International adoption in the United States is in crisis. Some adoption advocates estimate it will be completely extinct by 2022. We believe that children, no matter where they are located or what their needs, should have the human right to a family. Join us in the month of April as we choose to #betheirvoice and #telltheirstory.
For the last few months, I’ve kind of fallen off the grid.
I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of being more present with the amazing people God has placed in my life — in my home, in my family, in my children’s school, in our little community. But in the name of investing in and pouring into the superheroes under my own roof, advocating for those still waiting for their forever families in China has taken a backseat to loving on the ones God has already placed inside our home.
But Orphan Warriors, advocating for forever homes for superheroes whose special needs are just superpowers in disguise can’t possibly sit on the back burner anymore.
BECAUSE INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION INSIDE THE UNITED STATES IS IN CRISIS.
And if nothing changes, the most generous, well-resourced, well-educated country in the world could grow deaf to the voiceless, the vulnerable, the most medically fragile and the most emotionally needy, all who deserve the privilege of FAMILY.
And the children hurt the most by a nation of people who stops running to them?
The ones languishing in orphanages with special needs — because THOSE are the children Americans more so than people of any other nation are equipped and willing to adopt.
First, let’s all admit that international adoption is not a perfect institution. All of us have seen the horror stories, though rare, of children who became victims of an imperfect system in a broken and fallen world.
As Orphan Warriors, the very FIRST people we should be advocating for are the first families (biological families) and the children of those who we all agree would BEST be served by staying in their own extended families, in their own countries. Doing everything we can to promote first family unity, from funding surgeries to providing education and medical care, MUST be part of a holistic orphan care approach. As Orphan Warriors, our FIRST goal should be to stand by first families to help stop the orphan crisis before it even begins.
But when that isn’t possible, either because of abandonment or disease or death or cultural stigma or any other factor, and it isn’t possible for a child to be placed either with kin or in his or her home country, we believe whole heartedly that ETHICAL, responsible, transparent intercountry adoption must remain an option. Because it provides a child with a right that should be fundamental to all human beings — the right to grow up inside a family, even if that family lives outside his country of origin.
Though not ideal, we just can’t agree that any child is better served by living in his home country as a forever orphan than growing up in a different culture as a beloved son or daughter.
But right now, the opportunity for the TRULY needy — superheroes whose special needs are just superpowers in disguise who have not been able to be adopted in their home countries — is waning.
Intercountry adoption is becoming less and less of an option both for adopting American families and for children in other countries in need. And if we don’t speak up, adoption advocates estimate that it could come to a complete halt by 2022.
This is why.
· According to the U.S. Department of State, international adoptions have plummeted from 22,989 in 2004 to 4,714 in 2017, the year we brought Superhero 4 home from China. That’s a 79.5 percent drop in international adoptions over the last 15 years.
· Although the 2018 statistics are not yet published on the Department of State page, the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME) had budgeted 4,200 international adoptions for 2018. That would make a drop of 81 percent since 2004.
· In October 2017, the president of the Council on Accreditation resigned the COA as an accrediting agency for the U.S. Department of State. The COA, a 40-year-old organization that provided accreditation for more than 2,000 agencies in a wide variety of social service fields, had been accrediting adoption agencies for 25 years, both before and after the Hague Adoption Convention. In the letter, COA president Richard Klarberg wrote, “The Department of State … is requiring COA to make significant changes in the nature and scope of our work in ways which will fundamentally change our responsibilities … and which are inconsistent with COA’s philosophy and mission.” In an interview with The Federalist following his resignation, Klarberg said, “[The State Department is] doing by indirection that which they could not do directly. It is a back-door effort.” Klarberg predicts that as a result of these enforced changes, “the number of children who will be eligible for immigration via adoption will shrink. The number of agencies involved with intercountry adoption will also shrink.”
