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The Difficulties in International Adoption

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We were thrilled to complete a Haitian adoption recently, but in doing so became one of a very small - and shrinking - group of people in the U.S. to adopt internationally. In fact since 2003 international adoptions have decreased by half. That's a 50% cut in volume in a decade worldwide.Here in the U.S. adoptions have actually done down over 60% during the same time period, cresting near 23,000 in 2004-05, but dwindling to 7,000 per year recently.

What do these percentages mean? In stark human terms, if we had maintained the 2004 level of international adoptions, then about 92,000 more children would have had families during the last decade. We could almost double Peoria's metropolitan population with the number of lost or missed adoptions!

So why the downturn?

A few countries' politics had a dampening effect, to be sure. Russian and Chinese adoptions fell in the first decade of the millenium (down 2,000 in 05-06 and 07-08; down 1,000 for 06-07 in those countries). In 2008-09 Guatemela closed all adoptions, leading to a Guatemalan drop of over 3,500 children. Other countries from which adoptions have been closed include: Cambodia (closed since 2001); Vietnam (closed since 2008); Kenya; Romania (since 2004); Cape Verde, Fiji, Montenegro, Rwana, Senegal . . .

all closed because the U.S. considers them non-compliant. And there's the rub: the U.S. itself has shut down the largest avenues of international adoption because of the conditions in the country. Concerns about corruption, child-trafficking, and baby-selling prompted the US to suspend adoptions from Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Nepal. And yet - taking Vietnam as an example - despite that the US shut down adoptions, other countries are still actively working there. in 2010 and 2011 about 2,000 adoptions still happened out of Vietnam, but it's just that none went to the US.

So how do we balance these concerns? Clearly, preventing abuses is important, but at the same time, it can be argued that children are being left behind in these abusive countries when they'd be adopted out of them without the restrictions. Other countries continue to do so. The decline in international adoptions, and the restriction of certain countries, all appears tied to the Hague Convention, which became more predominant over the same time period that adoptions have been dropping.

Don't take our word for it: Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council of Adoption click HERE for their website, contend that the decline comes from the way the State Department has applied the Hague Convention, which establishes ethical standards for international adoptions.

The U.S. entered into the agreement in 2008 with strong support from adoption advocates who hoped it would curtail fraud and corruption, and then lead to a boom in legitimate adoptions. Instead, the decrease has continued. "The U.S. has encouraged and in some cases strong-armed impoverished countries to sign the Hague Convention and then cites their inability to comply with strict Hague standards as a reason for not doing intercountry adoption with them," Johnson said.

Other countries doing adoptions under Hague International law haven't had the marked decline in numbers like the U.S. In other words, the problem is on our end, and we can lay these declining numbers at the State Department's feet. For example, Brazil and Colombia are Hague members, and U.S. adoptions since 2003 have been under 250 per year from each country; meanwhile, other countries have adopted hundreds from Brazil and thousands (generally around 1,500) per year from Colombia.

The trouble is that the U.S. Central Authority (read: our liaison to facilitate Hague adoptions with other countries) doesn't work proactively with those other countries to develop international adoption programs. We don't play well with others. And we can certainly tell you that there's a lot of red tape in doing a Hague adoption - much more than for non-Hague countries. Ultimately, children in need of families are penalized by our lack of government action.

Which brings us back to our recent adoption from Haiti. We completed the adoption on March 28, 2014, which not coincidentally at all, was 3 days before Haiti became a signatory to the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption. There's no problem for us to acknowledge that we hastened, working as hard as we could, to complete this Haitian adoption before Haiti joined the Hague. Three days later, and the red tape would have handcuffed the file and our ability to successfully complete the case. The effect of the Hague would mean, among other things, that we would have had to complete the adoption there in Haiti, compared to here; that means we are bound by Haitian laws, which typically means the child would have had to reside in Haiti until the adoption completes.

This was a child who previously had resided in an orphanage, together with many other children whose parents were not bad parents, but who could not afford to feed their children. An orphanage was the only way the children stood a chance to eat. So we are going to say that the child must go back there, for a year, year and a half, until the adoption completes? Where would the family be with whom the child had stayed for the last couple years, and how would they pay for flights, legal counsel, and an agency to complete the adoption?

It sounds like such a small thing, those 3 days, but they meant a lifetime, quite literally, to the child and her adoptive family. Presumably, the Hague is being brought to Haiti for good reasons: transparency, ethics in adoptions, preventing abuses. But like many best intentions and government programs, the reality it will bring may be much different.

If we had been brought that Haitian case just a couple days later, too, it would not have been possible. Such as it is, we join these numbers, which are the amount of adoptions from Haiti to the U.S. in recent years past:

2009: 330

2010 = 133

2011: 33

2012: 154

We wonder: will this go near zero in the near future, with the arrival of Hague? We would love to say no, but it may not be something you can bet your adoption hopes on.

You often see the Hague being praised as a positive influence in adoption. Fox News' press release on Haiti recently is here CLICK.; contrast that with CNN's more in-depth look HERE (Click for article) While we don't entirely criticize it, and certainly don't criticize its goals, you may find it surprising and important to hear that the Hague has had side effects on international adoption as well, which haven't been so positive.

Note: source of featured image is http://pwojeespwa.blogspot.com/2010/03/saturday-morning.html

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