and not just monetary savings in a bank.

These are just two examples of the minimums the guidelines represent. Health professionals consider the BMI of 40 morbidly obese. A person’s weight, by no means, reflects the amount of love and nurturing a parent can provided. Yet, with a high BMI come the associated risks of other life threatening illnesses. The children adopted from China have already lost a family and China wants their children to be placed in their forever homes without the added risk of losing a parent due to secondary diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. A high BMI may be an indicator of these potentially life-threatening conditions. No one know for sure whether a person with a BMI of 40 will suffer these life threatening conditions, however, the chances are increased. The Center for Disease Control has information regarding BMI and its usefulness at their website Also, a BMI is not the sole indicator of a person’s health required by China. Adoptive parents must meet with their physician to have a physical to ascertain their ability to be a healthy parent not to determine their ability to parent.

Furthermore, the general public must understand that we are dealing with a different country that has its own culture, which is very different from our own. Certain illnesses, deformities and conditions may limit one’s quality of life in China but that is not the case in the US or other countries. Therefore, the guidelines regarding those issues are coming from China’s frame of reference, not our own.

In regard to the panelists’ views on Paula Zahn’s show, they are biased toward their own agenda. I was horrified at the reference to “Mommy Dearest” which stereotypes adoptive parents as ones who will abuse their children. That was one movie about one mother’s abuse toward her adopted children. This comment by Sondra Solovay was just one throwaway comment made by many Friday evening. The panelists trivialized and sensationalized the plight of the adoptive family. Roland Martin makes a “porcelain doll” comment which is the exact type of comment that makes the skin crawl of most adoptive families. This dehumanizes and objectifies the child and comments like that perpetuate these stereotypes.

I can speak on behalf of my husband and perhaps the other thousands of prospective parents seeking adoptions from China. We did not choose China over other countries, including our own, based on race, religion or stereotypes. We chose China because of their fair and clear-cut process. We chose China because their infants are healthier on average than other countries not because they are healthier than those in the US, as opined by Solangel Maldonado. Most importantly, we chose China because a birth parent could not reclaim the child from us. On a personal note, although I do think many other parents with children from China can attest to this, we have suffered greatly in our pursuit of parenthood. I do not need to give my personal history here, however, I will say that I am 31 years old and my husband and I have been striving towards building a family for the past four of our five years of marriage. It is not that we wouldn’t welcome an American baby into our home as our precious child, rather, it is because we could not bear the thought of loving a child and then have that child taken from us because the birthmother or birthfather decided to parent that child. The rights of the birthparents come first in the US and we accept that as the policy set forth by our country to ensure what they believe is in the best interest of that child. China also has the right to decide what is in the best interest of their birth children.

CNN has lost its credibility as a news source. The information presented was skewed against people who adopt from China and our reasons for doing so. Many suppositions were made about adoptive families yet no representative was able to counter on our behalf. Frankly, I thought CNN would do a better job of having a fair and equitable panel of specialists. The panelists were outraged at said discriminatory practices of China and parents of children from China, however, they were the ones spouting off biased presumptions, stereotypes and prejudices. It also saddens me that I have to defend my choice of how I want to build my family when others take such a precious gift for granted. They have no idea what it is like to be in my shoes yet are so quick to judge and discriminate.


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