International Adoption Trends…And Serious Efforts to Change Them

Our friends at JCICS today shared an internal report on trends in international adoption.  It confirms the continued impacts of a deeply-flawed inter-country adoption system globally.  From 2004 to 2010, the number of such adoptions to the U.S have dropped by 51%, and will likely decrease further this year.

It is as ironic as it is sad that as more and more Americans stand willing to adopt orphans, their ability to do so grows more and more constricted.   As explored in a prior blog post, there are silver linings in this reality.  But the tragic reality is that countless children are growing up on the streets and in institutions because of governmental policies that constrict adoption.

One very serious effort to reverse these trends, however, is the recently-launched Both Ends Burning.  Although tackling deeply complicated issues related to inter-country adoption, the ultimately goal of the campaign is simple:  to enable more orphans to end up in caring families.  The campaign will highlight not just the brokenness of the current system, but the positive message that it can be improved.  Both Ends Burning intends to pair a serious public awareness campaign to put encourage reform with an equally serious effort to help foreign governments adopt best practices for both in-country and inter-country adoption systems.

The campaign’s upcoming “Step Forward for Orphans March” will spotlight the need to address the serious problems in the inter-country adoption system, which ultimately hurt children and discourage adoption.  The march is intended to make a positive statement, building public awareness that the current system can be significantly improved.  See the invitation video to the March and more information on Both Ends Burning.

  • Steve

    Thank you once again, Jedd. Christian Alliance for Orphans is such a positive influence for right minded thinking and acting on behalf of these precious, needy children. Both this and the February post you have linked point out the frustration of all of us who desire that each child in need finds a forever family. The irony is that the officials who are against international adoptions have been handed ammunition for their attacks by the very people who advocate FOR international adoptions.

    I am a bloodied veteran of the problems in Guatemala, and often was considered an opponent to JCICS. But last September, I had the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with Tom Difilipo at the first Inter-country adoption summit hosted by Waterloo University, in Ontario, Canada. Again and again, we heard PHD’s rant about the trauma inherent in moving a child to a different culture and family. In the best case scenario, an adoption is traumatic for the child. But we tried to express that when it is the alternative to abandonment, or abuse, that trauma is a manageable problem, well worth the positive aspects of the child’s redeemed life. Our mantra at the discussions was ” In a perfect world, there would be no Inter-country adoptions” In that perfect world, all children would be raised in loving biological families, who cherished and loved them. But in this sadly broken world, we need to have adoptions as a viable option for the world’s needy children.

    Sadly, that line of reasoning is sabotaged by what occurred in Guatemala in that last years of international adoptions. Instead of the purpose being to find safe families for needy children, it degenerated into an increasingly problematic search for children to satisfy American couple’s desires for beautiful healthy babies. There were many couples who I am sure only wanted to reflect the love of our heavenly father by providing a home for an orphan child. But they were among the others, who were extremely selfish in their desire to have a child of their own. The fact that altruistic parents to be were competing with people of less honorable motives was not lost on the adoption brokers in Guatemala, and along with the rising numbers of international adoptions form 1994 to 2004, the costs of adoptions rose. These riding prices did not reflect actual costs of paper processing, but rather, market pressures; or to put it more crassly, supply and demand. The people of good will were forced to pay exorbitant prices to “do God’s will”. Many Guatemalan’s would trump my explanation that many adoptive parents only wanted to give a better life to a child by asking; ” If their intention is to help a needy child, why do they pay so much?”

    I think it is time to address the elephant in the living room. Money breeds corruption. Why can’t we members of the Christian Alliance for Orphans come together to make this holy creation of a life long relationship safe from market pressures? I believe if Churches would come into the process, and make a good adoption a truly sacramental function, where the parents pay only the actual logistical costs, we could redeem international adoptions. As long as people, even under the guise of “Non-profit” make large sums of money through these transactions, we will not clean up the reputation, and Unicef will continue to hold the m oral high ground on International adoptions.

