A Bright Spot Amid China Adoption Slowdown: Rumor Queen Has Her Baby

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For those of us waiting to adopt from China, early April marked the lowest point in a year already punctuated by unimaginable lows.

Our endless wait grew longer when the China Center of Adoption Affairs announced it had placed children for families whose applications were logged in before October 26, 2005. A month earlier, China announced placement for families logged in before October 24, 2005. Two days.

If your paperwork was logged in on March 21, 2006, like mine was, a pattern of just two days of referrals would mean years before you see your baby’s sweet face. And for families with November 2005 log-in dates, plans to travel to China this summer were replaced with hopes to have their babies home by Thanksgiving.

But April also brought the greatest gift. The Rumor Queen, a lifeline for thousands of families stuck in the muck of unknowns and platitudes about the virtue of patience, brought her baby home.

We don’t know the Rumor Princess’s name, age, or weight. No pictures were posted for her loyal kingdom to coo over. As tensions rose in the China adoption world among tight-lipped agencies and parents desperate for information, the Rumor Queen guarded her anonymity.

Her faithful flock respected her privacy.

The Rumor Queen, known as RQ, started out as just another mom looking for clues about when she would be united with her second child from China. Her blog: In Search of Rumors serves as a depository for information anyone could pry loose from an agency, social worker, Chinese tour guide, or fortune cookie.

My husband and I had just gotten our application to China when I started checking the blog. Our agency told us our wait would be six to seven months, but our contract noted that international adoption is unpredictable.

Every month, I checked China’s official site to see how many days of applications were referred. For the wait to continue at about six months, sixty days would need to be referred, right? Instead, I saw twenty days, eighteen, sixteen, eleven.

I reminded myself that I’m lousy at math. When I asked my agency representative, she assured me that the wait would max out at ten months. Then China noted on its Web site that families would wait twelve months, and I plunged into depression.

I had been childless for so long, a year sounded like forever.

That’s when the RQ’s site became my daily fix. I learned that she had a daughter adopted from China, whom she referred to as Big Girl. Her family had a log-in date of October 2005 for Big Girl’s sister.

As the number of days referred each month shrank, it became obvious that all of us would be waiting much longer for our babies than we expected. Yet agencies would tell us only that wait times fluctuate.

RQ committed early on to protecting her sources. No agency names were posted. Instead she reported that a large, conservative North American agency told several clients the wait would probably go to fourteen months. And around the world, thousands of hopeful mothers groaned. Some, like me, burst into tears.

Early on, the rumors that always turned out to be true came from Spain. RQ referred to the rumor source as The Agency That Is Usually Right, which became TATIUR, and then TATUR, and then “our favorite spud,” and then “the edible root enjoyed as a side dish to beef.”

The site’s traffic increased, and RQ relocated to accommodate her growing flock. She never accepted money, asking supporters to donate to Half the Sky, a charity that helps Chinese orphans.

Meanwhile, waiting parents bandied theories about the wait—too many applicants, the Chinese government’s desire to reduce the number of babies for international adoption, the 2008 Summer Olympics to be held in Beijing, a focus on domestic adoption within China, bad press.

In the days leading up to an announcement from China, rumors poured in. Then, families who got referrals posted photos. Waiting parents rejoiced in the sight of babies and their elated parents. 

After referrals came a rumor drought. RQ used these barren days to discuss attachment, preparing a dog for the new baby, and helping siblings adjust.

And she helped us keep our anger in check. It was tempting to lash out at China. But we have no right to. As RQ often reminds us, China does not owe us babies; their goal is not to fulfill our dreams. Their goal is to place their precious orphans in safe, loving homes.

We don’t know how many Chinese children need homes. We don’t know how many people are in line, though armchair analysts have estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 applicants. China officials say they have no intention of ending foreign adoption, and to stem the tide of applications, they are tightening criteria effective in May.

In my case, my husband and I adopted domestically in November. Our Chinese child will be our second instead of our first. Other families switched countries or applied for Chinese children with minor disabilities, a path that can lead to a faster placement.

In times of few rumors, discussion sometimes runs amok into debates over whether first-time parents are in more agony than those waiting for their second or third child.

Other times, threads evolve into group therapy, especially when a news story with a negative slant (Hello, Paula Zahn!) comes out, or when we realize we’re all dealing with strangers telling us we should adopt American children.

Often, people share survival strategies. Some are learning Mandarin. Others calculated the distance to China and are attempting to log that many miles on the treadmill. Some have bought tiny T-shirts to take to China that read, “My Mommy Is Not The Rumor Queen.”

The site is strictly monitored, and no religious talk is allowed. Angelina Jolie can be a divisive subject too, though comments about her are still permitted.

Several sites such as China Adoption Forecast have sprung up with algorithms that predict wait times. One called Bright Outlooks is also known as Gloomy Outlooks. RQ makes predictions based on polls that estimate how many people are logged in each day.

Sometimes the predictions are spot on. Other times, as with this month’s two days of referrals, the predictions are off.

I don’t go to RQ for the predictions. I go for the reminder that my husband and I aren’t alone in this crazy holding pattern, and to reinforce why we got into this long line. When RQ slipped out of her public arena, leaving her site in the capable hands of interim monitors, I started to believe that someday I’ll be on a plane to China. And after all these months or years, I’ll finally get to hold my baby.


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