Discrepancies in intercountry adoption statistics

Almost two years ago we started compiling intercountry adoption statistics to present on our country pages. At the time we had hoped it would be as simple as going to the websites of the various central authorities and download a spread sheet with data, but it ended up to be much more difficult than that.

The website of the Hague Convention was our initial starting point, since they list all the Central Authorities and even have their own section with statistics. Unfortunately these statistics have not been updated since 2005. Statistics are being obtained by the Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the 1993 Intercountry Adoption Convention, which only comes together every four years. On such occasions many countries are not able to present statistics from the most recent two years, so the statistics of the Hague convention usually lag between two and six years.

Fortunately most receiving countries have a website listing more recent statistics than the website of the Hague Convention, so we were able to create a reasonably recent overview of adoption statistic, albeit with certain hiatuses. We tried to fill in those gaps by using statistics of the sending countries when we realized there is no correspondence between the figures of the sending countries and the receiving countries.

Some examples:

  • In 2001 Belgium claims to have received 4 children from Ecuador, while Ecuador claims to have sent 10 children to Belgium.
  • In 2001 Italy claims to have received 145 children from India, while India claims the have sent 81 children to Italy.
  • In 2003 Switzerland claims to have received 5 children from Ecuador, while Ecuador claims have sent no children to Switzerland that year.
  • In 2004 France claims to have received 72 children from Guatemala, while Guatemala claims to have sent 50 children to France.
  • In 2001 the USA claims to have received 543 children from India, while India claims to have sent 341 children to the USA.

A more complete overview of discrepancies can be found here.

Some of those differences arise because different countries have different definitions for a year. Many countries count a year from January 1 to December 31, while for example the USA uses fiscal years which run from October 1 to September 30. Still that doesn't explain a difference of more than 200 between the figures of the USA and those of India.

Last night we started updating the adoption statistics of the USA. We had not added the available statistics for the last two years, so it was about time to do so. We had hoped it would be as simple as adding two columns, one for 2007 and one for 2008, but to our amazement, all figures had been changed.

All of a sudden the USA had not adopted 7044 children from China in 2004, but 7038. All of sudden 777 were adopted from Romania in 2001 as opposed to the earlier stated 782. All of a sudden 265 children were adopted from Colombia in 2001 instead of 407.

Most of the differences were in the range of 1 to 5, but in almost all cases the figures presented now are different from the figures presented in the past.

To our amazement there were even more discrepancies on the State Departments website. In a document called Fiscal Year Adoption Statistics, presenting adoption statistics for the year 2008, different figures are given than on the various country pages the State Departments website maintains. For example the page about China says the USA adopted 3911 children, while the Fiscal Year report mentions 3909 children adopted from China. The page about Russia says the USA adopted 1857 children, while the Fiscal Year report mentions 1861 children adopted from Russia.

Again almost all figures are different between the two sources.

The Unites States is not alone in reporting different figures from one source to the other. In the Netherlands a report was published Statistische gegevens betreffende de opneming in gezinnen in Nederland van buitenlandse adoptiekinderen in de jaren 2001-2005, which presents adoption statistics for the years 2001 to 2005, with data supplied by the Ministry of Justice, while the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) also compiles these statistics.

Again we see discrepancies, according to the Dutch report 72 children were adopted from Ethiopia in 2005, while the figures of CBS speak of 52 children. The report mentions 666 children adopted from China in 2005, while the CBS figure is 805.

Overall there are large differences between these two sources and again matching figures are a rare exception.

Given the fact that these two countries cannot even decide upon the number of children entering their county for adoption, it's not surprising we see vast discrepancies when we start to compare the figures between sending and receiving countries.

With all the discrepancies between figures how can we ever have a proper system of intercountry adoption? Every company that cannot properly keep their books will be put out of business. Yet for intercountry adoption we accept lower standards. If the intercountry adoption system is not capable of counting, how can we ever trust them with the much more complicated task of taking care of children?

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How do they count in Norway?

Today we updated the adoption statistics of Norway and encountered other discrepancies.

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs maintains a table of adoptions processed by the three adoption agencies active in Norway. When totalling the adoption figures we get the following table.

