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China: Norms on Adoption Registration Work

(Sept. 30, 2008) On September 1, 2008, China's Ministry of Civil Affairs issued the Adoption Registration Work Norms, for the first time setting forth clear provisions on the establishment of adoption registration agencies and the supervision and management of adoption registration personnel. The provisions also address the procedures for adoption registration and its rescission; requirements for canceling adoption registration; handling of remedial proof of adoption and proof of rescission of an adoptive relationship; and administration of adoption files and papers. Appended to the Norms are 14 forms used in adoption registration procedures. (Ministry of Civil Affairs 'Adoption Registration Work Specifications': Leaking Adoption Secrets May Incur Administrative Punishment, PHOENIX NET [in Chinese]), Sept. 2, 2008, available at

The agency's specialized place for official business should have an eye-catching sign and an announcement board, the Norms state, and such agencies should make public information including the fee schedule and basis, the duties of the personnel and their pictures and serial numbers, and office hours (art. 6). Informatization on adoption registration management by civil affairs departments at all levels is also encouraged. (Id.)

Adoption registration personnel must be proficient in relevant laws and regulations and computer operations and at the same time must respect the parties' wishes and preserve adoption secrets. Administrative punishment may be meted out according to law to the directly responsible persons in charge and other directly responsible personnel for any of eight types of acts (art. 48), e.g., if the agency or its personnel neglect their duties and damage or destroy adoption registration files or leak confidential information of the parties to an adoption, causing serious consequences. (Id.)

One key aspect of the Norms is the unusual detail they bring to the adoption registration process, setting forth not only how to handle the matters mentioned above, but also how to fill out application forms, how to conduct examinations, how to issue certificates, etc. Another key aspect is their innovativeness in building upon, rather than merely copying, provisions already in the existing adoption laws. For example, in regard to the procedures for announcements concerning abandoned infants and children whose birth parents cannot be found, the Norms stipulate that the announcements are to be placed in the local newspapers at the municipal (district) level or above in the locale of the adoption registration agency; that the agency is to keep the relevant evidentiary documentation; and that the case report certification issued by the police station should have the issuing officer's name and serial number (art. 17). This fills a gap in the provision on the subject found in the Measures for Registration of Adoption of Children by Chinese Citizens (art. 7).

Another significant feature of the Norms is that they are in tune with the Regulations on Open Government implemented on May 1, 2008, having included provisions on transparency of information and protection of confidentiality. (Adoption Registration Work Specifications: Detailed Plan Aimed at the Present Reality, PEOPLE'S DAILY ONLINE, Sept. 3, 2008, available at; Department of Social Welfare and Social Affairs, Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China, Shouyang dengji gongzuo guifan [Norms on Adoption Registration Work], Sept. 1, 2008, available at

Part of the impetus for the Norms' issuance, according to PEOPLE'S DAILY, the official news organ of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, was the Wenchuan, Sichuan, earthquake, whose aftermath raised social concerns about orphaned children, with “all sorts of adoptive households and forms of adoption posing new challenges to the current adoption law.” (PEOPLE'S DAILY ONLINE, supra.) While China's current Law on Adoption has rather stringent provisions on conditions for adoptions, the newspaper pointed out, some provisions lack concrete details on implementation and are “relatively lacking in operational counterparts.” Given these circumstances, the Norms “clearly have a very strong practicality.” (Id.)