143 million orphans and the adoption agenda

For years adoption advocates and adoption agencies have used the claim that there are 143 million orphans in the world, based upon an estimate made by Unicef, to further the agenda of inter-country adoption.

Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS). a trade association of adoption service providers, claims: Deprived of a basic of human right, these unknown children are denied the nurturing needed to thrive as children and later as members of our global society.

Loving Shepherd Ministries, a Christian adoption advocacy organization speaks of an orphan crises and says on its website: Over 143 million orphans live in the world today, many of them struggling to survive in the worst of conditions.

Bethany Christian Services, the largest adoption agency in the US, makes the following statement: There are 143 million orphans in the world. Orphaned, abandoned, abused, they live in orphanages and foster care waiting and praying for a family of their own.

Adoption Associates, Inc., a Michigan based adoption agency, states: For the 143 million orphaned children in the world, financial gifts from supporters like you are one of their only sources of hope. These children face bleak futures in their birth countries, and while many hope to be adopted, most will never see their dream come true.

We could list many more references of adoption organizations, making more or less the same point. Suffice it to say, there are 277,000 pages on the internet referring to 143 million orphans, 120,000 of which also mention adoption. Many of these pages belong to websites propagating the orphan crusade started by the Christian Alliance for Orphans.

The figure of 143 million, comes from the report Children on the Brink, which Unicef published in 2004. To reach this number, Unicef used a very broad definition of the word orphan: a child who has lost one or both parents through death. While it is sad so many children lost one or both parents, it doesn't warrant the claim these children actually go without parental care. Ironically, if children that have one living parent, get adopted abroad by a single parents, they suddenly don't count as orphans anymore, while they move from a single parent household to another.

The use of the number 143 million by adoption organization is disingenuous, and they know it. Alexandria Yuster, senior adviser with UNICEF made the following statement: “It’s not really true that there are large numbers of infants with no homes who either will be in institutions or who need intercountry adoption”.

The overinflated number is deliberately used to create a sense of urgency to promote the adoption of as many children as possible. By using a very large number, the perception is created that there is a crisis that needs immediate action.

There are even larger numbers than 143 million. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2002 there were 161 million visually impaired people in the world. Does this figure mean there is a vision crisis in the world that needs immediate addressing? Of course not, many visually impaired people receive the help and tools they need. The fact their vision is impaired is sad, but it doesn't mean all visually impaired people need to be saved from impending doom. The same is true for orphans.

While there is certainly need for help, most children declared orphan by the Unicef definition, are being taken care of, either by a surviving parent, by extended family, foster care or in orphanages. The latter solution has received a lot of negative press over the last 20 years, especially after the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. The imagery of Romanian orphanages has created a perception of residential care in a most gloomy light. Adoption proponents never cease to speak of children languishing in orphanages. Yet that doesn't seem to be a reality for all children living in orphanages in Third World countries.

Scientific American published an article this week under the title Orphanages Rival Foster Homes for Quality Child Care, which refutes the stereotype that children fail to thrive in orphanages, and in fact receive care just as good as they would in foster care or through adoption. The research leading to this result has, for a change, not taken place in Eastern Europe, but in countries like Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Tanzania.

The question can be asked, where is the urgency for inter-country adoption when children receive proper care?

The urgency has everything to do with dwindling numbers of adoptions from abroad. In 2004, the US imported 22,884 children through adoption, while in 2009 that number has dropped to 12,753. A drop of 10,000 children compared to five years ago, means a drop of more than 200 million dollars in income for the adoption industry. The Joint Council on International Children's services (JCICS) even estimates the number of inter-country adoptions to drop under 10,000 next year. The trade association itself is nearly bankrupt and so are many of its members.

To curb the trend of plunging numbers of adoptions, JCICS and its colleagues of the Families for Orphans Coalition have written a piece of legislation, which was introduced in congress as the Orphans for Agencies Act Families for Orphans Act 2009, in July of this year.

The Orphans for Agencies Act Families for Orphans Act 2009 also uses the 143 million orphans language to reach the conclusion that the US needs to effectively bribe Third World countries into sending children to the US for adoption, by making assistance, including trade and debt relief, dependent upon the availability of children for adoption.

