ZAHN: 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? We're bringing this story out in the open tonight because that's exactly what's about to happen when Americans try to adopt children from China, and some people say that is downright discriminatory. China is the most popular country Americans go to for foreign adoptions. Last year, nearly 6,500 Chinese children found parents right here in the U.S. John Vause is in Beijing tonight and he joins me live. So, John, what are some of these restrictions that are about to be put in place that we need to be aware of?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, the Chinese government says these new measures are all about finding better homes for Chinese orphans, so as of this coming May, all foreigners, not just Americans, but anyone from overseas wanting to adopt a Chinese orphan must meet some of these following criteria. They must not be morbidly obese, in other words, a body mass index of over 40, they must not have facial deformities, they must not take antidepressants. On the other side of the equation, they must have a net worth of $80,000 or more. They must earn over $30,000 a year. They must also be, this is one of the biggest changes, they also must be a man and a woman who have, in fact, been married for at least two years, aged between 30 and 50. So in other words, no singles. In the past, China was one of the few countries in the world who would allow singles to adopt kids. They've never allowed gay adoption but they have allowed singles in limited numbers to adopt kids but it seems that will be changing as well, Paula.
ZAHN: So what is the Chinese government officially saying about this, and why they want to institute these changes?
VAUSE: Well, the Chinese government is making no apologies for the new criteria. An official that we spoke to Friday told us in part, quote, "Our job is to help the homeless children find warm families, rather than just children for childless families." At the same time we're insisting there's been no change to the actual adoption policy. They're just introducing a preference system, because quite simply, there are so many foreigners who want to come here that they just outnumber the orphans who are available for adoption, and there are lengthy waiting periods for foreigners wanting Chinese kids. They can wait for a year, in many cases sometimes more, Paula.
ZAHN: John Vause, thanks so much for the update. Joining me now, an attorney Sondra Solovay, an author of "Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination." She also has a new book coming out later this year. Welcome back. Some of these rules, I think, are a little bit easier for us to swallow than others. I think some people think it's probably pretty justified that prospective parents have enough money to care for a children, but what about weight restrictions, what about facial deformities, and how that could compromise someone's ability to adopt?
SONDRA SOLOVAY, AUTHOR, "TIPPING THE SCALES OF JUSTICE": These restrictions are definitely troubling. I certainly empathize with the difficult decision of figuring out which adoptive family is going to be the best for a child and the children we're most concerned about. But you simply can't tell by looking at someone if they're going to be a good adoptive parent. We don't have to rent "Mommy Dearest" to remember that a pretty face doesn't mean a pretty family. And certainly you can't tell the amount of love a parent has in their heart by looking at the number on their bathroom scale.
ZAHN: But on the flipside of all this, doesn't China have the right to create whatever rules it wants to, no matter how unpalatable some of them might seem?
SOLOVAY: Sure, they have the right, they have the obligation to do what they think is best to look out for their children. That's absolutely true. It's an interesting point as well, because some of these agencies that are in the U.S. are going to be in quite a predicament, caught between two different rules, rules in the United States prohibiting them from discriminating based on disability, based on weight, based on marital status and the restrictions that China imposed so it's difficult for the agencies, too, but I think we need to bring our attention back to the children and the idea is to find the children the best, most loving homes they can, and those homes don't come in a particular weight limit or a particular size. In fact, we have this idea, I suppose, of a traditional home. But when children come from China to the U.S., many will be placed in homes that are going to be mixed race or mixed ethnicity anyway. These aren't traditional homes and it's the diversity in the U.S. that makes those families understand that they have the same rights as any other family.
ZAHN: How many angry calls are you taking from prospective parents out there about these new regulations?
SOLOVAY: I expect my office is going to be absolutely flooded with calls not only from parents, but from the agencies themselves, wondering about their rights and responsibilities. For example, in San Francisco, you can't discriminate based on weight, so an agency in San Francisco is going to have a difficult time walking that line.
ZAHN: Well, Sondra Solovay, we're going to leave that there and get more reaction now. Thank you for your time. From our panel.
SOLOVAY: Thank you.
