What’s Behind the Decline in International Adoption?

Hundreds of thousands of families are celebrating National Adoption Month this November—including the families who have adopted more than 200,000 children from foreign countries in the last decade. But the number of children adopted internationally is on the decline. They’ve dropped significantly since their peak in 2004, when nearly 23,000 children found new homes in the U.S.— just 9,300 children found their families in the U.S. last year.

A number of factors have come into play to reduce the number of children available. Some previously popular countries, such as Guatemala and Vietnam, are currently closed to American parents due to concerns about corruption within their programs. Other countries, like China and Ethiopia, have fewer healthy children available and longer waiting periods for parents.Parents are now waiting over six years to adopt a healthy child from China—compare that to 2005, when the wait was just six months. (The wait will be significantly shorter, however, for families who are willing and able to consider children who have known medical needs.)

But the U.S. government is currently working to establish new programs and reopen relationships with countries that have improved the oversight of their adoption programs. “Cambodia looks to be moving in the right direction, and don’t give up on Vietnam yet,” says Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor to the Secretary for Children’s Issues at the State Department, who oversees international adoptions to and from the U.S. “We are working with them to help them strengthen their central authority, so they are able to support the kind of program that we can participate in.”

Want to find out more about what’s happening in international adoption now? Read our feature on international adoption 101—including the latest on the process of adopting internationally, and how to pick the right agency (and the right country) for you.

Photo: Mother and child by AISPIX by Image Source / Shutterstock

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  1. by Amy

    On November 7, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I don’t think it is a fair comment to say that China has “fewer children available for adoption.” On any given day, there are over 2000 children on the shared adoption list waiting to be chosen, and there are hundreds of thousands living in orphanages. What has changed in China is that domestic adoption has increased dramatically for non special needs babies, which is a wonderful thing, and so the wait to adopt a baby with no known medical issues has increased to six years. However, if a family is open to adopting a baby who was abandoned with medical needs, then the wait is often less than a year to complete an adoption and bring a child home.

    It always bothers me when people say that there are no longer children available from China. There are thousands and thousands of incredible, amazing, and wonderful children who would make any family so blessed to call them a son or daughter. We have put together a website at http://www.adoptspecialneeds.org to help people educate themselves about opening their hearts to a child with a medical need.

  2. by Lisa Milbrand

    On November 14, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I agree, Amy. (I’m actually the proud mom of a daughter with special needs, who I adopted from China in 2008.) I added a sentence to make it clearer—however, as you know, many families aren’t able/willing to consider children with special needs, whether it’s due to limited medical insurance or concern about their ability to manage the needs of a child with an ongoing issue.