The Boom and Bust of International Adoption


The Boom and Bust of International adoption programs has been observed by adoption professionals and adoptive parents throughout the past ten years. Countries open to international adoption, have hundreds of adoptions and then close just years later. This can leave intended adoptive parents in turmoil if they have not completed their adoption and even worse it leaves orphans in a country without the hope of a forever family.

Why? There are many reasons that a country closes to international adoption. The following may give you more insight into the adoption process, child protection issues and politics involved in international adoption. First, international adoption is complex and involves many entities: adoption agencies, State Department of Children/Family, United State Citizenship and Immigration Services (under Department of Homeland Security), U.S. State Department, Foreign Family/Children Ministries, Central Authorities, Foreign Courts and potential other Foreign governmental entities. When you just look at this list, you can see the complexities that may happen in the process. While an effort is usually made by all in the process to protect the child, sometimes other interests prevail and sometimes all the parties do not agree on how this protection should happen. I believe the following are some reasons for the Boom and Bust:

  1. Corruption in the process
  2. Lack of stability and history in the process
  3. U.S. political pressure on foreign entities to provide a “western” process according to U.S. guidelines
  4. Cultural and political pressures within foreign countries as a reaction to Americans adopting their children or specific abuse/neglect cases on international adoptees
  5. Too much bureaucracy

I believe the following are some ways to avoid boom and bust adoption processes and move forward with an international adoption:

  1. Evaluate the history/stability of the adoption program
  2. Use an approved/licensed agency in your state
  3. Use an agency with numerous resources (legal, social, educational) and
  4. Be realistic about the risks of the process

History demonstrates the Boom and Bust: Romania, Vietnam and Guatemala are all examples of the international adoption Boom and Bust. We have also seen the discussions of South Korean adoptions and Ethiopian adoptions on the decline and restricted in the near future. Ethiopian adoptions have experienced significant coverage for corruption and problems in the past couple years and I am hopeful that adoptions from Ethiopia will improve as they have a great need for international adoption. I have watched Haitian adoptions over the past 12 years and continue to wonder how adoptions in Haiti will be transformed and if they will be able to avoid the “bust”. There have been discussions of reform in both Ethiopia and Haiti and a close watch should stay on these countries and advocacy for stable laws should continue to avoid the “bust” in both of these countries. I am hopeful that countries can avoid the boom and bust as international adoption should be protected. A protection of international adoption from the boom and bust is a protection of the orphan.

Photo Credit: Taro Taylor

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.