2013 is shaping up to be a rough year for international adoptions! In case you missed the news in December, Russia recently passed a law banning international adoption by American families. This news was unexpected and a shock to the international adoption community, as Russia has consistently been among the top 3 countries from which intercountry adoptions were completed in previous years. I can only imagine the heart-break this has caused to the many families who are currently in the process of adopting from this country. There seems to be a ray of hope in that the families who already passed court in Russian will apparently be able to bring their adopted children home, but there are many more families in earlier stages of the adoption process who are entirely unsure about the outcome of their planned adoption. What is so significant about this dramatic change of adoption policy in Russia is that it was caused by diplomic and political reasons only (in retaliation of a U.S. law recently passed which targeted human rights issues in Russia) - having nothing to do with the need for intercountry adoption, for example, or even concerns about how adoptions had been handled in the past. It is such a (scary!) reminder that every intercountry adoption is first and foremost an act of diplomacy - and many forces are at play that have relatively little to do with the actual adoption process yet have complete power to derail it. Similar issues can be observed in Haiti, where attempts have been made to ratify the international Hague adoption convention, yet the process is taking so long and is nowhere near completion; while in the mean time the country is closed to adoption, many families have been waiting for their children for a very long time. Cambodia is another country that has been working on ratifying the Hague convention, with the hopes of re-opening for intercountry adoption by the beginning of this year. Yet the Department of State just recently released a statement that it will not be able to process adoptions from Cambodia for the time being, as the country has not yet reached compliance.
International adoptions have consistently declined in the US in recent years, and unfortunately, 2013 isn't promising to change that trend. Just last week, our document case manager (at our agency) was interviewed for the following news segment on the topic. It's short, and you might enjoy watching it. As mentioned in this video, there has been the tendency from UNICEF to discourage intercountry adoptions and placing emphasis on keeping children with their families or in their countries instead. No adoptive family (or otherwise!) would ever argue that if a child can be cared for by their own family or community, that is always the best option. Honestly, if there was truly no more need for adoption, I would be thrilled. But the reality is that millions of children go to sleep each night without a home, or die each year because of malnutrition or not receiving proper medical care. Millions and millions of children are abandoned, relinquished and orphaned around the world and face a dire future in the orphan and foster care system in their own country. There is absolutely no question that intercountry adoption saves the lives of many of these children. The other thing that doesn't really make sense to me about the UNICEF's sentiment is that in my experience, the people who are often the most engaged in causes related to improving the situation in third world countries are often adoptive parents. They are the people who have seen the devastating circumstances first hand during their travels. And while they have sucessfully adopted one of these children, but who also know that the need is so much greater than that. So it really isn't a question of either-or. And as long as there are children out there in need of a future and a home, I am extremely grateful for families and organizations across the country and the world who take God's call to care for the orphans and the widows seriously. So please join me in praying for the future of intercountry adoption - as there is much work to be done!