As America has become increasingly pro-life, many families have invested in giving orphans — especially those from oppressive nations or who would otherwise grow up in institutions — a place to call home. However, some State Department changes in recent years have made international adoption nearly impossible for many. Since the Obama administration appointed Trish Maskew to oversee international adoptions in 2014 — who previously called adoption “a profoundly problematic institution” — there has been an almost 80 percent decline in international adoptions. And almost 50 percent of international adoptions are from the U.S., according to reports from the United Nations. But the number is dropping at an alarming rate, and has been for a decade, says the UN:
Americans adopted around 5,370 children from other countries in fiscal year 2016 – 77% fewer than the peak in 2004 and 66% fewer than in 1999, the earliest year for which data on all countries are available.
Jayme Metzgar, a writer at The Federalist, says Maskew ushered in “a climate of fear and mistrust” at the State Department, and “the relationship between the State Department and the adoption community has deteriorated….”
Save Adoptions has called for Maskew to be replaced for the sake of international orphaned children, and recently circulated a White House petition (which fell short of signatures needed for an official White House response), asking President Trump to investigate the sharp decline in international adoptions, encouraging “pro-adoption leadership” to “increase the number of ethical adoptions.”
The Daily Caller noted, “Nearly 23,000 international children were adopted by U.S. families in 2004, but in 2016 less than 4,000 children were adopted, a drop of 80 percent. If this trend continues, international adoption will cease to exist by 2022.”
The Conversation has a theory on why this crisis, which began ten years before Maskew took office, began and has since escalated — the Hague Convention, which regulates international adoption, isn’t doing what it should:
This 1993 global agreement, which 103 countries signed by 2016, creates uniform regulations for adoptions worldwide.
But rather than encourage foreign adoptions, many experts argue that the convention has contributed to their decline.
Poor countries often struggle to meet The Hague’s high international standards, which include creating a central adoption authority, accrediting local agencies and tightening approval procedures….
Rigorous international regulations have also made adoptions more expensive by imposing fees on agencies, adoptive parents, orphanages and countries. We believe that rising costs – which may have increased up to 18 percent in some countries – will lead to a decrease in the number of international adoptions.
Unfortunately, the State Department has “implement[ed] policies that will make international adoption rarer and more expensive than ever,” reported The Federalist.
The Hague Convention makes the U.S. State Department the authority for all international adoptions here; however, it also “requires another public or nonprofit entity to act as the ‘accrediting entity’ (AE), holding adoption agencies to certain fiscal and ethical standards. Since 2013, COA [Council on Accreditation] has been the only AE [accrediting entity] for international adoption.” The Council pulled out, and its president, Richard Klarberg, said the new State Department regulations essentially placed a stronghold on the Council. Part of Klarberg’s letter said the State Department was requiring “significant changes in the nature and scope” of the Council’s work, “fundamentally chang[ing]” the Council’s responsibilities, making them “inconsistent with COA’s philosophy and mission….”
Kalrberg told The Federalist that despite President Trump’s orders meant to reduce government regulations such as the new State Department rules, “the number of children who will be eligible for immigration via adoption will definitely shrink. The number of agencies involved with intercountry adoption will also shrink.”
Under the new organization, International Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME), adoption agencies’ fees will skyrocket. [An adoption agency director] estimates that her agency’s fees, which cost $15,500 for four years under COA, will be a staggering $140,000 under IAAME—an increase of more than 800 percent.
The new regulations outprice many agencies, who then suspend international operations — making it impossible for Americans, who must use a Hague-approved agency to adopt from overseas.
Adding insult to injury, the State Department’s new accrediting entity is passing along fees to agencies to fund adoption evaluators — at $500 per child, no exception — and suggesting agencies pass the cost to the families adopting. This “monitoring and oversight” charge goes to the overpriced International Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity — whether or not the family ends up adopting.
These changes are a deterrent to newer adoption agencies, making it difficult for them to financially consider international adoption accreditation. Executive Director of Zoe’s House Adoption Agency, Kelsey Bohlender, told Live Action News she’s seen the impact of these costs among her adoption agency colleagues, though her agency doesn’t do international adoptions at this point:
I know international adoption has come under a severe scrutiny and the fees for accreditation have skyrocketed in recent years, with expected increases continuing. That’s why so many are going out of business. They simply cannot afford to stay open due to the regulatory costs.
Townhall reported on this crisis and noted that (emphasis added) “the Office of Children’s Issues has set a goal of reducing the number of orphaned children who get adopted next year by 500.”
When the nation’s adoption authority raises prices and regulations, complicating the adoption process, orphans are the ones who suffer most. Abortion is a worldwide problem, and a great number of pro-lifers are rising up to encourage women to choose to place their children in adoptive families. In poorer nations, international adoption may be a child’s only hope. Americans, as leaders in international adoptions, should be able to adopt without more complications — if they can find an agency that can afford to stay open.
The United States has been the heartbeat of international adoptions, but this needs resuscitating if orphans are to have homes.
Save Adoptions offers 15 suggestions on how to help, including a call to President Trump to revise international adoption policy to reverse the crisis. Contact members of Congress here, focusing especially on those who call themselves pro-life. Contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State here.