· Last February, the Department of State instituted new fees on Adoption Service Providers (adoption agencies) that include a new $500 monitoring and oversight fee for adoptive families, as well as an increase in the cost of accreditation for adoption agencies. Many agencies believe their costs to attain accreditation every four years will now triple under the new schedule of fees. This will put many of them, especially the smaller service providers that reach more rural areas, out of business. Fewer agencies will mean less accessibility for adopting families and likely, fewer adoptions.
· Some leaders in the adoption division of the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State have stated that international adoption is a “profoundly problematic institution.” Because of this, multiple Adoption Service Providers and orphan advocates have shared with us personally that international adoption agencies are sometimes treated with mistrust when dealing with the Department of State. (Read more HERE.)
· At this rate, adoption advocates (including such prominent figures as the president of the National Council for Adoption, the founder of Adoption.org and Adoption.com, the president of Save Adoptions and the executive director of Hopscotch Adoptions) now estimate that international adoption will completely end inside the United States by 2022. Read more HERE and HERE.
The crisis in the international adoption community has become such a concerning issue that Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption, wrote this in his introduction to the National Council for Adoption’s 2017 report:
“The significant decline in intercountry adoptions is of particular concern to NCFA because the number of orphaned, abandoned, and relinquished children worldwide has increased by many millions. Thousands of Americans still express a desire to adopt internationally but are hindered from pursuing international adoption. Although the policies of other nations play a role, we also believe that the decline is, at least in part, due to the U.S. Government’s lukewarm support of intercountry adoption. As such, NCFA has become a reluctant critic of some of our country’s intercountry adoption policies. We believe that the U.S. Central Adoption Authority, the U.S. Department of State, has failed to ensure that The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption serves its original and promised goal of allowing the U.S. to better serve the needs of this very vulnerable population of children living outside family care. NCFA is committed to remaining a prominent, proactive, and effective voice for all children all over the world in need of families. We will continue to call the U.S. Government and the international child welfare community to account, and encourage them to work to better ensure that intercountry adoption remains a viable solution for those children who will likely not see their right to a family fulfilled in their country of birth. American families stand willing to receive these children into their hearts and homes, and we support the human right to family owed to every child, everywhere.”
When a group of adoption advocates and I heard this shocking news just two weeks ago, we almost didn’t believe it.
Surely the United States, the most powerful and best-resourced country in the world, wouldn’t make it more difficult to serve the most marginalized! I thought to myself.
Americans have completed 271,833 international adoptions in the history of our country, 80,162 of them from China, according to the Department of State.
But after spending the last two weeks since hearing this news contacting every leader we know in the international adoption community to confirm this information, we’ve discovered the truth.
That if the leadership inside the Office of Children’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State doesn’t make some drastic changes and fast, the dwindling or even halt of all international adoption is a real possibility.
Several Adoption Service Providers have shared with us that they feel their concerns are not taken seriously at the Department of State both because of what appears to be an anti-international adoption bias in part of the leadership and because of the perceived conflict of interest with their business.
But those on the ground in other countries doing the hard and holy work of fighting for the orphan and providing education and medical care insist that this is a serious issue we cannot afford to ignore.
We reached out to Amy Eldridge, CEO and founder of Love Without Boundaries, who shared this with us this week:
“As far as how I personally feel, you can share that I fully understand how some people against international adoption feel that the agencies placing children shouldn't be the ones leading the charge, since they receive funding for their services. That is the argument I hear repeatedly. But we are not an adoption agency ... we provide humanitarian aid. And so I wish that our government, instead of just listening to those sitting behind desks formulating policy at the State Department, would instead gather together a group of people who are actually on the ground in other countries, trying every day to help orphaned and marginalized children. Listen to their stories of both great success in implementing local projects to care for children in need, but also their very real stories of neglect and hunger, sickness and death ... because that is a reality for far too many children in institutional care. I don't think you can listen to the truth and not believe that international adoption must still remain one of the options for children around the world to find safety and care. Our charity is now involved with a multi-faceted approach to orphaned children, from caring for those in institutions to implementing local foster care to doing everything we can for family reunification, and the issues are complex. Yes, we should all strive for the day where no child is ever abandoned or ever has to leave their country of birth. But let's be real. Some abandoned children cannot return safely to birth families and would never be chosen for domestic adoption due to having health issues such as HIV. Others will face lifelong shunning or even forced institutionalism in their countries due to their special needs. Far too many children in orphanages will simply die if they can't get the care they require in their home countries. I see it EVERY SINGLE DAY. And it hurts my heart to know that we are a country with so many families willing to open their homes to children in need, and yet our own American government is making it harder and harder for those children to find homes.”
