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What's New in Adoption


What's New in Adoption

New credits, benefits, and laws show increased support for adoption.

By Susan Freivalds

International adoption update

In 2007, 19,292 children were adopted from abroad, a 15 percent decline from the previous year. Almost 5,453 children were adopted from China, making it the most popular country with U.S. international adopters for the eighth year in a row. Russia remained in the third spot, with 2,310 adoptions. Ethiopia moved from the fifth to the fourth spot, with 1,255 adoptions.

As of early 2008, both Romania and Cambodia remained closed to intercountry adoption. Ukraine announced a quota, which limited the number of adoption applications it would accept from foreign citizens during the year to 1,453. The number is a grand total, and doesn’t specify a cap for U.S. adopters. New regulations in China, which took effect in May 2007, slowed down the process from the country. At press time, adopting parents were reporting waits of 36 months or longer. For updates, visit www.jcics.org and www.travel.state.gov/family.

Hague Convention progress

As of December 12, 2007, the United States became a full member of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, and plans to begin processing Hague-compliant adoptions on April 1, 2008. Once the treaty is in force, the new requirements will take effect for all adoptions between the U.S. and the more than 70 Convention members, including China, Guatemala, India, and Thailand.

Of the top five countries from which Americans adopt, China has enacted the Convention and is ready to begin processing Hague adoptions; Guatemala established a central adoption authority, the National Adoption Council (CNA), at the end of 2007, and is continuing to work to bring its process in line with treaty guidelines; Russia has indicated that it intends to ratify; and South Korea and Ethiopia have taken no action. Adoptions from non-Hague countries will continue as before.

To learn more about how the Hague Convention will affect the international adoption process, go to adoptivefamilies.com/hague, and travel.state.gov/family/adoption/convention/convention_462.html.

More families in open adoptions

Meetings between domestic adopters and birthparents are increasingly common, especially in the Midwest and Western states. A recent study found that 80% of agencies offered “fully disclosed” adoptions, in which both parties meet, up from only 36 percent 15 years ago.

Each year, 25,000 or more U.S.-born infants are adopted domestically, and increased birthparent interest in open adoption is being reported by a number of agencies. By early 2007, 22 states had made open adoption agreements legally enforceable.

Adoption disruption insurance policies resurfaced on the market in 2005, making it possible for prospective adoptive parents to recover their expenses in cases where birthparents decide not to place a child for adoption. The policies are available only for adoptions of U.S. infants, and parents must use an approved agency or attorney. For more information, consult www.adoptionassurance.com.

Adoption from foster care

More people are adopting from foster care. Since the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted, in 1997, to speed the adoption of kids in foster care, the number of such adoptions grew to 51,323 in 2005, from 28,000 in 1996. While 114,000 children were waiting to be adopted at the end of 2005, the total number of children in foster care has declined, to 513,000 in 2005, from 567,000 in 1999.

Fears that the rising number of adoptions from foster care would result in more disruptions appear unfounded. A 2006 study of 16,000 adoptive placements over a six-year period in Illinois found that the risk of disruption was 11 percent lower for placements occurring after the passage of ASFA.

The rate of transracial adoptions from foster care has continued to increase, rising from 10.8 percent in 1995, to 15 percent in 2001, to 20 percent in 2003. The increase is thought to be due to federal laws that prohibit racial discrimination in adoptive placements and the growing acceptance of transracial adoption.

Adoption tax credit increases

The maximum federal tax credit that adopting parents may claim for adoption expenses climbed to $11,390 for 2007 returns. The credit is available to families who adopt internationally or domestically, though income limits apply. Since 2003, families adopting U.S. children with special needs have received the full credit, regardless of their actual adoption expenses.

For details, see IRS Tax Topic 607–Adoption Credit, at www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html and find instructions for filling out Form 8839 (Qualified Adoption Expenses) at irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8839.pdf. For more information about financing adoption, see www.theadoptionguide.com/cost.

Greater acceptance of gay adoption

Sixty percent of agencies now accept applications from gays and lesbians and, in a 2004 survey, 40 percent of agencies said they have placed children with gay or lesbian parents. Both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have issued statements in support of adoption by same-sex partners.

While Florida remains the only state to bar gay adoption, state legislators are considering a bill that would allow adoptions in certain situations—for instance, the adoption of a child by his or her foster parents.

Adoptive family relationships

Parents’ attachments to their children are the same in adoptive and non-adoptive families, and a child’s ethnicity does not influence parents’ feelings, according to the ongoing Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study (SIBS) at the University of Minnesota, the most thorough study to date of adoptive family relationships. The study also found that being adopted does not appear to be a mental-health risk, that biological and adopted children show the same levels of well-being. Siblings felt equally close, whether they were adopted/adopted, adopted/bio, or bio/bio.

Researchers at University of Haifa in Israel have found that grandparents relate to their grandchildren as integral family members, regardless of whether they were adopted or are biological. The study identifies five stages of development in the grandparent-grandchild relationship, including connecting emotionally to the child and recognizing him as a part of the family. Researchers hope the findings will encourage adoptive parents-to-be who may be concerned about their parents’ reaction to the idea of adoption.

Adoptive parents devote more time, resources to children

A recent study has found that, on average, adoptive parents spend more money on their children and carve out more time for parent-child activities like reading, talking, and eating together than do their biological counterparts. The findings are being used to challenge opponents of gay and lesbian adoption.

When asked for theories that would account for this disparity in parenting quality, the researchers point to a conscious struggle against the belief that children fare best with their biological parents. “Ironically, the same social context that creates struggles for these alternative families may also set the stage for them to excel in some measures of parenting,” the study concludes.

The study was based on data from the 13,000 households participating in a U.S. Department of Education survey. Parents were rated on a number of criteria, including involvement at school and cultural activities.  

Stay up-to-date on changes and news about the world of adoption on the Adoptive Families Adoption News Ticker, here: www.adoptivefamilies.com/newsticker.

Susan Freivalds is past executive director of Adoptive Families of America, and the founder and editorial advisor of Adoptive Families magazine.

© 2008 Adoptive Families. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.

2008 Jan 1