5 Things Will Happen as International Adoption Decreases

International adoptions have been on the decline since 2004. Here's what will happen if that decline continues.

Jennifer Mellon July 31, 2018

International adoptions have been on a steady decline since their peak in 2004 when I first entered the field. When I worked for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, there were 22,989 adoptions completed from other countries to the United States. According to the United States Department of State’s FY 2017 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, only 4,714 children were adopted in the United States through intercountry adoption between October 2016 and September 2017. This is a 12% decline from 5,372 children adopted internationally to the U.S. the previous year and a 79% decline since the peak of intercountry adoptions in 2004 when I first entered the field. If intercountry adoptions continue to decline, these 5 things will happen.

Additional Reading:

You Can Help Save International Adoptions and Solve the U.S. International Adoption Crisis

Bucking Trump Deregulation Agenda, State Department Chokes International Adoption

How to Solve the U.S. International Adoption Crisis

U.S. Foster Care Adoptions Will Not Increase
1. U.S. Foster Care Adoptions Will Not Increase

There are some in the adoption community who believe that if intercountry adoptions continue to decline, total adoptions will remain the same, and this is a good thing since it means children in foster care will be adopted in greater numbers. But foster care adoptions leveled off at around 50,000 annually a few years ago. At the same time, after steadily declining between 2005 and 2012, the number of children in need of foster care is increasing in most states.

More Children Will Be Trafficked
2. More Children Will Be Trafficked

Human trafficking is the crisis of our time. Children living outside of permanent family care are exponentially more at risk of being trafficked globally. Children who live in institutional care around the globe are often not accounted for adequately. These children will eventually age out of institutional care and become unaccounted for in the system. They end up as child soldiers, trafficked for the sex trade, or become victims of slave labor. Intercountry adoption gives these children a permanent, loving family and the ability to be protected from these traumas.

Orphanages and Child Welfare Institutes Will Be Less Supported
3. Orphanages and Child Welfare Institutes Will Be Less Supported

Often, a controversy in the adoption community is the debate over whether it is better to financially support the institutions and systems which keep children in their country of origin rather than spend the financial means to adopt. What many people do not account for is that thousands of dollars go to the orphanages and child welfare institutions per each intercountry adoption completed. Most adoption agencies and many governments make a payment to the institution mandatory or as a suggested donation. These critical funds, which often can not be replaced by the government due to lack of financial resources, help to support the children who may never be adopted as well as those who live in institutional care waiting for reunification or adoption to take place. This support will wane, and thus, more children will suffer.

Children’s Lives Will Be in Danger
4. Children’s Lives Will Be in Danger

Vanderbilt University Press published 'Saving International Adoption,' and in the book,  the research shows that adoption can even save lives. When examining mortality figures for children under the age of 5 in Ethiopia and Guatemala, research found that adoptions to the U.S. likely prevented the deaths of more than 600 children between 2005 and 2011.

140 Million Children Will Continue to Live Without the Love and Protection of a Forever Family
5. 140 Million Children Will Continue to Live Without the Love and Protection of a Forever Family

If international adoptions to the United States continue to decline, the children will suffer the most. According to UNICEF’s most recent report, there are over 140 million orphans globally. These children will continue to live outside of the love, safety, and protection of a forever family if intercountry adoptions continue to decline. It is up to the United States government to be a leader in setting the precedent that intercountry adoptions should be a viable option for children and families.

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Jennifer Mellon

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.


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