Transnational adoptions have been an American tradition since World War II. Between 1948 and 1969, at least 50,000 orphans from abroad were brought to live with parents in the United States. When China and Russia opened up to the rest of the world in the 1990s, the numbers skyrocketed. By 2004, international adoptions worldwide hit an all-time high of 45,299 over the course of the year. The majority of those children ended up in the United States.
Since then, international adoptions have seen a sharp decline, despite high-profile adoptive celebrity parents like Madonna and Angelina Jolie. In fact, last year only 23,626 international adoptions were recorded by the U.S. State Department. Why? Well, it’s certainly not because there are fewer orphans worldwide needing homes, and it’s not because there aren’t willing parents looking for children.
The main reason international adoptions are plummeting is because many countries have made it increasingly difficult for foreign parents to adopt — some, like Russia, have banned Americans from adopting entirely, while others, including China, have simply put very strict regulations into place which rule out many adoptive families. Vietnam, Ethiopia and Guatemala have all cracked down on U.S. adoptions in response to allegations of corruption and, in some cases, families being tricked or coerced into giving up their children.
While it might sting a little for American parents who believe they can truly provide a wonderful home for a child in need, when you do a little research on transnational adoption, it’s not difficult to see why other nations are becoming increasingly wary. A recent investigation by Reuters has found that hundreds of children adopted internationally have been offered up for “rehoming” on internet discussion groups after failing to bond with their new parents.
There are no official numbers on how frequently international adoptions fail, but some estimate that more than 24,000 children since 1990 have been given up by their adoptive parents — some of them signed over to new legal guardians without any government oversight. Often, these children end up in situations which are physically or sexually abusive. In one highly-publicized case from 2010, an American parent “returned” her adopted 7-year-old to Russia by putting him alone on a flight back to Moscow, accompanied by a typed letter explaining that she no longer wanted him.
So is the solution to these cases to cut off international adoptions completely? In its expose, Reuters explains that many adoptive parents aren’t trained to deal with the potential emotional and behavioral issues that can come along with adopting older children — and aren’t sure where to look for help. Maybe the answer is as simple as providing better education and resources for parents who adopt children from foreign countries, combined with stricter screening measures like those in China. Until those measures are put into place, it’s easy to understand why other countries might continue to be uncertain about sending their orphans to the United States.
Photo credit: Thinkstock