The 2011 adoption statistics were just released, and they showed that adoptions are down in the U.S. Indeed, adoptions were down a significant 15% from the 2010 numbers, and down a mind-boggling 60% from the peak numbers of 2004. One must go back nearly two decades (1994) to find a year in which there were fewer adoptions than there were this past year.
Apparently, government interference is going on. I’m not an anarchist. I’m not an anti-government libertarian. I’m not even an “occupier.” I am a parent who is caught up in the process of adopting 2 orphan boys from Ethiopia. In 2010, Ethiopia completed 2,513 adoptions to parents in the U.S. Last year, the number dropped to 1,727—which means 786 fewer orphans were brought into a forever family. The reason for this is not that Ethiopia has fewer orphans needing to be adopted: There are still more than 4 million orphans awaiting adoption. The reason for the decline is government intervention.
Of course, the government was compelled to intervene after dozens of serious irregularities were uncovered in Guatemala back in 2007. The nadir of the Guatemalan adoption program came when 6 year-old Anyelí Liseth Hernández Rodríguez was adopted legally by a Missouri family who were told that she was an orphan. In truth, Anyelí was kidnapped from her home in Guatemala and sold as an orphan through the criminal actions of an adoption attorney and an agency worker in Guatemala. The attorney and the agency worker have been found guilty of kidnapping and sentenced to 21 and 16-year prison terms respectively. They have also been forced to pay heavy fines to the mother of the child.
The Guatemalan kidnapping sent shockwaves which have reverberated throughout the sea-bed of the inter-country adoption ocean, causing a literal tsunami of regulations to flood out orphanages from Ethiopia to Manila. As regulations increased, adoptions decreased.
Everyone appears to understand the dynamic, but who is prepared to correct it?
No one condones kidnapping and child-trafficking (at least no one with a moral compass). Obviously, little Anyelí is caught between two families who each appear to love her and call her their own, though she can only be with one of them—and not the other. Her case has hamstrung the will of many adoption proponents who are now forced to ask whether it is worth it if even one case comes to separate a child from her parents. No doubt, any parent would answer in the negative if it were her child who was kidnapped.
Still, as tragic as Anyelí’s case is, it is but one—one case in more than 100,000. In fact, even though Guatemala’s adoptions have been shut down because of numerous infractions (such as forged birth certificates and falsified papers), the problem cases in Guatemala represented only 3% of the total adoptions which took place in 2007. This means, of course, that 97% of the adoptions which were completed in that year ended with needy, abandoned children being united with a loving, familial embrace.
To state the matter another way, more than 15,000 orphans in Guatemala have not been available for adoption since 2007. Instead of being united with families in the U.S. who desire to nurture them, many orphans have been left in orphanages to formulate their own family structure, attaching to workers and children who, no doubt, come and go throughout their lives.
Even more to the point (for it is understandable that extra precautions must be in place in Guatemala), in Ethiopia, adoptions have been cut in half because of increased fears of improprieties in the adoption process, even though no actual improprieties have been discovered. What this means is that people like me must wade through the slog of paperwork, while patiently enduring a two-year process which winds up costing about $40,000. Other countries are more difficult than Ethiopia.
Tragically, this means that little orphan boys and little orphan girls are forced to remain alone, abandoned, and, most likely, never adopted into a family. By some estimates, there are more than 4 million orphans in Ethiopia. Adopting at the current rate, it would take more than 2,300 years to get current orphans in Ethiopia into an adopting family; and that is operating on the impossible assumption that no further orphans will be added to that number. The task appears impossible.
Efforts of governmental agencies—no matter how well-intentioned—are hurting thousands and thousands of children in need of familial love. The current downward spiral of inter-country adoptions needs to be reversed.
Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption gets it right in this quote from a USA Today article: “This trend is not right, and it is not good for children. Given the increasing number of orphaned children worldwide, the continued decline in intercountry adoptions means that children’s most basic needs and rights are being denied.”
May the Lord raise up more advocates to speak up for the little ones who need familial love.