I’m an international adoptee. I’m also the parent of two children delivered into my life via adoption from Russia and Ethiopia.
We’re an international family created through adoption. We love each other and we have so much fun together.
We are also Americans; immigrants to the U.S. and citizens by naturalization. We contribute and we serve this nation, our community, our family, and our friends.
Recently, I read a staggering statistic: International adoption by Americans has declined by 81% since 2004. And, crippling new policies and practices are projected to completely end international adoption within the next five years. (How to Solve the U.S. International Adoption Crisis, by Nathan Gwilliam, Ron Stoddart, Robin Sizemore, and Tom Velie, adoption.com, March 19, 2018)
I couldn’t believe my eyes! Is international adoption really in danger of ending for Americans by 2022? If so, how have we arrived at this dark hour? Furthermore, who are we as a country if we are willing to risk the possibility that orphaned children around the world might not have a place to call home, in America?
UNICEF estimates that 15.1 million orphans around the world have lost both of their parents. According to the adoption.com article that I noted above, “International adoptions by U.S. adoptive parents decreased from 22,989 in 2004 to 5,370 in 2016. We believe international adoptions dropped to about 4,600 in 2017 (although the 2017 total has not yet been publicly released). The director of IAAME, the new Accrediting Entity, stated they are working under an assumption of only 4,200 intercountry adoptions in 2018. This is an 81% decline in international adoptions by Americans. If this trend line continues, international adoptions will completely end by 2022.”
Why is this happening?
Let me quote another leading voice in the adoption community, Former United States Senator and former Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Mary Landrieu, who recently said, “Congress passed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption believing that this action would pave the way for a more ethical, transparent and streamlined process for inter-country adoption… Sadly, several years later, it is clear that this decision was a tragic mistake. Instead of shoring up the process and providing support for sending countries, the State Department has twisted the intent of the treaty to close one country after another. The process has become far more cumbersome and far less transparent. American parents who want to help and lovingly raise a child are often made to feel like criminals. As a result, intercountry adoptions have fallen to an historic low, and they continue to decrease each year as the need of desperate, abandoned, and orphaned children increases. Major change is required now before it’s too late.”
The Office of Children’s Issues (OCI) says that they are implementing a “re-interpretation of adoption regulations” in order to protect children from child trafficking. Yet, within this push to re-interpret policies and practices, is the OCI ignoring the negative impact on the children who were not able to be adopted into loving and permanent families?
CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans) reports that a 2002 Russian case study followed approximately 15,000 Russian orphans who left institutional orphanages when they aged out of those orphanages between sixteen and eighteen years old. This case study found that two years after aging out of the orphanages, about 33% (5,000) of the youth were unemployed, about 40% (6,000) were homeless, around 20% (3,000) had committed crimes, approximately 10% (1,500) had committed suicide, and roughly 50% of the girls had been forced into prostitution…also known as sex trafficking.
There is no doubt that there are criminals in the world who prey upon vulnerable children, in America and abroad. As the OCI re-interprets adoption regulations in order to “protect children from trafficking”, it is leaving countless orphans — who do not have a voice — completely vulnerable to being trafficked, abused, and used.
In fact, the adoption.com article states that “if the number of U.S. international adoptions had stayed constant at the 2004 level of 22,989, then 344,835 children would have been adopted between 2004 and 2018. Instead, using the statistics and estimates stated previously, the actual number of U.S. international adoptions during this period will be only 178,205. This means 166,630 children were not adopted who otherwise would have been adopted if the U.S. had retained the 2004 levels. Using the percentages from the Russian orphan case study cited previously, and assuming similar rates in other countries, we estimate that as a result of the epic failure of U.S. international adoption since 2004, up to 41,658 orphans will be forced into sex trafficking such as prostitution, up to 16,663 orphans will commit suicide, and up to 66,652 orphans will become homeless.
This, as 81-million Americans have considered adoption, but have not gone through with the process due to its dizzying complexity and high expense. And, orphans wait…exposed, hungry, sick, scared, and alone.
America has orphans, too. We call them foster children. These are children who have been taken from there families due to neglect and/or abuse. Some won’t return to their biological families and they need a loving adoptive family to step in. When these kids “age out” of the foster system (some 25,000 a year) they are at the same risk as those Russian orphans who also aged out.
In America, of the 25,000 foster youth who age out annually without having been adopted, 25% will become homeless, 30% will be pregnant by the time they are twenty, and 56% percent of them will remain unemployed. 80% of young people trafficked have been through the foster system at some point in their lives.
Whether an orphan sits in a Russian orphanage or in a Rhode Island foster home — all orphans are our children.
If America is still the leading voice for what is right and just in this world, then it must advocate on behalf of all orphans — no matter where they are on this planet — and it must advocate on behalf of loving adoptive families and on behalf of ethical ASPs (Adoption Service Providers).
If we want to eradicate trafficking, let’s protect the world’s vulnerable orphans by creating a safe, ethical, cooperative, and transparent process through which they can find their forever families. And, let’s — with laser-like focus — go after sex traffickers and eliminate this scar on our humanity.
I stand for orphans. I was one.
I stand for orphans. Will you?
Read more about the U.S. International Adoption Crisis, here.
Onward to action,
Ways to Help Save International Adoption
1. Sign the Petition: Please sign this White House petition. The White House promises it will respond if the petition achieves 100,000 signatures in 30 days. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/save-adoptions-reverse-80-decline-intercountry-adoptions-and-solve-us-international-adoption-crisis
2. Share: If you have a Facebook page, Instagram account, Pinterest account, Twitter account, email newsletter or any other way to help spread the word, please share the a link to the White House petition and to https://adoption.com/save-adoptions where they can learn more, and encourage your friends and followers to help save adoptions by signing the White House petition.
3. Contact Politicians: Please visit https://www.contactingcongress.org/ and contact your U.S. Congressman and Senators and ask them to please help save adoptions and solve the U.S. international adoption crisis. Please invite them to visit https://adoption.com/save-adoptions to learn more. Please also invite them to contact President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ask them to implement the 15 solutions in this document to save adoptions.
4. Contact Media: Please contact your local newspapers and television stations and encourage them to create stories about the U.S. international adoption crisis, how we can save adoptions, and encouraging people to sign the White House petition.
5. Donate: Please consider making a donation (every little bit helps) to the non-profit organization Save Adoptions at https://saveadoptions.org so we can spread the word to even more people and help save adoptions.