Posts Tagged ‘ international adoption ’

Stuck: The Current State of International Adoption

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

 Six years ago today, my husband and I officially put our hats (and about 75 pages of documents) into the ring in the hopes of adopting a second child from China. And if we hadn’t been lucky enough to find our daughter on our adoption agency’s list of children with known medical needs, we would still be waiting for China to match us with our child—with no end in sight to our wait. (Currently, the people at the “front” of the line for adopting from China have already been waiting six and a half years.)

We are not an anomaly, as a new documentary, Stuck, shows in dramatic detail. New regulations put into place by the U.S. and other countries to help stop corruption in international adoption haven’t been as successful at stopping it as everyone had hoped. Instead, it’s slowed down the process to adopt a child to the point where it now takes nearly 3 years to complete an adoption—and it’s led to many more children growing up in institutions, where they are often neglected and left ill-equipped for life after the orphanage. The documentary offers sad glimpses of life in the orphanages in Vietnam, Ethiopia, Romania and Haiti—and tells the stories of several families who were “stuck” at various points in their adoption stories.

I have to admit—the trailer for the documentary made me worry it was a little bit too much in the vein of “Let the Americans come in and save these poor orphans.” But after watching the movie, it’s clearly more balanced. Its message is that every child should have a family—and if one isn’t available in a child’s home country, if there’s another family with open arms across the border, let the child go there rather than languish in an orphanage.

If you’re considering international adoption—or know someone who is—definitely check this movie out. It’s a great way to get a real sense of what’s happening in international adoption right now.

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Is Adoption from China Ending?

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

In the last 30 years, nearly 100,000 children from China have found new families around the world, thanks to one of the most stable and popular international adoption programs. And I’m the mom of two of them. My family was created there, when my husband and I adopted our two amazing daughters.

But a lot’s changed over the past eight years, since we first met our oldest daughter in a Civil Affairs Office in China. Since then, China and the U.S. both signed the Hague Convention governing international adoption, which required checks on the histories of all children, to determine if they are truly orphans and available for adoption. (This is to help prevent the child trafficking and corruption that has occurred in some international adoption programs, including China’s.) China instituted new limitations on the parents who would be eligible to adopt from China—though the parents who met those new limitations are still stuck waiting to be matched with their children (six years later and the wait is still growing, thanks to a 20,000+ backlog of parents hoping to adopt from China). China’s wealth has been increasing, which means more children are being adopted domestically, and more parents manage to afford the fines the Chinese government levies on families who go over the one-child limit. And China may be holding still other children back in their orphanages, hoping to take care of their children within their own borders.

And so, it was no surprise to me that the numbers of international adoptions from China had dropped precipitously yet again. Last year, only 3,311 were adopted internationally from China throughout the world—compare that to 2005, when we adopted our oldest, and 7,903 children came home to the U.S. alone. And the other number that was equally interesting—75 percent of the children adopted would be classified as special needs, as they were older or had known medical issues. In fact, that is how we managed to adopt our second daughter—we would still be waiting for a match, six years later, if we hadn’t found her on our agency’s “special needs list.”

Adopting a special needs child is currently the only viable option for most parents looking to adopt from China, as the wait for a “healthy” baby continues to grow—and will likely reach nearly a decade of waiting within the next few years. But it’s not an option for everyone—many countries won’t even allow their citizens to adopt special needs children.

We are thankful that it was an option for us, and that we’ll be celebrating five years with our youngest daughter later this year. But for many other prospective parents, the China adoption program seems to be another door closing, and another option for building a family gone.

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Why International Adoption Matters

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

International adoption is always a hot button issue—and my recent post about Russia cutting American families out of their adoption program was no exception. Inevitably, any story about international adoption brings out a slew of people commenting that “American families should just adopt from the U.S.” (And just as inevitably, those people are rarely people who have adopted or plan to adopt themselves.)

But domestic adoption isn’t the best choice for every family—and it cuts thousands of children from around the world off from the possibility of a loving family. Here’s why international adoption matters, to my family and the thousands of others who were created that way.

Domestic adoption can be challenging. Most families who adopt domestically eventually succeed. But the time frame before you’re picked by a birthmother is completely random—some families find a match within days of putting their information out there, while others wait for years. And many families have at least one “failed placement,” when the birthmother decides she wants to parent her child. (Fabulous for the birthmother and child—but heartbreaking for the potential adoptive parents.) My husband and I simply couldn’t deal with all of those unknowns.

Today, most adoptions in the U.S. are open, which means the birth family and adoptive family maintain contact. Open adoption is much better and healthier for everyone involved—especially the child. But there are some families who aren’t comfortable with that, and international adoption is a more closed option.

Foster adoption can be even more challenging. People point to the number of children in foster care in the U.S.—463,000—and say that we should all simply adopt from foster care. But keep in mind that some of those children do end up being reunited with their birth families weeks or months later. For those who remain in foster care, sometimes it is possible to adopt young children, but in many cases it’s older children who are available, many of whom have seen and experienced things no child should have to experience. These children need a special kind of love and support that some families are simply not equipped to provide.

All children deserve a loving family. Does our capacity for love and kindness really end at the border? Ideally, children in Russia or China or Ethiopia should find a loving family nearby, to help them preserve their connection to their birth culture. But many of these children—especially those with special needs—have few prospects for finding a family within their own country. If there are willing and able parents somewhere in the world who want to raise them, why should we stop them?

