The New International Adoption Powerhouse: The United States?

International adoption is on the decline, with most of the once-popular sending countries fewer and fewer children to the U.S. each year. But there is one country that’s becoming bigger in international adoption every year—and that’s the United States. Surprised?

I was, when I first heard about it. When you think of U.S. international adoption, you think of the hundreds of thousands of children who come into our country through international adoption, from China, Ethiopia, South Korea and the like. But the numbers, though small, are growing in the opposite direction, as hundreds of families in Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and other countries have been adopting African-American babies each year. (Accurate numbers are hard to come by, but experts suggest it’s more than 300 children per year.)

Parents who choose to adopt from the U.S. need to go through a process that’ll sound similar to American families who adopt domestically—after background checks and home studies are done, they need to submit a birthparent letter introducing themselves to potential birthmothers, and wait for someone to select them. Many times, they don’t have to wait long—some are able to adopt in less than a year. Foreign families are sometimes preferred by birthparents over American families, because birthparents feel that African-American children may experience less racism and prejudice in other countries than they do here. And adoption lawyers who help facilitate these international adoptions say that people in other countries are more “colorblind” than those here in the U.S. “Most American families were, and still are, interested in adopting a white infant,” attorney Steven Kirsh of Kirsh & Kirsh, who has helped hundreds of families abroad adopt African-American children, told CNN. “The Dutch families were just interested in adopting an infant. The color of the child’s skin didn’t matter to them.”

Families who adopt from the U.S. often attempt to help them maintain a bit of their culture—like ensuring they speak English and celebrating Thanksgiving with them, for instance. (Just like my family incorporates Chinese holidays like Lunar New Year and Moon Festival into our calendars, thanks to my daughters’ Chinese heritage.) And because the overwhelming majority of American adoptions are now at least partially open, many of these kids have contact with their birthfamilies, something I know my daughters wish they had.

What do you think about international adoptions from the U.S.? And do you agree with the adoption lawyers’ assessment that U.S. parents are less likely to adopt transracially?

Image: Transracial adoption by Varina and Jay Patel/Shutterstock.com

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