One year ago, a passionate group of grass roots orphan advocates and adoption agencies were so concerned about this issue that they created a White House petition. It read:
“We the People, recognizing a child’s right to a family when one is not available in his/her birth country and the loving character of American families, ask President Trump to investigate the causes of the 80 percent decline in intercountry adoptions since 2004 and to solve the U.S. international adoption crisis. The leadership of the Office of Children’s Issues has been unresponsive to collaborating with the adoption community to solve problems and continues to reinterpret regulations in ways unintended by Congress in the Hague Intercountry Adoption Act. We need pro-adoption leadership who will increase the number of ethical adoptions. The adoption community stands ready to work with the Administration to implement various achievable solutions to help orphans find loving, permanent families.”
(See the petition HERE.)
They needed 100,000 signatures for the White House to review and respond to their petition, which asked for an investigation into the Office of Children’s Issues that every source we’ve now personally spoken with has agreed is the issue.
They received only 32,645 out of 100,000 signatures.
Though they worked furiously to get the word out, I, still in Superhero 4’s first-year-home, post-China-travel haze, didn’t even know about it.
And I’m guessing some of you didn’t either.
Because when I heard about this just two weeks ago, I was shocked, heartbroken and a big, hot mess. And I was no longer willing to sit around and do nothing.
We all agree that ethical, transparent, responsible intercountry adoption requires oversight and monitoring to ensure it is done in and for the best interests of children. And we ABSOLUTELY want policies that protect children and birth mothers from becoming victims. We are so thankful that our government prioritizes that, and we should ALL fight for that!
But when government policies and pushback actually prevent legitimately orphaned children (like the more than 600,000 reportedly living in orphanages right now in China) from coming to loving homes where they can receive the love, services, education and medical care they might never receive otherwise, we choose to speak.
God gave us a passion. God gave us a voice. God gave us the resources and the ability to speak in a free nation where we believe ALL life is created equal.
And today, we are using that voice to speak for those who don’t have one.
The medically needy.
The TRUE double orphaned children around the world (and for us, specifically in China) who have not been able to be adopted in their home countries and will grow up as orphans on the outskirts of society, most without education, proper medical care or resources, and now, with no one to advocate for them, their entire lives long.
So Orphan Warriors, we’re rallying the troops. This is our battle cry.
Today, read, research and educate yourself on this issue. Reach out to your contacts. Brainstorm with your orphan advocate friends. Read this 15-step detailed plan from a group of knowledgeable, experienced, well-educated adoption community advocates and leaders. And wash all your adoption fundraiser and orphan advocacy t-shirts, because Orphan Warriors, they are going to be our battle armor all month long. (Don’t have any? Then you won’t want to miss what is coming on Wednesday!)
Tomorrow, check the blog at 8 a.m. for the WHY.
Wednesday, see our Orphan Warrior community’s “Be Their Voice, Tell Their Story” action plan. (Get those #betheirvoice and #telltheirstory hashtags ready now!)
And then join us all month long as we choose not to speak OUT against a person or institution, but instead, use our voices to speak UP for the orphan.
Let’s #betheirvoice and #telltheirstory.
Let’s share their value.
Let’s share their plight.
Let’s share their story.
Until the international adoption story changes.
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” (Psalm 82:3)