The proposed legislation is a transparent attempt to increase adoption business, using the incestuous relation between the adoption industry and congress as we reported about in The Families for Orphans Act 2009 and the inter-country adoption agenda.

The Orphans for Agencies Act Families for Orphans Act 2009 is good for the adoption business, but it does very little for the 143 million orphans they claim exist. The permanency agenda set doesn't do anything for the vast majority of orphans. It  pushes for the adoption of children, but fails to recognize adoption is not a solution for most children, because there is no demand for most of the children.

Of the 143 million orphans, 55 percent are between age 12 and 17, 33 percent are between age 6 and 11, and only 12 percent are under age 6. Inter-country adoption shows the mirror image of that. 46 percent of the children adopted are under a year; 43 percent is between age 1 and 4 years, 8 percent is between age 5 and 9, while only 3 percent is 9 years of age or older.

Adoption is not going to do anything for the vast majority of orphans older than five. Most people want to adopt infant, older children are simply not in demand. So the Orphans for Agencies Act Families for Orphans Act 2009, while good for business, is set out to neglect almost 90 percent of the children it aims to help.

Average: 7 (1 vote)

If there are SO MANY orphans in the World...............

Then why do International Adoption Agencies create MORE orphans to supply the hungry appetite of a desperate couple willing to pay upwards of $35,000+ for healthy babies?
We have agencies like Focus on Children that go to obscure countries like Samoa, Latvia, Kryzgstan, etc., rounding up children(social orphans) that are usually living below poverty means. Throw around some money and relinquishment papers and voila' there is more paper-ready children (inventory) available. Many of these countries are so backward or poor they don't have an adoption system in place. Anyone remember the obscure country of Malawi? How a certain well known singer was able to negiotate with the country's officials for a few million bucks the adoption of a boy and girl?
Hell, if this doesn't work and the country or agency gets closed down Adoption Agencies can get more creative with inventory. How about a baby mill? If we cannot pay a few poor women in the Ukraine or Guatemala to become pregnant and relinquish the child for $150.00 (lot of money to these women) we will start a International Surrogacy Program so wealthy Americans can rent the womb of some poor Indian, Ukrainian or Guatemalan woman.
No orphans available overseas with relinquished paperwork? No problem we will manufacture or pay to find more inventory! Surely a few poor countries have adoption officials willing to turn their cheek for a few thousand dollars?
If the above doesn't work lets start an Adoption Ministry for Special Needs children. From small correctable problems like clef palate, vision or hearing disorder, etc., to major lifetime of health issues: HIV, Down Syndrome, spina Bfida and more. The USCIS are suckers for children with health problems, they will let you squeak through in half the amount of time because of the "medical necessity" and the agency still gets top dollar of $26,000
What will the next marketing ploy of Adoption Agencies be? More photos of children eating out of garbage cans? Limbs missing? Sad stories of abuse and the government's indifference? Save the child, they will be institutionalized!
This is pathetic behavior at a time when more American children are being relinquished and many more slipping to a below poverty status. Yet we have Canadians and people from the Netherlands willing to adopt the American Children our own citizens would rather travel some 3,000 miles to adopt in some obscure exotic country because they have been brainwashed that they are "helping" to "save" a child. Or should that read "helping" to "save" a adoption agency from bankruptcy? If you want to help "save" a child you have no further to look than your own community. www.adoptuskids.org

A blog/website dedicated to HIV+ orphans

photos and list of orphanages in the world with HIV+ children. The care of these poor children will bankrupt a family. How are they cleared to travel on an orphan Visa? We had to be checked and re checked just for TB.

numberous HIV+ adoption websites

Adopting an HIV+ child is a new marketing ploy by agencies. Project Hopeful is another group.

It's actually numerous, not

It's actually numerous, not numberous. Would you mind expanding on this statement that "adopting an HIV+ child is a new marketing ploy by agencies"? I don't see any facts to back up your opinion. The non-profit group that you mention in neither an adoption agency, nor does it do any marketing. Perhaps you should consider doing some research before making erroneous statements. People advocating for orphans with HIV have one goal in common - saving the life of a child that would otherwise be lost, which has absolutely nothing to do with making money. It's about saving lives, people. Not everyone is shallow - some people actually care and DO something about the problems going on in the World. Others just complain...

