Recent Decline of International Adoption

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International adoption rates are the lowest they have been in 15 years. Adoption of children by foreign parents peaked in 2004, with 45,000 orphans adopted abroad. Last year, this number had fallen to nearly half, with only 25,000 children adopted by foreign families.

One reason for the decline is cause for celebration – many countries are cracking down against baby-selling. Over the years, various countries have shut down their international adoption programs amid allegations and investigations of placing for adoption children whose parents did not voluntarily relinquish their parental rights.

In 2007, Guatemala put into effect a two-year moratorium on international adoptions in order to look into the claims of birth mothers being coerced into signing away their rights or having their children kidnapped so as to have them be adopted by a handsomely-paying, unsuspecting foreign couple. Guatemala was probably one of the worst examples of international adoption abuses by greedy attorneys and agencies looking to make money off desperate adoptive families who trusted them.

Since then, several other countries have followed suit, and in 2008, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption went into effect for the United States. Parents adopting from other Hague countries can rest assured that the process of their adoption is stricter for the sake of protecting both them and the children, as well as better preparing the families for the realities of international (and therefore often transracial) adoption.

As more countries work to become Hague approved, more restrictions on international adoption can be expected. As such, less and less children become available for adoption by foreign families as a result. Instead, the thinking goes that more effort will be put into finding adoptive families domestically so that children can remain in their country and culture of origin. As a general rule, when countries focus on their children rather than their bottom line, more funding and effort is put into keeping children with their original families, and when that’s not possible, at least within their original culture.

When this happens, generally children who do become available for international adoption have been deemed as somehow more difficult to place domestically, either due to age or special medical needs. In these cases, the determination is made that any family – even a foreign one far away from the child’s homeland – is better for the child’s well-being than for the child to age out of the foster care system domestically. This attitude truly shows a concern for the best interest of the child.

However, the drop in international adoption is not purely due to improvements in other countries’ domestic adoption efforts. Many couples who turn to international adoption over domestic adoption do so in part because there is generally little to no contact expected or even possible with the child’s birth family. As open adoption becomes the norm domestically, families who are not comfortable with maintaining contact with their adopted child’s birth family opt for international adoption instead.

Also, with varying advances in artificial reproductive technology, would-be adoptive parents who struggle with infertility are turning more and more to artificial reproductive technology in order to start or grow their families.

Another reason less families are adopting internationally is due to financial considerations. As the economy continues to be sluggish, and international adoption can cost upwards of $30,000, even $50,000, families simply opt for alternatives that are more in line with their budget.

All in all, international adoption has the potential for both great opportunities and grave injustices. As with all adoptions, the child ought to always remain at the center of all considerations affecting adoption laws. Hopefully, the drop in international adoptions is a sign of more care given to the child’s interest, and not merely a side-effect of the economy.

Credits: Karolina Marie

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