More Than Numbers


state deptEach year the United States Department of State creates and posts an annual report providing international adoption statistics from the prior Fiscal Year (FY). The FY reporting period for this year’s report is October 2013 – September 2014. You are welcome to view this report here. The report tracks the number of U.S. immigrant visas issued for children adopted abroad by U.S. Citizen Parents. Unfortunately, the results of this report are as unsurprising as they are tragic; as we continue to see significant decreases each year. The results tell the story of a continued decline in international adoption, while the orphan population continues to grow. Those missing “numbers” and “percentage declines” represent many children that are being left without permanent family care.

The FY 2014 report shows that American families adopted 6,441 children internationally. This is more than a 9% decline from FY 2013 and a 74% decline since 2004. The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) discusses the most probable reason for this decline, our own nation’s implementation of the Hague Convention. NCFA’s press release detailing their position can be viewed here. I would encourage all to read and consider this release. Some feel that the reason for the sharp decline in adoption is because of the Hague Convention itself, but that is not the case. The Hague Convention was drafted with a broad brush establishing principles to be followed, focusing on ensuring that adoptions occur ethically and in all instances in the best interests of the children. Each country that becomes a party to the Hague Convention agrees to create an adoption authority, provide medical and social information about children to prospective adoptive parents,  make efforts to first place the child with a family in the child’s country, and other admirable guiding principles.

Each country that becomes a party to the Hague Convention establishes an adoption authority as well as their own detailed rules and procedures for international adoption under the Hague Convention. Our adoption authority is the Department of State. Many of those who initially supported the United States in becoming a party to the Hague Convention had hoped that the Department of State would act not only as a regulator, but also a proactive advocate for intercountry adoption when it was in the best interests of children. As articulated by NCFA, the Department of State has succeeded in implementing policies and procedures, but they have missed the advocacy component that our world’s children need and deserve. We support NCFA in their stance that our nation should have a new office for the adoption authority to better meet the needs of children.

We are thankful to be working with and continue to work with NCFA and other agencies to make all efforts to advocate for the children who need permanent and loving families. For those of us who have seen the children in need, heard pleas from older children asking for a family and witnessed the needless deaths of children waiting for families; these statistics are not numbers, they are lives.  International adoption is not the answer for all children, but for those that are in need of international adoption it is a GREAT NEED. We continue to fight alongside our adoptive parents to meet this great need.

Nicole Skellenger works as MLJ Adoptions’ Chief Executive Officer and Adoption Attorney. Nicole has spent time in orphanages with children who have nothing and are desperate for affection and has committed herself to using her skills to create better futures for these deserving children.