Earlier this year, the US Department of State published its annual statistics on inter-country adoption. Again a significant decline in the number of children adopted from abroad could be noted. The year 2012 had already been a low-water mark with 8668 inter-country adoptions. In 2013, the number went down even further, to 7094.
The latest fatality of an adoptee from Russia was all over the news the past few days. The Russian media are heavily focused on this case, while the American press mostly reprinted the same Associated Press article in all major news papers and news sites.
The case of Max Shatto (Maxim Kuzmin) raises many questions, the most prominent of which: why has the US Department of State not reacted to this case before Russian authorities did?
For months Adoptionland has been in a frenzy about Russia's decision to ban adoptions to the United States. Prior to that decision, promises were made by the US Department of State to improve monitoring of Russian adoptions. The case of Max Shatto shows once more, the US Department of State to date is not capable of properly monitoring adoptions from Russia, and any promise to do so can not be kept or guaranteed.
For the 8th consecutive year, the number of inter-country adoptions showed a decline, albeit a smaller one than the year before.
The decline of inter-country adoptions in 2012 is all the more remarkable since China, the largest exporter of adoptable children, (which corners almost one third of the market), showed a slight increase of the number of children sent to the United States.
Stuck is produced by Both Ends Burning, an organization whose goal is to expand inter-county adoption by a factor of five. Both Ends Burning is the brain child of former football player Craig Juntunen, after being ticked off by the level of red tape he met when trying to adopt himself.
It is a curious little piece, claiming to give an answer to the question why the number of inter-country adoptions over the last 8 years have dropped significantly. Unfortunately the article doesn't investigate the matter, but tries to prove a preconceived idea, that the Hague Convention, UNICEF and the policies of the Department of State are to be blamed for this decline.
The bias of the article is overwhelming, so we'd like to dissect it for our readers and put this piece into perspective. The author starts with the following:
The trend of declining numbers of inter-country adoption continued even when the 1090 children from Haiti for whom a Special Humanitarian Parole was granted are included in the statistics. In 2010, 12,149 children were adopted from abroad (11,059 excluding the children from Haiti who entered the country under the Special Humanitarian Parole). In 2009 the total number of inter-country adoptions in 2009 was 12,756, while the US at its peak, imported 22,972 children in 2004.
The decline of inter-country adoption is most notable when looking at the Russian figures. The number of adoptions has dropped under 1,000, while in 2004, still 5,862 Russian children were adopted by American citizens. This figure is unlikely to bounce back in the near future, given the ongoing problems with abuse of Russian children in American adoptive families.
This week the Department of State put out the following question on their blog:
How can the international community best ensure that adoptions are transparent, and that the rights of adopted children, birth families, and adoptive families are protected?
It is good to see the Department of State is looking for input, though the assurances being looked for can only be appreciated when realizing adoption is a business and has been around for more than 100 years.
In 1881, thirty years after the first modern adoption act, several syndicated news papers ran a story about baby brokering in New York City. The article contained a striking phrase: "generally the demand is rather in excess of the supply, and hence the chances of profit are fairly good".
This week, E.J. Graff published a long article called Anatomy of an Adoption Crises, in which she describes the shut down of adoptions from Vietnam in 2008. The article is based upon the release of several government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. We are not going to rehash the story as told by E.J. Graff, instead I'd like to focus on the players in this drama.
The first released documents is dated July 2007 and details several visits made by members of the US. Embassy in Hanoi, to several orphanages in Vietnam. Unfortunately the document doesn't provide any detail into the findings of the investigations, since most of it is redacted in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974.
As of September 2009, the U.S. State Department recognizes 232 adoption agencies, accredited under the Hague convention. All of these agencies are allowed to participate in inter-country adoption with other Hague countries.
Some of these 232 agencies are not directly involved in foreign countries at all. Instead, some mainly focus on doing home studies and facilitate the placement of children through other, often out of state, adoption agencies that do have foreign programs. This type of agency doesn't list any adoption programs on its website because it usually cooperates with any adoption agency prospective adopters choose to work with.
There are some other agencies that don't really work abroad themselves but do list various country programs. In these situations, the agency obtains children through another adoption agency with whom they have a contractual agreement.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported the State Department released the international adoption figures for fiscal year 2009. The reported numbers are no surprise, more than a month a ago, we already published the preliminary numbers, and the figure presented now are nearly identical.
Not surprising, but none the less distressing, is the enormous growth of Ethiopian adoptions. In 2000, the number of children adopted from Ethiopia was 95, while this year it has sky rocketed to 2277. With this sort of exponential growth, Ethiopia is following in the foot steps of Romania and Guatemala.
On June 6, the Committee on the Rights of Children of the United Nations Human Rights office, published a report about measures taken in the United States of America regarding: sales of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
It's 11 pages long, so I am not going to publish it in its entirety here, though I made it available as a PDF attached to this post.
In the report the following observations are made, which I would like to highlight here:
Since on April 1, 2008 the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption entered into force for the United States, one of the shadier aspects of international adoption becomes even more prominent. I am talking about umbrella-ing here of course.
Umbrella-ing is the practice of unaccredited agencies to work with an agency that is accredited to gain access to a foreign adoption market that would otherwise be closed to them. The Hague treaty does not forbid this practice, though for several reasons, I think they should, especially now that the US has become a part of it.
Since 1997, many adoptive families have been able to use the federal adoption tax credit. The credit, however, is due to end in 2010 and some legislators are already proposing to extend the credit indefinitely. New evidence suggests that we must not renew the credit without first ensuring that it furthers the goal of promoting and supporting adoptions from foster care.
The US intends to ratify the Hague Convention beginning 2008. To this end they have designated two organisations as accreditors: one of them is the *Council on Accreditation*, in which Thomas Atwood (President National Council for Adoption and former Board Member of Bethany Christian Services) and Beverly Grant (Director Bethany Christian Services) are members of the Board.
The acceditation process will be done on the basis of PEER reviews.