Where do babies come from?

Call me stupid, but I always thought nature had an answer to the question where babies come from. This piece of consumer information from the Chicago Sunday Times tells how lucky some adoptive parents have been in the purchase of a child.

Not a single word about the children!!! Who's best interest is served here?

Countries with children available for U.S. parents can change dramatically

August 10, 2007

BY KEVIN NANCE knance@suntimes.com

When Chicago lawyer Catherine Nelson adopted her daughter, Grace, from an orphanage in Vietnam, she considered herself very lucky. Nelson was single, and many countries refuse to allow single parents to adopt.

Six years later, Nelson realizes that she was lucky in another way. In the 2001 fiscal year, Vietnam granted 737 adoption visas for children heading to new homes in the United States, and Nelson's waiting time was a modest nine months. By 2006, that number had dropped to 163.

"Vietnam is still open but bumpy," says Judy Stigger, director of international adoption at the Evanston-based agency the Cradle. "It's become much more locally regulated in the various regions of the country, and it's much more unpredictable."

The situation in Vietnam is typical of the shifting international adoption landscape, in which local conditions in various countries -- including their economies, bureaucracies, rates of domestic adoptions and ever-rising standards for prospective parents in the United States -- are in constant flux.

China still is the favorite adoption destination for American families (including those from Chicago, which Stigger says closely mirrors national trends), but it's getting more restrictive and the waiting lists are longer.

Russia has been the perennial runner-up, but the number of children it sends to the United States for adoption is dropping. Guatemala passed Russia for the second spot on the foreign adoptions list, but it may abruptly fall off the list if it fails to comply with the terms of an international treaty by next spring.

Filling out the top 10 foreign adoption destinations -- for now -- are South Korea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Liberia, Colombia and India. But the composition and order of that list are likely to change, perhaps drastically, over the next few years.

'Frustrating for everybody'

"It's just not a stable field -- in fact it's pretty rocky -- because of political situations overseas," says Deborah McFadden, president of the International Children's Alliance, a Maryland-based adoption agency with offices in several states, including Illinois. "China has been the top sending country for years, but it has now established so many new rules for prospective parents that the numbers of adoptions are inevitably going to drop."

China now requires adoptive parents from other countries to be married, for example, and to have a body mass index within a certain range. Too many divorces make you ineligible to adopt; so do being too old, having a disability or being on anti-depressants.

According to Stigger, South Korea has signaled its intention to decrease foreign adoptions, in part because of rising prosperity and domestic adoptions there. In addition, several former Communist nations in Eastern Europe that sent thousands of orphaned children to the United States in the early 1990s, such as Romania and Bulgaria, have all but dried up as adoption destinations as political and economic conditions there have stabilized.

Because of similar factors across the globe, in fact, McFadden expects foreign adoptions by Americans to drop 30 percent next year.

'Movie-star buzz' for Africa

But while American adoptions from several countries are decreasing, adoptions from Africa are on the rise. Ethiopia, for example, sent 158 adoptees to the United States in 2001; by 2006, that number was 732.

"The interest in Africa is a relatively new thing, and I think it's been partly a response to the movie-star buzz that adoption there has been getting," Stigger says, a reference to the much-publicized adoptions of African children by Madonna and Angelina Jolie.

In addition, she says, there are signs that more American families are willing to adopt children of races and ethnicities other than their own. "As the white mom of African-American kids," Stigger adds, "I think that's fabulous."

That was certainly the case with Nelson, who tells friends that she adopted in Vietnam "because that's where my daughter was."

It was also the case with Molly and Todd Krause of Northbrook, who adopted two young children from South Korea early this decade.

"At the time, Korea was moving the process along pretty quickly," recalls Todd Krause, an accountant. "It was a nine-month process both times, almost like a natural pregnancy."

Since then, the number of children adopted from South Korea by Americans has fallen from almost 1,800 to 1,376 and is likely to go lower with every passing year. Like Nelson, the Krauses were luckier than they knew.

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Nine Month Waiting Time?

Wow!   Now that's fast! Even a full-term pregnancy is forty weeks!

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