I’ve been around for awhile in this world of adoption. I started working in international adoption in August 2004, not really knowing a lot more than what I had researched a bit for papers in graduate school. But somehow I knew this would be it. This would be what I would devote my life to, no matter what. Easier said than done. 2004 was the year for international adoption. The US Department of State reports that in 2004, the year I devoted my life to international adoption, the good people of the United States adopted 22,991 children from other countries into their homes and families. Since then, international adoption only has seemingly become more and more commonplace and popular, (for lack of a better term.) Since then, we’ve had more and more families adopting children internationally without fertility problems. Since then, we’ve had more and more dad’s going in for vasectomy’s and mom’s going in to get their tubes tied, only with the intention of continuing to build their families. Since then, we’ve had the couple struggling with infertility decide that maybe they do want to adopt a special needs five-year-old. Since then, we’ve had less people run into a transracial adoptive family at the mall and not wonder if the mom was really the babysitter. Since then, cities like Liberty, Missouri have become the epicenter for acceptance and support in adoption, hosting adoptive family support groups at megachurches, further normalizing what we’re doing. 2004 was it, the boom year. I look back on it with nostalgia and I can still call up those same feelings of excitement. And that year my friends, was the beginning of the end.
It’s such a paradox really. The boom year for international adoption, the year that we opened doors that had never before been opened, that was also the year that began the steady, and then more drastic decline in international adoption numbers. According to the US Department of State, 2005 brought 22,734 children to the United States from abroad (not too bad), and then 20,680 in 2006, 12,744 in 2009, and 8,668 last year. Those are the numbers. I wish I was being all dramatic about it to make it seem worse, but I can’t. Just printing those numbers, straight from the government, are dramatic enough. 2004 = 22,991 children. 2012 = 8,668 children.
*Chart courtesy of Heather Williams - the graphic genius!
And if for one second you think that the economic crisis of 2008, the push for domestic adoption in some of these countries, the desire to keep one gender or the other for future marriage candidates to balance out some whack gender gap (I think we all know what I’m talking about here) or foreign governments abilities to care better for their own children have one thing to do with this drastic decline, you are sorely mistaken.
The byline here in this Huffington Post article talks about the Hague Convention aiming to curb unsavory and corrupt international adoption processes which has resulted in falling numbers of children being adopted internationally. No matter what, (Susan Jacobs fan or not), I don’t think anyone’s goal was to implement the Hague and then have the fallout that we have had. I agree that Guatemala and Vietnam needed to be rehabbed. That’s a total understatement. So they signed onto the Hague fiesta and look at them now…still closed to the US. I pray that for every 1 US family who planned to adopt from Vietnam or Guatemala, there are 5 German or Australian families actually doing it today. I don’t even want to even think about what those orphanages would look like right now if not.
So we’ve got the Hague, its not going as we all thought it would (again, no matter what you think about it), and then we’ve got all the other countries who are not participating in the Hague (which is fine) and clearly corruption is happening there too. Oh, it’s not as overt as Guatemala circa 2001, but a few dollars here and there to move a child from an orphanage to a transition home, a request for a few more humanitarian aid dollars, requests for cash gifts to be given to the in-country staff, and no Hague to stop this, so its all good. And we are all going through the same old embassy interviews, answering the questions with the facts we have, praying that we will be able to tell our 8 or 12 or 14 or 30-year-old someday that we are 100% certain he/she was a true orphan and there were absolutely no options for that child to stay in his/her native country with an extended family member or kind neighbor.
Then, I’ve got my sweet, sweet northland family who, back in the day, didn’t feel called to a domestic adoption because they didn’t feel they could deal with the heartache of the “what if?” in a failed adoption. So they planned to adopt from Russia. Adoption agency #1 closed their program down just before their dossier was submitted because they saw the writing on the wall. Adoption agency #2 took their dossier and promptly closed down. Adoption agency #3 actually served them, got them a darling referral, and got them on a plane to Russia on December 26, 2012. They met their little guy on December 27, fell in love, and left on January 3, 2013 knowing that they probably would never come back for this little man. They rejoiced for him the other day when they found out that little Sergei will be speaking Spanish rather than English, but are glad that he will have a forever family. Sweet people, loving people, blessed by a cutie biological son, still want to adopt. And what to do? They can’t imagine a life without adopted children but to say they are a little gun shy to jump back on that horse is an understatement. (needless to say, we’re revisiting our domestic adoption talks!)
My, my lands, there are so many layers to this. Hague convention practices preventing us from adopting in the droves we used to, corruption in all countries, hanging onto certain kiddos because they are going to “need” them, failed adoptions, countries closing, never to reopen…I could go on, couldn’t I? So it’s not easy, I think we all know that by now.
And there are those of us who say pish-posh to this factual information, throw caution to the wind, buy a can of paint, and get to working on our kiddos bedroom, holding our breaths until we’re wheels down and hoping we can add just one more to the 2014 US Department of State statistics. And, if all that happens, we have only just made it to the tip of the iceberg.
Real. True. Commitment. Unwavering. Faith.