Posted at 14:12h
Growing obstacles to intercountry adoption have drastically reduced the number of children adopted by U.S. residents from other countries—making assisted reproduction an increasingly appealing alternative for many seeking to fulfill their dreams of parenthood.
The number of children from other countries adopted by U.S. residents plunged to an all-time low in 2018—just 4,059—down 82 percent from its peak in 2004. The decline in intercountry adoptions is not unique to the U.S. but is rather worldwide; however, the United States accounts for some half of all intercountry adoptions, including a high proportion of adoptions of children with special needs.
The causes of this drastic drop differ from country to country, ranging from changes in government policies, to social and political pressure arising from embarrassing headlines, to the growing affluence of emerging economies. The result of this confluence of factors has been to make it more difficult, more time-consuming and more costly for U.S. intended parents to adopt children from other countries—even as tens of thousands of children from all over the world remain in need of good homes.
The same demographic and political factors that are driving the decline in intercountry adoption have had the unintended consequence of increasing the appeal of assisted reproductive technology (ART) by comparison. As prospects for intercountry adoption over the past decade became more uncertain and legally difficult, more costly and, thanks to a few tragic and embarrassing incidents, less socially and politically acceptable, technologies such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy have become more accessible and more cost-effective, gaining broad societal acceptance in many parts of the world as a solution for infertile individuals, single intended parents and same-sex couples.
Last month (March 14, 2019), the U.S. State Department released its FY 2018 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions, which shows that U.S. residents adopted just over 4,000 children through intercountry adoption from October 2017 through September 2018—a 13 percent drop from the previous year. Many adoption advocates, including the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (of which I am a fellow), have witnessed, with a heavy heart, that:
The majority of orphans denied intercountry adoption are not finding equal or better solutions in their country of birth; on the contrary, they are living and dying in institutions in ever-growing numbers. Research conclusively shows that the majority of those who survive the orphanage experience will experience permanent emotional and physical harm and will age out into a world that will exploit them in horrible and degrading ways.