exposing the dark side of adoption
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Terre des hommes will no longer be organizing adoptions


International adoption has been a part of the activities of Terre des hommes since the early 1960s. But from Edmond Kaiser and the first children arriving by their dozens, for whom adoptive families were sought urgently, to the complexity of today’s procedures, international adoption has come a long way. Firstly, the criteria and the demands are now far stricter for the adopters, the number of applications has significantly decreased and the profile of the children put up for international adoption is currently very different from the expectations of the future parents. Secondly, structural changes in some of the countries of origin, notably in India, no longer enable us to assume our responsibilities towards the children and the adoptive parents. In such a background of evolution, Terre des hommes will no longer be serving as an intermediary for adoptions, but will continue to advocate for the children’s protection, encouraging keeping or returning the children to their own families, or having recourse to alternative care options such as host families in the child’s own country.

For some years we have been witnessing a gradual decrease in international adoptions. All host countries are concerned, in North America as well as in Europe. Keeping a child in his biological family, alternatives to the institutionalization of children, the increase of national adoptions, have all played their part in this decrease. In the United States, for example, in 2004, 24,000 children from other countries were adopted. In 2011, only 9,300 international adoptions were counted.

This reduction has had consequences on the profile of the youngsters put up for adoption: older children sometimes with an unhappy past, siblings, or children with special needs like handicaps or suffering from an illness. The gap between the wishes of the adoptive parents to get a young, healthy child and the reality of the adoptable children is steadily widening. Faced with this reality of international adoption, some couples renounce their project. Others go through doubtful or even fraudulent procedures in countries that can be badly organized and with insufficient checking. Thanks to powerful advocacy by international organizations, including Terre des hommes, and the increased awareness of the children’s countries of origin, these practices – lacking respect for the interests of the youngsters – are today also decreasing. However, other channels such as recourse to surrogate mothers are now being used, presenting the risk of a new form of the ‘commodification’ of children.

Stopping the work of Terre des hommes as an intermediary does not mean abandoning all our activities in the field of adoption. Terre des hommes will continue to help adults who were adopted in infancy if they wish to research their origins in the various countries. Similarly, the work of advocacy in Switzerland and abroad for ethical, transparent adoptions in the best interests of the child will be pursued, and Terre des hommes will maintain an advisory service for governments to improve or revise the laws and procedures relating to international adoptions in their countries.

2013 Mar 6