Adoption Fatigue: The Wearing Down of Intercountry Adoption

These were my last few hours in Ethiopia. My daughter’s adoption had been finalized and we were on the way to the airport in Addis Ababa. As an international adoptee myself, I knew that I was not taking my daughter “home.” We were leaving her homeland and I had great respect for the power of that moment. I held a deep reverence for the loss that she was experiencing within her, even though she could not voice it or make sense of it, yet.

I also knew that we were embarking on a new journey together. There were so many family members waiting in America to welcome our sweet Eviana Tiblet and to embrace her into us. Her two brothers were waiting and I had been away from them for nearly two-weeks.

Our plane was late, by some two-hours, in its departure from Ethiopia. I can remember walking up the stairway to our Emirates flight. The wind was blowing and I had Eviana snuggled safely in my arms. I stopped at the top of the stairs and looked out onto the Addis sky. I whispered, “Thank you. Goodbye for now. We will return.”

Settling into my seat and arranging my daughter’s items for the long journey to New York, I took in a deep breath and then I exhaled. We were on our way and I was grateful for every bit of kindness and support that I had received while in my daughter’s home country. My husband sat down in the cabin next to ours and we smiled at each other. Tears streamed down my face.

The year was 2010. Since that time, intercountry adoption has grown increasingly harder to navigate for Americans. It is costly and complicated and the numbers highlight what I would term as adoption fatigue.

Intercountry adoption peaked in 2004 and since that time has been on a rapid decline. Another dip occurred in 2017, and there haven’t been this few intercountry adoptions, in the U.S., since 1973.

Let me quote from a past blog I wrote on March 23rd, “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.”

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 a 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.”

There are American parents struggling right now to bring their children to U.S. soil. I know of one family, currently stuck in Japan, who has done everything by the book to adopt their precious daughter. In a recent update, they write:

“At this point, we feel like our family is being held hostage by our own government while they review a program that has been operating without incident for 20+ years. We are begging for your help to get her home. At no point throughout this, has the well-being of our new daughter — who is having to live in a hotel room vs a home environment — or that of our current children, been considered…not to mention the children waiting for families here in Japan.  The financial burden that this has brought upon our family is significant. In addition, we are faced with enduring the costs of a hotel, daily meals, and fees from flight changes, etc. Meanwhile, we have no idea how long this may take. Awareness needs to be brought to the actions of DOS. They are clearly not working in the best interest of any child. They’ve lost focus on the children and are so focused on regulations, policies etc., to prevent child trafficking (which we are in agreement to help prevent) that these exact rules and regulations also make it extremely difficult for the children of ethical adoption cases to get forever families.”

An official White House petition addressing the heartbreaking plummet in intercountry adoption was recently shared online. The intent was to ask the White House to investigate the causes of the 80%+ decline in intercountry adoptions and identify how leadership at the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues can collaborate with adopted individuals, adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and advocates to find regulatory solutions that prioritize ethics without sacrificing sustainability. The petition needed 100,000 signatures to move forward. It received some 32,000 signatures. While the petition is now closed, the conversation is not.

I am not staying quiet. I was once a child, in another country, who needed a family. I was an orphan who needed a home. I have two children adopted via intercountry adoption from Russia and Ethiopia. I have spent time in their orphanages. I have spent time in many others. There is nothing that aches quite as deeply as the heart of an orphaned child. I’ve looked into the sad eyes of young children who have begun to give up on hope. I see those eyes every time I close my own…

Who are we, as a country, if we turn our backs on orphans? Is the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues working to wear the adoption community down so that we go away? It won’t work!

It is my goal to see that we find a path to safe, transparent, cooperative, and ethical intercountry adoptions. It is my goal to see that we prevent child trafficking while ensuring that waiting children have the opportunity to find their forever families. It is my goal that we work toward sustainability in family building via intercountry adoption.

Please help me by contacting those who represent you in Washington D.C. Tell them that you stand for every orphaned child and that you demand attention be paid to the current decline in intercountry adoption.

No orphaned child, no family, no future should be held hostage.

Let’s tear down the borders. I believe we can.





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