ZAHN: One more time. Cenk Uygur, Roland Martin, Solangel Maldonado. Obviously the Chinese government is making it clear it wants to be more selective will prospective parents, it wants to place these children in the best family environment it can. Isn't that justified?
MALDONADO: Absolutely. I think we all know that China is a sovereign country. It has the right to place whatever restrictions on foreigners who are seeking to adopt their children that it wants. And adoption is really about supply and demand, and the reality is that there are many more Americans, many more Westerners seeking to adopt children from China than there are children available so the Chinese government can decide to do whatever it wants.
MARTIN: OK, why? What's the big deal with Chinese children? Enlighten me, please, help me out.
ZAHN: You understand this better than anybody. Why don't we see more Americans adopting black foster children?
MARTIN: That's my point. What's the big deal with Chinese children? Why the infatuation?
ZAHN: You think it's something with the color of their skin? Is that what you're driving at?
MARTIN: Maybe they think they can adopt a smart kid that is going to grow up to be a doctor? I don't know. They need to realize that's called training, not just inherent, it will happen when they're born. Angel, help me out.
MALDONADO: Absolutely. This is something I've been looking into for a long time. Americans have this love affair with girls from China. There is this belief, this perception, irrational as it might be that if you adopt a little girl from China, she's going to be intelligent, she's going to be more lovable.
MARTIN: Like the porcelain doll.
MALDONADO: We definitely see that idea of the beautiful Chinese little girl, as compared to do, they really want to adopt a black boy.
ZAHN: What difference does it make if the prospective parent has a facial deformity and the prospective parent weighs 70 more pounds than the scale says they should weigh.
UYGUR: I love the idea of them weighing people. All right. So you know, first of all, okay, so gay parents are out. That's a clear rule, but then also Dennis Hastert's out because he's way too fat. They put him on the scale, sorry. But I'd probably be out. I don't know, maybe I'd have to go on an exercise regimen, to do the body mass indexes they pinch you in all of these different places.
ZAHN: You can fake it, suck it in.
UYGUR: Not me.
MARTIN: Paula, you raise the question -- China, first of all, they do have the right to do it, but the flipside is what is the infatuation by Americans and other foreigners when it comes to adopting Chinese children? That is a real issue there, and why do we avoid other children and not just -- children who are here in America, who are looking for homes, and who just like Chinese orphans want a nice place to live.
ZAHN: But realistically, how are you ever going to change that bias?
UYGUR: I think a lot of people are looking for Muslim children these days.
ZAHN: Yeah, right.
UYGUR: Because we started the Iraq war and there's so many orphans. I'm sure they're getting a lot of Iraqi children, right? No, of course, they think it's cute and they're smart and it's really dumb, actually, of course. Roland's right, it's all in the training and it's a shame because all over the world there's other kids that need to be adopted especially in Africa, but for once, the celebrities are doing the right thing there trying to foster that.
MARTIN: Call the queen of Africa, Angelina Jolie. She can hook you up.
MALDONADO: I think what we need to do is we need to break down some of the misconceptions. For example, people believe if they're adopting a child from China, the child is going to be healthier than a child they adopt in the United States and that is just not true. Even if the child is born...
ZAHN: It defies logic. The quality of the medical care many of these kids have suffered through the first several months of life.
MARTIN: What also ignores logic is that China is having an explosion when it comes to obesity as well so maybe they should start their own million pound challenge like we started in Chicago to deal with Chinese folks who don't want to have overweight kids.
ZAHN: What are some of the other assumptions you think people in America make about the native intelligence of children based on whether you're Hispanic -- We had a guest on the other night when you were with us suggesting that Hispanic parents don't take education as seriously as some other sets of our population. There's a very complicated picture here.
UYGUR: And America is changing and some of the assumptions are going to change because of that. What really happens isn't of course that Asians are smarter. Immigrant families foster a culture where they work hard and emphasize education so Jewish families went through that, Asian families went through that. But now Eastern European families are coming and doing the same thing and African families are coming and doing the same thing. So I can't wait for 10, 20 years down the line, everybody's like I've got to have an African child. Because they're all geniuses.
MARTIN: Remember, those are learned traits that you learn based upon how you have been raised.
