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By Rachel Grunwell
May 29, 2011 / nzherald.co.nz
It's not just stars like Madonna, Angelina Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt who adopt overseas children.
Large numbers of Kiwi parents want to do the same as the number of domestic adoptions plummets.
No single agency keeps comprehensive records of foreign children given homes in New Zealand.
But Inter-Country Adoption New Zealand (Icanz) says more than 900 have been adopted in the past 20 years.
The children are not just from perennially popular Eastern European countries such as Russia, but also Cambodia, Chile, India, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, the Philippines, Tonga, Moldova, Hong Kong and even Kazakhstan.
AUT University senior psychology lecturer Rhoda Scherman said there was "high interest" in adopting from overseas and parents just had to prepare themselves for the hurdles they must overcome to do it.
Icanz spokeswoman Wendy Hawke said some couples had to endure up to three years of bureaucracy and spend between $10,000 and $50,000 on overseas travel, hotel bills and paperwork, but she wanted to tell Kiwis it was possible to achieve their dream of becoming parents. According to Child Youth and Family, the number of domestic adoptions has fallen 40 per cent in five years.
Hawke said adoption laws in Russia, which were tightened after a mass of adoptions, were opening up again.
Two applications from Kiwi parents have been approved and she hoped they would be offered children soon.
Child Youth and Family spokeswoman Beth Nelson estimated about 200 overseas children had been given homes since 2005 but it depended how international adoptions were defined.
For example, her figures did not include the many children from Samoa who move to New Zealand to be cared for by relatives.
Internal Affairs records reveal 356 international adoptions by Kiwi citizens last year.
Scherman is set to publish groundbreaking research on inter-country adoption.
RUSSIAN ROOTS, NZ HOME
Veterinary nurse Sveta Dolgova Hawke was 6 when she was adopted by an Auckland family - but has always been aware of her Russian roots.
The 24-year-old says her parents Wendy and David Hawke were always open about her heritage.
She remembers little of being raised in an orphanage, but can recall being told "scary stories" to get her to sleep and getting a single orange for Christmas.
Sveta and Wendy have been researching her roots since she was 12. They have found her birth mother is dead, but also learned of another brother and connected with a previously unknown birth grandmother.
Sveta, who works for the SPCA in Auckland, is heading to Russia next week to stay with her grandmother and learn more about her birth country.
Wendy said it had been wonderful to help her daughter discover her history.