Why have international adoptions decreased?

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2020 | Adoption

If you have an interest in adopting a child from a foreign country, you may have some difficulty. Though once a common practice, international adoption has seen a dramatic decrease of 72% since 2005 when there were approximately 23,000 children adopted internationally by parents in the United States.

According to The Conversation US, the reason for the decrease is that many countries are no longer willing to send their children to the United States for adoption. As of 2018, the top sending countries included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine and China. However, the Chinese government has decreased foreign adoption by 86% since the late 1990s. Other former leaders in international adoption, including Russia, Guatemala and Ethiopia, have either cut back on international adoptions to the United States or banned them altogether.

There are many reasons for the downward trend. Sometimes international adoption is a source of embarrassment for the country of origin, which endures commentary about its “chief export” being children. There have also been rare but highly publicized cases of kidnapping children for the purpose of international adoption or paying birthmothers to give up their children. Such reports can be damaging to the country’s reputation, or at least perceived as such.

Part of the reason for the decrease may be economic. The Hague Convention set safety standards for international adoption in 1993, in part to prevent trafficking of children and exploitation of birthmothers. As a result, it also imposes high fees that may make international adoption impractical for prospective parents in the U.S. Adoption agencies and the countries themselves also feel the effects.

Global politics may also account for the decrease in international adoption. It was two weeks after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia in 2012 that the parliament voted to end adoptions of Russian children by American parents. Lawmakers cited the prevention of abuse by adoptive parents as the rationale behind the ban, but given the greater prevalence of child abuse in Russia, the timing of the ban and comments by the Russian prime minister seeming to link the two events, that rationale is highly questionable.

Critics of international adoption, both in the United States and out of it, say that it is wrong to remove children from their birth culture. However, research suggests that international adoption from certain countries may save hundreds of lives.