This is a tale that could be told a thousand times, according to Shanghai Daily. Fourteen years ago, Shanghai resident Shi Jianlin opened her front door to find it bedecked by an abandoned baby girl. The story should have ended happily: the girl, later named Zhao, was received warmly by Shi. But Shi’s own status complicated issues: as an impoverished mother of one (Shi already had a boy), Zhao could not be adopted under Shanghai legislation and unfortunately, without an official adoption seal, Zhao is prohibited from a residence permit. The results are far-reaching:“she can’t go to senior high school next year, go to college or find a job, or even get married, ” says Shi. For Zhao’s primary education, Shi approached several schools, but only one enrolled Zhao – the Xinshi Primary and Junior High School – and even this was after begging and monetary leverage. Shi continues:
I turned to several government departments, including the local police station and the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau Yangpu District branch, but no one would solve the problem. I know the residence problem will affect my daughter’s whole life, so I still asked authorities for help, but I was shocked by the result. They suggested I send her to an orphanage.
Time had run out though, with orphanages rejecting her request, upon the grounds that Zhao was too old.
Now Zhao’s contemporaries are looking forward to high school, a passage Zhao is deprived of.
This is not an isolated case: on top of the one thousand unofficial orphans that Shanghai Daily estimate, Unicef believe hundreds of thousands of Chinese children are abandoned each year, most female or disabled, some of which are later adopted formally, but many of which are not. Zhao’s story also comes in the light of new laws making it harder for foreigners to adopt Chinese children and at a time when the dubious application of the one-child policy has surfaced, a law that in essence complicated, if not created, her case.
Shanghaiist holds out some hope however: in recent years, governmental moves have weakened restrictions on domestic adoption, with more Chinese parents adopting as a result. Zhou Jixiang, director of the marriage management division of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, who dealt with Zhao’s case, explains that while it is currently very difficult to solve her residence problem, the bureau is nevertheless conscious and keen to tackle the problems arising from informal adoption.
Photo from the China Trends website