MORE than 70 per cent of the children awaiting adoption have chronic illnesses or some kind of disability. Others, though physically healthy, have unfavourable family backgrounds or are too old to attract families. Director of Social Welfare Ian Strachan yesterday said more adoptive parents were needed to allow such children to grow up in a happy environment. Mr Strachan said it was appreciated that adopting a child with special needs imposed demands on the adoptive parents and their family, but the experience could be rewarding given extra preparation and patience. Figures from the Social Welfare Department show that only 12 of the 99 children awaiting adoption are healthy and have good family backgrounds. Fifty-eight children, however, are either physically or mentally disabled, 12 are ill, 13 are older than five, and four are healthy but have unfavourable family backgrounds. All are in the special-needs category. Florence Tang Lai-fan, who is in charge of the department's adoption unit, said that last year only 15 per cent of special-needs children were placed in Chinese families. Ms Tang said: 'So far the department has not had a Chinese family applying to adopt a disabled child. 'Some of the handicapped children, together with healthy ones aged over five or with unfavourable backgrounds such as with drug-abusing parents, have been on the waiting list for more than five years.' Siu Shing-chung, who adopted a baby girl four years ago, said most Chinese were conservative and dared not adopt children. 'I and my wife wanted to have a daughter as we had had two sons. I remember our parents were very angry and thought we were crazy when we told them of our decision,' he said. But he said time had shown that his family could live happily with the adopted child.