China is imposing new restrictions on foreign adoptions, barring applicants who are unmarried, obese, older than 50 or who take antidepressants, U.S. adoption agencies said.
The new rules are meant to limit adoptions to "only the most qualified families," says the website of one agency, Harrah's Adoption International Mission in Spring, Texas. The agency said China had pledged to try to make more children available to those who qualified.
The move comes amid a surge in foreign applications to adopt Chinese children. The United States is the No. 1 destination for children adopted abroad, but the number going to Europe and elsewhere is rising.
An employee of the government-run China Center of Adoption Affairs, the agency that oversees foreign adoptions, said it had issued new guidelines but refused to confirm the details released by the American agencies. He wouldn't give his name.
A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it was looking into reports of the new rules.
Americans adopted 7,906 children from China in 2005, raising the total since 1989 to 48,504, according to the Joint Council on International Children's Services in Alexandria, Va., an association of adoption agencies and parents groups. The agency's website lists 110 U.S. groups that arrange adoptions from China.
Under the new rules, only people who have been married for at least two years will be eligible to adopt, according to Harrah's, the New Beginnings Family and Children's Services Inc. of Mineola, N.Y., and Families Thru International Adoption Inc. of Evansville, Ind. Beijing previously allowed adoptions by unmarried foreigners.
The agencies said Chinese officials told them about the rules at a Dec. 8 meeting in Beijing. They take effect May 1.
Under the rules, each member of a couple must be at or below a specified body mass index number and be from 30 to 50 years old, the agencies said.
The regulations also bar parents who take medication for psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety.