Earlier this month, the US Department of State, published its annual report on inter-country adoption, and for the 10th year in succession, the number of children adopted from abroad dropped.
Much has been written in the last decade, about this decrease in inter-country adoption, and while it is a real phenomenon that can be observed in all receiving countries, there is more to the story than just a decline within the last decade.
When American mainstream media reports news about the decline in inter-country adoption, they usually use 2004 as a starting point, when the US alone received 22,972 children from abroad.
Any recent figure will pale in comparison to this figure. For instance, the 6,441 children adopted from abroad in 2014 is less than one third of the number reached in 2004.
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 bill is intended to counteract the decline in inter-country since 2004, a trend that has many prospective adopters worried and cuts heavily into the revenues of adoption service providers.
The inter-country adoption lobby has been in full blown panic over this decline for several years now.
Already in 2009, a legislative attempt was made to curb the downward trend by means of the Families for Orphans Act. This effort failed miserably, but now the adoption lobby has regrouped with new blood and fresh money.
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.
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:
More than a century ago, Mark Twain popularized the expression "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics". In this post we'd like to focus on the most egregious of these lies, statistics.
In 2007, we started collecting inter-country adoption statistics, which we present on our various country pages. Our first source for these statistics was the website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, which at the time, published the statistics of several countries for the years 2001-2004.
While entering this information into our database, we had to make the decision which statistics to use, those of the receiving countries, or those of the sending countries.
At the time. relatively few sending countries supplied statistics to the Hague, even fewer had their own website, presenting up-to-date statistics, so we decided to use the data provided by the receiving countries.
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.
Since we started archiving cases of abuse in adoptive families, we have been able to find information about 520 such cases.
In this article, we'd like to explore the meaning of this number and what it says about the the adoption system in place.
There are no official statistical sources about abuse in adoptive families. In fact, there are in general very few reliable statistics in the field of adoption.
This is why we have to rely on an archive of abuse cases, mostly based on news paper articles, and in some cases court documents.
A lack of source information makes it difficult to make reliable statements about the prevalence of abuse in adoptive families for several reasons:
Abuse may not be reported at all. Many cases of abuse (whether in adoptive or in non-adoptive families) are never reported to authorities. As a result the number of abuse cases we can report is always much lower than the actual number of abuse cases.
The status of adoptee may not be mentioned in the reporting about abuse cases.
News papers are not a consistent source of information about investigated abuse cases. While several investigated abuse cases are reported by news papers, many others are not. Reporting is based on the "news-worthiness" of the case, making it likely that many investigated cases never made the news.
Seeing these numbers, and having learned the Joint Council on International Childrens Services is facing bankruptcy, the question may arise if the revenues of the large adoption agencies were influenced by the decline in inter-country adoption. Apparently the effect is not all that big. There is a decline for FY 2008, and the growth these organizations had in earlier years has certainly stopped, but overall there is not a huge drop in revenues for these organizations.
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.
This week preliminary figures for the number of children adopted from abroad were made public. Not surprisingly the downward trend continued, and it is to be expected that in there were at least 5000 inter-country adoptions less in FY 2009 than in the previous year.
A big contributor to the decrease is Guatamala, which in 2008 still exported 4100 children and has since stopped inter-country adoptions, except for those cases that were pending. It is to be expected some 750 children have been adopted from Guatemala in 2009.
After having a peak of sending 7900 children in 2005, China's numbers have dropped ever since. In FY 2008, the number was down to 3900 and in 2009 the number further decreased to 3000, according to preliminary data.
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.
Yesterday I came across an article called Operation Zip Code, which revolved around the theme: where you live determines the quality of your health care. It mentions several of the medical practice hot-spots, where people are several times more likely to receive for example knee surgery than on average or where the hospitalization rates are much higher than in the rest of the country.