    Steve Osborn
    Love the Child

  • Soccernorsk

    Hi, as a long term worker serving in China as a pediatrician and involved in international adoption medical work prior to that in the US, I have been watching these trends as well. It is important that we realize that however wonderful international adoption is (and it is a great gift for a child), the vast majority of children around the world will never have that option, even if the number of adoptions go up by 1000% a year. I am convinced that as a Christian who has a passion for justice for orphans and vulnerable children, that the most plausible solution lies in collaborating, partnering, indeed allowing the Body of Christ in a given country rally around their country’s children. As a foreigner I see my role as giving the local believers a passion and a vision for caring for orphans, ideally in the context of fostering or active involvement in institutions if fostering is not currently an option. Christians of every nation can rally around these little ones and provide local communities that offer emotional, spiritual and financial support. Governments are slow to change systems on their own, but grass roots initiatives in local communities can spread like wildfire. I know of one region in China where several orphanages are empty because believers in the city have been housing every single child that becomes abandoned. I think we must rethink our efforts to increase foreign adoptions in an increasingly adverse climate (which will take a long time and ultimately never allow the children who most need it to take advantage of this gift) to more large scale solutions that have the possibility of impacting a larger percentage of a nation’s population of children.

  • Steve

    Soccernorsk;
    Your point is very well spoken, and certainly valuable. The point of the post, though, was that portion of the entire response to the needs of orphans (however small it is significant) that involves inter-country adoption. Unless you are saying that there should be NO ICA, then your points are right on, and part of the holistic response believers should be engaged in. But there will always be a place for inter country adoptions, until the world becomes that perfect place.

    You also reminded me of the good things that are happening on the local level. Exactly on point! And…the good news is…The themes you mention are being addressed by many of the member organizations of the Alliance. A look at the blogs of the blog roll just to the left of these comments will acquaint you with member organizations that are doing exactly what you have advocated.

    Unless we see the local church as God’s plan for the redemption of the world, we risk superseding our Lord’s Plan A. We speak here of the local church in Guatemala as a sleeping giant, as it is very large, as a percentage of the population, yet very small, as a significant influence on the society. Our job as missionaries very much involves teaching and training the local believers in these very important areas of what really matters to our Lord and Savior. Yet we are encouraged as we see glimpses of churches opening their arms and hearts to respond to the needs of Orphans. And as far as a way to really focus on what will help orphans in a holistic manner, our best ever First Lady put it this way: ” In Guatemala, every Orphan has a mother”. This brings to focus the very thing James said. It is not that we minister to widows OR orphans in their distress, but widows AND orphans.

    Wouldn’t it be incredible if we helped local churches focus on the needs of the 60% of households here that are single mom led entities? This means having a program like “Safe Families” to give a short break to allow an overwhelmed mom to regain her focus. And to have the programs that Orphan Outreach is helping with in education and Day Care. And then true Church based foster care when needed like what Bethany and World Orphans do. We also need Vision trust’s holistic approach to orphans. Then there is the sad portion of the orphan population at risk of being trafficked, to whom Children’s Hope Chest is ministering. In other words, I think your well spoken challenge is exactly what I see happening in the Alliance. There is so much work to be done! We are not there yet, but the shift that has occurred in the name of the orphan in the last 6 – 7 years is an encouraging counterpoint to this post about adoptions troubles.

  • Gerald

    For many years I have had a sense that inter-country adoption would become difficult to impossible, and that’s why we have been focusing on passing the baton to churches in countries around the world, challenging them to take up the cause of orphans and to adopt the orphan children in their own country and culture.

    We have been blessed and truly amazed at the large number of families in developing countries who already want to adopt, and even more amazed when we observe what happens in churches in those countries when they begin practicing the pure and undefiled religion of ministry to widows and orphans in their own communities. In our experience with these churches, attendance has increased dramatically. We are seeing children being adopted like never before in Uganda, India and the Philippines. God is always able to bring beauty for ashes, regardless of the world’s circumstances.

    Let’s do all we can to revive inter-country adoption, but we need to do a whole lot more to spawn ministry to widows and orphans in churches around the world. I heard recently that adoption represents less than 1% of Christian orphan ministry investment We have a long way to go.

    If the families in churches around the world whom God has already called to adopt were empowered to do so, I believe there would be a serious shortage of children available for inter country adoption.

    Gerald Clark
    Home For Good Foundation