UYGUR: Of course.
MARTIN: You are simply not born, hey that, kid will have a great work ethic because they were born to an immigrant family. It simply doesn't work that way because you got some lazy immigrant families. What do you think the assumptions Americans make about kids of Asian descent even here in America, they'll work hard, they'll own their store someday.
UYGUR: They'll be brilliant.
ZAHN: All right. Hispanic...
MALDONADO: Well the idea about Hispanic kids, it's sort of mixed. I think the stereotypes about Hispanic kids are both positive and negative. They believe that Hispanic kids are likely to work harder than black kids, but they also believe that they're not going to be as intelligent as Asian kids.
ZAHN: Muslim kids.
UYGUR: They're going to grow up to be violent. Who is adopting a Muslim kid? Has anyone adopted a Muslim kid in the last 20 years in America?
MARTIN: You've got somebody sitting there saying, keep the Muslim kid out of chemistry class. Keep them away.
ZAHN: How about black kids? Do you think the average American out there makes the assumption they'll be lazy and never make it through high school?
MARTIN: I think they probably assume they're going to sing for them like Jay Z and play like in the NBC.
ZAHN: Anybody would love to have Jay Z's career.
MARTIN: I'd rather have Bob Johnson's. He's a billionaire and Jay Z isn't.
ZAHN: Thank you, Roland Martin, Solangel Maldonado. Thank you, all. Appreciate your time.
OK, so what do you think? I thought the article makes a lot of good points that the panel just goes wild with at the end and ruins it. This was actually my lunch conversation on Thursday. Why don't I adopt a black local child instead of going to China? Has my local culture taught me that the child won't have potential and they'll be trouble makers? Why can't I, as a single white female, adopt a black child and not get a lot of grief for it? Why is the only agency willing to work with me on the adoption of a black baby is in Utah and not TN?
2 years ago before I started my China homestudy, I asked about a foster child that was a true orphan. She was 3 years old and there was just something in her expression that spoke to me. She was black. No one would give me information and I was told later by someone that works in the system that they discourage white people adopting black children. Um ok. I also had the same experience when I showed interest in a bi-racial child. Call me crazy, but can't I have a bi-racial child of my own? Why would it be such a stretch to adopt one?
So let's get back to why I choose China. I saw that awful program where they had the babies tied to potty chairs. The looks on their faces just killed you. Those children needed me, I knew what I was going to do. This was 13 years ago.
Is that need still there? Truthfully no. If China would open the floodgates and clear out each and every orphanage the need would be created. When you have a 18 month waiting list for a child, that child is in high demand. Whether you want to think about this way or not, that child will go to someone, whether it's you or not. I guess this is where the whole "this child is meant for you" idea comes into play. I think my daughter from China was meant for the woman that she was born to. For reasons not known to me, she wasn't able to keep her. I'm just a substitute. I think God created that life for her and man robbed her of it. I don't want to wipe out her sacrifice by saying "oh it's ok, this child is meant for me anyway". I cringe everytime I hear an adoptive family say that. But don't get me wrong, I am thrilled for the opportunity to have this child in my life. She will be loved!
So back to the need portion of the program. Does China need us to adopt the 12,000 children they release for international adoption? Not all of us. Remember how MAD I was that they weren't going to let me adopt a second child? I felt like they had MURDERED my second child.
Then I start looking at other programs. This is what I found:
We did nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands and lied about how much radiation still existed on their islands. Most residents have cancer later on in life. Children are available now.
Did you know that El Salvador has experience several horrible storms that has wiped out housing and killed people? They have orphans too.
There are residents of Poland that can't afford to FEED their children. They go into orphanages, many ran by the Catholic Church. Sometimes hunger is an issue we can't fathom in America. We have food stamp programs. We have WIC. We have food pantries. I'm not saying that there aren't people out there that have money issues and therefore food issues. It's just they have a lot more help available to them than someone in Poland.
Ok, so my point is, go where the need is. Go where you feel drawn. China has been in my heart for a long time. Just because their need of me has dimenished in the last 13 years doesn't mean I don't need them. This adoption experience is something that I need to do, selfishly for me!