The families adopting

The families adopting orphans with HIV are not going bankrupt. They have excellent health-care coverage. They also have no problem immigrating to the US and there is no longer a visa waiver. Thanks for your concern for those less fortunate than yourself.

care for poor children

I can appreciate the fact that care for a child with HIV, or any other medical condition or disease, can bankrupt a family. Today's financial climate and rates of unemployment prove only the rich can afford to get sick. But does not being able to pay for medical care justify the permanent removal of parental rights?

It's one thing to offer humanitarian kindness to those who need it most, it's another thing to force a parent to relinquish all rights to a child, just so decent care can be given.


Excellent piece, as always.

You are so right that the numbers are inflated because those who profit from the redistribution of children are afraid of losing their income stream as numbers dwindle!

Always follow the money to get to the truth. The false statistics are used by lobbyists for adoption practitioners and agencies.

The truth is told by child welfare advocates with nothing to gain, such as UNICEF

Trouble is, that just like the gun lobbyists who have steadfastly fought a ban on automatic weapons - lobbyists are winning!

PS The captcha on here is really difficult! I'm on my 5th try!


In the south Asian countries, the number of orphan children is more. Most of the children with no parents, are street children and scavengers. The proper data about them is no collected by the States. There are orphanages also for these orphans. But most of them are profit oriented, it just seems they are just formed for collecting(aids) money from foreign donors, government and other organizations. There is no proper monitoring of these orphanages and institutions. Sometimes, it is got to hear in news that these orphans adopted by the foreigners and taken to foreign esp. West, are abused and physically and mentally tortured. So, the condition of these orhans aare quite critical in South Asia.


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Orphan-appeal and manufactured numbers

I was reading an article that helps explain why a PAP would rather adopt a foreign 'orphan', as opposed to your regular run-of-the-mill 'adoptable child'.  It seems 1) adoptable children and orphans are two separate categories in terms of immigration and citizenship and 2)  waiting time, residency requirements, and mandatory minimums (paper-work) dictate what sells through an international adoption agency.

Before a parent can petition for an adopted child, the parent must have had legal and actual custody of the child for two years. I've had clients willing to move abroad for two years just to bring an adopted child here.

If adopting the child abroad and meeting the actual custody requirement is impossible, you would need to petition for the child as an orphan. You would have to file the petition before the child turns 16, but the two-year actual custody rule doesn't apply.

Only a U.S. citizen who is married or is at least 25 years old can petition for an orphan. Immigration law defines an orphan as a child whose parents are deceased or are unwilling or incapable of caring for the child. Unless the child has been abandoned, the parent or parents must irrevocably give the child up for adoption.

[From: Allan Wernick, Adoption difficult for citizenship if child's not orphan, December 30, 2010 ]

In order to receive US Citizenship and Immigration Services approval, the PAPs need to have a home study done and a state child-abuse clearance, before filing USCIS form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.  This form, BTW, has a fee.  $750 for first-timers, but free if filing is based upon an approved I-600A filed within the past 18 months.  [Gotta love straight-forward government-issues paper-work...].

Without this approved I-600, the 'adoptable orphan' cannot enter the US and become a legal US citizen.

Given the choice, between 'adoptable child' and 'orphan', let's do the math, and determine which is easier for the anxious and desperate PAP.  Live abroad for two years, meeting all custody requirements, OR provide the required documents that confirm/prove the PAP makes a suitable parent, and the child found in an orphanage is in 'fact', an orphan, ready for adoption.  Thank God we have so many international adoption agencies specializing in the very services PAP's need... why the paper-work alone can be so overwhelming!  Now, if only those working to make an adoption-plan come true, can actually be trusted.  Yes, if only falsified documents and incomplete home-studies were not a real problem.... if only infants/young children were not being coerced, stolen or kidnapped from living parents to meet PAP demands... if only there weren't so many profiting from foreign child-trade... if only there were not so many 'If only's' in Adoptionland!!!!!!

Nevertheless, adoption advocates want more and more people to look at the plight of the millions of poor orphans living in poor orphanages, around the world.  Looks to me 'orphans' make the better choice for the pay-for-the-service PAP with limited funds, with a wish for a speedy delivery.... like the time it takes for a natural gestation.  And with 143 million orphans out-there, the supply seems almost unlimited.  No wonder the plea for orphans and more adoption petitions are good for so many!

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