Older Child Adoptions Will Increase in International Adoption


November is National Adoption Month. This month was designated by President Clinton in 1995 to bring awareness to adoption issues and to address the needs of children deprived of loving, permanent homes. During this eighteenth National Adoption Month, the MLJ Adoptions daily blog will focus on an aspect of adoption that continues to grow even while the overall number of international adoption placements has declined – older child adoptions.

We’ve all heard the numbers. After decades of steady growth, the number of international adoptions has dropped nearly 50% since 2004. The number of children finding new homes in the United States fell to 8,668 in 2012 after hitting a high of 22,884 in 2004, according to U.S. State Department statistics. There is no overall success story behind these numbers. Two million children around the world are deprived of a permanent, loving family and live in institutions according to the US Government’s International Assistance for Children in Adversity Initiative. This number does not even include Western or Central Africa where numbers are not available. Neither is the decline due to reduced demand from prospective adoptive parents. The internet is awash in stories of prospective parents who are thwarted in their attempts to add to their families through international adoption.

The decline in international adoption exists for a variety of reasons but one reason stands out and is not going away. Many countries ratified the Hague Adoption Convention, which aims to avoid trafficking. A fundamental principle of the convention is that attempts should be made to place children in their own country before international adoption is considered. As a result, children arriving in the United States through international adoption are more likely to be older, part of a sibling group, or to have a mental or physical special need. U.S. State Department data reflects a rising number of older kids in international adoptions. Of the 8,668 total adoptions from all countries last year, just 10% were under age 1; 58% were between the ages 1 and 4 and nearly a quarter were ages 5 to 12.

Serious adoption professionals recognize that the face of the future adoptive child is not that of a cherubic, healthy infant girl. Instead, the face is more likely to belong to a six year old boy who has lived many years of his life in an institution and has experienced the trauma of being deprived of a permanent home. This image of adoption presents challenges not only to the parents who generously open their home to the boy, but also to the agency that facilitates his adoption. This family will need additional, specialized education before their son comes home and may require post adoption support and counseling. It is imperative that adoption professionals step up to the plate to support this family before, during and after the adoption.

The consequences to the older child who remains behind in an institution can be severe. Children who "age out" of an institution are less likely to have received an adequate education and are more likely to fall prey to trafficking. Adopting an older child is not right for everyone. But, for the family with the right circumstances and skills, parenting an older child can be a joy beyond compare.

Throughout National Adoption Month, we will be discussing not only the promise of older child adoption but also the challenges of parenting a child who comes from a hard place. We hope that this will not be a one way conversation. We want to hear your older child adoption stories. Join us on Facebook or Twitter using #olderchildadoption and share your story, your questions, your concerns.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.