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

China

126

216

310

298

308

299

176

156

Colombia

105

117

133

111

120

72

91

84

South Korea

128

125

106

81

87

79

59

44

Etiopia

46

50

40

46

47

36

27

33

India

41

48

29

33

26

16

21

16

Filippinene

25

38

16

28

22

11

11

13

Thailand

26

22

23

13

23

17

11

13

Brasil

14

16

23

28

16

8

6

15

Hungary

19

18

17

12

13

9

9

13

Russian Fedration

18

19

8

22

10

1

5

1

Chile

9

13

12

10

7

4

7

4

South Afrika

 

 

 

2

5

14

9

16

Peru

3

5

4

4

5

5

4

6

Nepal

5

3

3

6

5

4

4

2

Sri Lanka

2

3

3

4

3

3

3

2

Polen

4

4

7

5

4

1

 

 

Guatemala

8

6

8

3

 

 

 

 

Bolivia

6

1

 

 

2

 

3

6

Ecuador

 

6

3

4

2

 

 

 

Latvia

1

3

2

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romania

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

589

713

747

710

705

579

446

424

Statistics Norway also maintains the number of children adopted internationally, which results in the following table: 
 

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

China

138

208

314

280

269

326

165

145

Colombia

106

118

129

103

86

113

85

82

South Korea

136

125

106

69

93

82

63

44

Etiopia

59

46

40

40

47

39

26

31

India

49

40

37

28

27

23

17

17

Filippinene

27

31

40

17

33

21

15

14

Thailand

17

34

19

16

31

24

21

10

Brasil

16

16

24

27

11

16

5

13

Hungary

23

19

18

9

10

15

9

13

Russian Fedration

22

22

10

23

12

5

 

 

Chile

9

13

12

10

4

9

 

 

South Afrika

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

16

Peru

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

6

Nepal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sri Lanka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polen

4

4

11

6

4

 

 

 

Guatemala

9

5

7

5

 

 

 

 

Bolivia

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

6

Ecuador

 

6

3

5

 

 

 

 

Latvia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

other

26

24

24

26

40

49

19

20

Total

641

711

794

664

667

722

438

417

Comparing these two tables we get the following differences:
 

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

China

12

-8

4

-18

-39

27

-11

-11

Colombia

1

1

-4

-8

-34

41

-6

-2

South Korea

8

0

0

-12

6

3

4

0

Etiopia

13

-4

0

-6

0

3

-1

-2

India

8

-8

8

-5

1

7

-4

1

Filippinene

2

-7

24

-11

11

10

4

1

Thailand

-9

12

-4

3

8

7

10

-3

Brasil

2

0

1

-1

-5

8

-1

-2

Hungary

4

1

1

-3

-3

6

0

0

Russian Fedration

4

3

2

1

2

4

-5

-1

Chile

0

0

0

0

-3

5

-7

-4

South Afrika

0

0

0

-2

-5

-14

-1

0

Peru

-3

-5

-4

-4

-5

-5

-2

0

Nepal

-5

-3

-3

-6

-5

-4

-4

-2

Sri Lanka

-2

-3

-3

-4

-3

-3

-3

-2

Polen

0

0

4

1

0

-1

0

0

Guatemala

1

-1

-1

2

0

0

0

0

Bolivia

-6

-1

0

0

-2

0

0

0

Ecuador

0

0

0

1

-2

0

0

0

Latvia

-1

-3

-2

0

0

0

0

0

Mexico

-2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Romania

-1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

other

26

24

24

26

40

49

19

20

 

52

-2

47

-46

-38

143

-8

-7

In the above table positive numbers indicate the number of children adopted in Norway according to Norwegian Statistics is larger than the sum of the adoptions performed by the adoption agencies. This is something that could in principle be explained. Maybe there are independent adoptions, maybe Norwegians that adopted while living abroad moved back to Norway, maybe there are stepparent adoptions involved with one non-Norwegian party. Negative numbers on the other hand are not so easy to explain. How can the three adoption agencies perform more adoptions than the total number of international adoptions in Norway?

All these discrepancies in numbers makes it very difficult to get an understanding of the flow of children in intercountry adoption.

Next year the Hague Convention has another session in which the Special Commission on the Practical Operation gathers. We would like to see the following three issues on the agenda:

  1. Define inter-country adoption with sub-categories such as step-parent adoption, family adoption, adoption by unrelated people.
  2. Define a year. Some countries count from January 1 to December 31, others from October 1 to September 30, yet others from July 1 to June 30.
  3. Formalize the collection of statistics for all sending and receiving countries on a yearly basis, based upon a fixed definitions of inter-country adoption and on a fixed definition of a year.

Pound Pup Legacy