U.S. Department of State Releases Annual Adoption Report

The U.S. Department of State yesterday released its 2010 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions.

In Fiscal Year 2010, the U.S. Government issued 11,059 immigrant visas to children adopted by U.S. citizen adopting parents. These children immigrated to the United States from over 100 different countries and found new homes in all 50 states.

The number of adoptions from China (3,401) and Ethiopia (2,513) far exceeded any other country.  The next largest included Russia (1,082), South Korea (863), Ukraine (445), and Columbia (235).

Significantly, these numbers do not include approximately 1,090 children adopted from Haiti via the special process established after Haiti’s earthquake.  This is because following Haiti’s earthquake, the adoption process from Haiti occurred by way of “humanitarian parole” rather than “immigrant visa.”

The 11,059 adoptions reflect a continued decrease in the number of inter-country adoptions to the United States.  FY 2009 had seen 12,753, down from the FY 2004 peak of 22,990.

This six year declining trend carries certain positive implications.  These include efforts to root out corruption and suspicious activities related to inter-country adoption in countries that had once been open to adoption, such as Guatemala.  In addition, constrictions on inter-country adoptions of healthy infants has caused many families to more seriously consider adoption of older and special needs children, both from the U.S. foster system and overseas.

Overall, however, this trend reflects a tragic irony:  while more and more families stand ready to receive an orphan into their home through adoption, many countries with high numbers of orphans have made inter-country adoption unnecessarily difficult or impossible.  As a result, countless children that could otherwise grow up in loving homes are living in institutions or on the streets.

The drivers of this reality are many and complex.  However, a bias against inter-country adoption by some U.S. government, U.N. and NGO foreign aid staff is believed to play a significant role in encouraging and/or incentivizing policies by foreign governments that constrict adoption.

Most foreign aid staff that work to limit inter-country adoption do so with good motives, desiring to guard against any risk of corruption or to grow focus on in-country orphan care efforts.  However, in doing so they often work against the wishes of their donors and U.S. taxpayers, whose funds they are using to do their work and who generally are highly supportive of inter-country adoption.   More importantly, these foreign aid staff are denying children the opportunity to grow up in a family.

When it suspects serious and systemic potential for abuse in a country’s adoption process, the U.S. Government has every reason to use the considerable influence it has to encourage a country to limit and then improve its inter-country adoption process.  The U.S. Government also can (and does) invest significant resources in supporting a vast range of in-country orphan care efforts.  At the same time, there is also a place for the U.S. government to help countries develop effective policies that will help their orphans find permanent homes whenever possible.  Inter-country adoption is only one piece of the solution, of course, but it easily could make a life-changing difference for thousands more orphans each year that otherwise will grow up in orphanages or on the streets.