Police detain a protester Dec. 19 in Moscow. People protested against the planned debate of an amendment banning Americans from adopting Russian children.(Photo: Yevgeny Feldman, AP)
The number of eligible children for Americans who want to adopt is
reaching record lows as foreign countries such as Russia close their
doors and fewer U.S. kids are available.
Adoptions by Americans
from abroad are plummeting to a 20-year low after peaking at nearly
23,000 in 2004 and falling to 9,319 in 2011, according to the State
Department. The number is expected to plunge further now that Russia,
the third-largest source in the last five years, has announced it won't
allow Americans to adopt any more of its orphans.
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"It's been a
cataclysmic implosion of intercountry adoption," said Tom DiFilipo of
the Joint Council on International Children's Services, a non-profit.
"It's truly the children who are suffering," he said, as countries
accused of adoption fraud refuse to make changes and others acting out
of nationalistic pride insist they can provide for their own.
in orphan adoptions from other large foreign sources - China, Ethiopia
and South Korea - are prompting some prospective parents to look
"A lot of families may switch to domestic," said Jenny
Pope of Buckner International, an adoption agency. Yet even that's a
growing challenge, because as single parenthood becomes more acceptable,
she said "there are just not as many women placing their children for
As a result, the number of U.S. infant adoptions (about
90,000 in 1971) has fallen from 22,291 in 2002 to 18,078 in 2007,
according to the most recent five-year tally from the private National
Council for Adoption. Though the numbers are only current through 2007,
the group's president, Chuck Johnson, expects the number has remained
fairly stable since 2007, citing efforts to promote adoption.
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are fewer foster-care children available, because more are reunited
with birth parents or adopted by relatives and foster parents. The
overall number of kids in the system, 401,000 in 2011, has hit a 20-year
low. The number waiting to be adopted fell from 130,637 in 2003 to
104,236 in 2011, according to the U.S. Children's Bureau. Their median
age is 7 and they're a mix of races (28% black, 22% Hispanic and 40%
"The options are far fewer for families," said Jennifer Doane of Wide
Horizons for Children, an adoption agency. She said some, traumatized
by costly failed attempts to adopt abroad, may not be ready to risk
fostering a U.S. child only to lose guardianship later to birth parents
whose parental rights are restored.
If people are willing to take
that risk, their chances of adopting from foster care are much greater,
said Kathy Ledesma of AdoptUsKids, a federally-funded listing service of
Oregon's Patt Murphy and her husband Lawrence,
who adopted their son from Russia in 2004, are now looking at foster
care for another child, because they fear other countries may suddenly
close their doors. They find adopting from foster care can be
competitive but, she adds: "It's definitely worth it. The children
really need you."
Laura Maneiro, a New York attorney, said she and
her husband Pedro, 70, have switched from international to foster care,
because they would be disqualified by the age limits set by many
Despite the fewer options, Johnson said there are still
as many Americans eager to adopt as ever. His advice: "Be prepared for a
bumpier ride than 10 years ago."