exposing the dark side of adoption
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Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)


Author: Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic

An adoption agency that has placed 530 Korean children in Arizona families since 1983 is pushing its boundaries.

Dillon Southwest, still operated by its founders,

Emily Sundie


Marsha Usdane

, will team with sister agency

Dillon International

of Tulsa, to offer a full range of services to people looking to adopt children from seven countries in addition to South Korea.

The expansion brings to four the number of local adoption agencies doing business with multiple foreign countries. Arizona residents also may turn to organizations that do not maintain local offices for adoption from most countries.

There should be room enough for all the organizations. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which processes adoption visas, says the number has grown from fewer than 7,000 five years ago to almost 16,000 last year. No estimates exist of the number of adoptable children worldwide, but it is believed to be in the millions.

''You never have enough families. You can't,'' said

Susanna Hill

of Dillon International.

There are that many children without families around the world living in foster care, orphanages or, most tragically, on the streets. In China alone, where government policy limits families to one child, estimates range from 1 million to 2.5 million abandonments annually. The abandonments are almost exclusively of daughters because of ''a strong cultural belief that every family needs a boy,'' Hill said.

China is one of the countries that Dillon Southwest is adding. The others are Russia, India, Ukraine, Haiti, Guatemala and Peru.

Russia and China have been the leading sources of international adoption in the United States since 1995, when they overtook South Korea. In 1998, Russia and China each placed more than 4,000 children in the United States.

South Korea, which placed almost 5,000 children in 1988, has seen its numbers drop to the range of 1,500 to 1,800 annually. The decline is a result of ongoing educational efforts designed at making adoption more common in South Korea.

The expansion of Dillon should not affect other local organizations that work in international adoption, said

Marianne Adams, who runs China's Children

, a 4-year-old organization that has placed approximately 200 children in Arizona homes. ''There are enough kids for everybody,'' said Adams, who has a daughter adopted from Korea through Dillon Southwest and another adopted from China.

Her organization, a branch of

Children's Hope International

in St. Louis, also places children from Vietnam, Guatemala and India.

Sonja Wendt, Asian program coordinator for

Hand in Hand International Adoptions

in Mesa, was happy to hear about Dillon's expansion. ''More kids will come home then,'' she said. ''There are not enough families for all these kids.''

Statistics on the total number of annual adoptions in the United States, foreign and domestic, are not formally maintained. The number is estimated at 125,000, according to The Future of Children, a publication on children's issues from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

As more American parents turn to adoption as a way of building their families, it is safe to say that international adoption is not for everyone. The children often come with little medical history or other information about their births. Some may suffer from diseases or conditions chronic in their nations of birth. They frequently are from a different ethnic heritage from that of the adoptive parents, bringing up issues of not only racial prejudice but also of cultural identity.

On the other hand, Hill said there are several reasons for Americans to consider looking overseas for their families, beyond simply wanting a child. Three key factors: the children typically are healthy, they usually are infants and an adoption is virtually certain once the domestic home study is completed.

Many of the organizations working in the field provide assistance to the countries to help children and birth mothers, and to establish programs and standards.

Hill says Dillon International helped South Korea establish its widely respected adoption standards and policies, and started a foster care program there. It also started a foster system in China. It has built hospitals, orphanages and schools in the countries in which it has worked.

''It's a huge part of our mission,'' Hill said. ''You don't go into a country and say, 'Please give us your healthy kids, and goodbye.' ''

Usdane said one reason her organization elected to expand is that it is getting more and more inquiries from individuals or couples who for various reasons do not meet South Korea's adoption standards, which include a maximum age, a minimum income and family-status qualifications.

CAPTION: (1)FYI CAPTION: To learn more CAPTION: The adoption agency Dillon Southwest will hold a free informational CAPTION: meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at its office, 3014 N. Hayden Road, Suite 101, CAPTION: Scottsdale. For information, call 945-2221.

CAPTION: (2)FYI CAPTION: Adoption contacts CAPTION: Local groups that place children from other countries:


China's Children

, 483-3906; places children from China, Vietnam, CAPTION: India, Guatemala.


Dillon Southwest,

945-2221; South Korea, China, Russia, India, Haiti, CAPTION: Peru, Ukraine, Guatemala.


Hand in Hand International

, 892-5550; Russia, Philippines, Thailand, CAPTION: China, Romania, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Vietnam.


Russian and Eastern European Adoption Center Inc

., 905-3120; Russia, CAPTION: Ukraine, Bulgaria, Georgia.

1999 Mar 2