The Status of International Adoptions

By Stanton Phillips

International adoptions have changed the makeup of American families. When you walked into a classroom a generation ago, the children you observed probably looked like their parents. Today, our families are more culturally diverse as a result of international adoptions.

Just how many children have been adopted? The U.S. Department of State reports that it granted 249,694 adoption visas from October 1, 1998 to September 30, 2013. In the 2014 fiscal year (October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014), there were a total of 6,441 children who entered the United States on an adoption visa.

Last year’s drop to 6,441 children is a dramatic decrease from our peak of 22,991 children adopted internationally in 2004. This drop of more than 70% put us back to the numbers of foreign placements prior to the surge after the collapse of the Soviet Union and, in fact, the lowest number of children placed into the U.S. since 1982.

Although no country wants to be known as an exporter of children, the dramatic constriction is not the result of a single factor but the reasons vary country to country. Four countries that have been amongst the most prolific in placing have either stopped placements or dramatically cut back.

For example, Russia who in some years placed over 5,000 children, stopped all adoption because of tensions between our countries. Guatemala, who was the top placing country into the U.S. in 2008 with 4,123 children, virtually stopped almost all placements in the U.S. because it failed to establish the infrastructure necessary to comply with the Hague Convention on International Adoption. South Korea received unfavorable publicity on its adoption program when it hosted the 1988 Olympics and dramatically curtailed its program. China was afraid of a similar publicity backlash and began to curtail its adoption programs prior to the 2008 Olympics.

Can your clients still adopt internationally? The answer is yes, but the availability of younger children has greatly diminished as well as the diversity. Below is a list of the top 15 countries for the period from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014 based upon the State Department data on the issuance of visas. The top 5 countries involved 64% of all adoption visas and the top 15 countries accounted for 87% of adoption visas.

1. China 2040
2. Ethiopia 716
3. Ukraine 521
4. Haiti 464
5. South Korea 370
6. Congo 230
7. Uganda 201
8. Bulgaria 183
9. Colombia 172
10. Philippines 172
11. India 136
12. Nigeria 130
13. Ghana 124
14. Latvia 80
15. Taiwan 69

The most important advice you can give your clients is to work with an adoption agency with a strong program in their country of interest. Usually it is more advantageous for the clients to work with a local adoption agency who can handle their home study and where the adopters can deal with the agency on a face-to-face basis. Our Virginia agencies are well supervised by licensing while other states may not have the same level of scrutiny.

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