Lucy and Doug Harkness of Lawrenceville, Georgia, had two biological daughters, ages 8 and 11, and thought their family was complete. "But news stories were coming out about the high number of orphans in China, particularly girls, as a result of the government's mandate of one child per household. We knew that we had enough love in our hearts to take in an abandoned child," Lucy recalls.
Waiting to be assigned a child can be the hardest part of the adoption process, and it takes a notoriously long time to adopt a child from China. The Harknesses first looked into adoption in 2005, and they were told it would take six to eight months to get a referral. After 17 months passed, the couple decided to take a different route. "We started looking at our agency's special-needs program, and we thought we could handle a child with a congenital heart disease," Lucy says. In July 2007, about two months after they first saw a photo of 2-year-old Ally, they were on their way to China to pick her up.
When the Harknesses decided to adopt another daughter, they again chose a child with a congenital heart disease, though this time their daughter's heart condition had been repaired with surgery when she was 14 months old. (Ally's condition corrected itself.) They adopted 6-year-old Alaina in January 2009; the entire process took only eight months.
China Fast Facts
U.S. adoptions in 2010: 3,401 children
The children: 85 percent female, 32 percent younger than 12 months old
Estimated cost: $20,000 to $27,000
Key requirements: Only couples may adopt, and they must be married a minimum of two years if it's their first marriage and five years if either spouse has been previously married. No more than two previous marriages are allowed for either spouse. Both spouses are required to have a high-school diploma.
Travel: At least one parent must travel to pick up the child. Travel fees are about $3,000 per person, per trip. The average stay is ten to 14 days.
Wait time for referral: Approximately five years, or six months if adopting a child with special needs (through the Waiting Child program)
Advantages: Many children are available. The country's process is well-organized, and the laws and regulations are stable and dependable.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Parents magazine.