Life in the orphanages is devastating to a child’s future. Institutional care is always subpar, no matter how “good” the orphanage is. There is no replacement for a loving family—and it bears out in research, which shows that a baby who is raised in an orphanage loses a month’s worth of development for every three months she spends there. (Which means that an 18-month-old sitting in an orphanage is much more like a 12-month-old.)  Children in orphanages often have limited opportunities for education, and are sent out into the world as young as 14 years old, left to fend for themselves.

Until you have personally visited an orphanage, you simply can’t understand how devastating it is. I do.

Imagine a classroom filled with 30 cribs. The cribs have no mattresses, and the babies all lie on wooden slabs in the cribs. Every single crib is filled except for one by the window (which is where your new baby rested her head until a few days before). There is one single attendant charged with caring for all of these babies, and she walks around with the same dirty rag to wipe the babies’ noses—it seems that all of the babies are horribly sick with colds.

The babies all stare at you, and reach out to you. You touch their hands, and wish you could simply scoop them all up and take them out of there. There are no toys (despite the fact that you and other adoptive parents have donated plenty), and nothing to stimulate these babies as they lie in their cribs day after day. Most of them (including your baby) have huge flat spots on the backs of their heads, due to lying on their backs for months. They are fed the same thing every day—a mix of rice cereal and formula, put into a bottle. The attendant has too many mouths to feed, so the babies aren’t held when they’re fed—the bottle is propped up for them.

This is where my daughter would have spent her days. Because she has a small medical issue, she would have had little to no education—despite the fact that she is incredibly bright. If she was lucky, she would have gotten a job at a nearby factory after the orphanage left her go. If she wasn’t….well, I shudder to think about that.

Foster care isn’t ideal, but these warehouses of children are far, far worse. This is why I chose to adopt internationally—not once, but twice. And why I continue to support charities that work with the orphanages, so that the kids who are left behind can go into foster care, get an education, and get proper nutrition.

Maybe someday, we will get that perfect world, where kids can stay with the parents who gave them life—or with friends and family nearby. Where anyone who wants to be a parent can make that dream happen. But until we get that perfect world, we have to make the best of the one we have.

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

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The Problem With the Russian Adoption Ban

Friday, December 28th, 2012

More than 60,000 kids from Russian orphanages have found families in the U.S. since the Russian adoption program began more than 20 years ago—but now Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to put an end to one of the most popular international adoption programs for American families. And that’s a big mistake for everyone—especially the thousands of Russian children who will end up growing up in the sterile, stifling orphanage environment, rather than the embrace of a loving family.

If you look back, there have been rumblings of a ban for the past several years. Russian officials are angry about the 19 Russian children who died in the care of adoptive parents here in the U.S. (as they should be), and are concerned that some children have ended up in institutions here, after their parents deemed them too difficult to manage. And when Torry Hansen sent her son back to Russia in 2010, after she deemed him “dangerous” to her family, Russia halted all adoptions until some major diplomacy smoothed things over. But this new move, in retaliation for an American law that proposed sanctions against human rights violators from Russia, seems like it will be much harder to undo.

The biggest tragedy of this ban is that it means that 1,000 more children each year will join the 700,000 other orphans currently wasting away in Russian orphanages, with no opportunity to join a family. (Children only become available for international adoption in Russia if there’s no one available in the country to adopt them.) The effects of institutionalization are well documented—including problems attaching and developing relationships with others, and pervasive developmental delays. These are the kinds of things that the support of a loving family can help a child overcome. But these kids will never have that possibility, thanks to a government that’s all too willing to sacrifice the lives of these children out of spite for an unpopular American law, the Magnitsky Act.

It also means that 1,000 American families each year will lose the opportunity to become parents—a fact that’s going to be even more devastating for the thousands of families who are currently in process to adopt from Russia, and may have already seen a picture or even visited with the child that they hoped to adopt. And it means even more people will be looking to adopt domestically, as there are very few viable options for international adoption at this point.

In a perfect world, these kids would be able to stay with their birth families, and everyone who wants to become parents could. And if kids needed to be adopted, they would always find themselves with the right parents, who will treat them well and ensure that they are loved and supported. Yes, there have been abuses (on both sides) in the Russian adoption program, but the good that’s been achieved for the many happy families created through this international adoption program far outweighs the negatives. Let’s hope that Russia’s leaders can keep their children’s best interests in mind—and consider repealing this act, before it’s too late.

Mark III Photonics / Shutterstock.com

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What’s Behind the Decline in International Adoption?

Monday, November 5th, 2012

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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Parents Daily News Roundup

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Transgender Kids: Painful Quest to Be Who They Are
When children insist that their gender doesn’t match their body, it can trigger a confusing, painful odyssey for the family. And most of the time, these families face isolating experiences trying to decide what is best for their kids, especially because transgender issues are viewed as mysterious, and loaded with stigma and judgment.

Childhood Malnutrition has Long Lasting Effects
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17 million children live in households struggling to put enough food on the table.

New Member of the Family? You May Need a New Vaccine
In the past, experts have told parents who travel internationally to adopt children to get vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is supporting a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that other people who may have close contact with the children in the months after they arrive in the United States also get vaccinated.

January Jones Leaves Baby’s Dad Off Birth Certificate
January has been keeping extremely mum on the subject of her baby daddy both before and after Sept. 13, when her bundle of joy came into the world.

Parents Seek Holiday Toys with Long-Term Appeal
Toy companies trying to win over choosy U.S. shoppers are under more pressure than ever to offer parents something their children will play with after Christmas, according to two industry veterans.

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