Foreign adoptions declined in '06
One expert says the growth rate from the '90s is over.
NEW YORK (AP) -- After tripling over the past 15 years, the number of foreign children adopted by Americans dropped sharply in 2006, the result of multiple factors which have jolted adoption advocates and prompted many would-be adoptive parents to reconsider their options.
The consequences could be profound for the ever-growing numbers of Americans interested in adopting abroad. Already, some have had their hopes quashed by tightened eligibility rules in China; adoptions from Africa, where millions of children have been orphaned by AIDS and wars, could increase if those from China and Eastern Europe continue to decrease.
Declines were recorded last year in nearly all countries that recently have been the top sources of adopted children -- China, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine among them. Increases from less familiar alternatives -- Ethiopia, Liberia, Haiti and Vietnam -- partly offset the drop, but some experts believe the era of constantly surging foreign adoption has ended.
"The huge growth rates you saw in the '90s -- I think that's over," said Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services.
He urged Americans considering international adoption to "reassess any preconceived notions they have ... and get educated on the myriad options that are available."
Overall, according to new State Department figures, international adoptions by Americans dropped to 20,679 in the 2006 fiscal year from 22,728 in 2005 -- the first significant decline since 1992.
Adoptions from China, the No. 1 source of children since 2000, fell 18 percent, from 7,906 to 6,493, while adoptions from Russia, the No. 2 source for the previous six years, dropped about 20 percent to a 10-year low of 3,706. Both are among many nations trying to reform their child welfare systems and increase domestic adoptions.
In some cases, reform campaigns are coupled with skepticism toward foreign adoption, including concern about occasional cases of abuse. Romania has banned adoptions by foreigners, except for relatives; Ukraine and Kazakhstan insist that foreign parents submit regular reports on their adopted children.
Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption, said the drop in foreign adoptions is both understandable and worrisome.
"There's always been the issue of national pride, where the country of origin wants to take care of their children themselves," he said.
Atwood sees potential for increased U.S. adoptions from Brazil, Mexico and India. He also says more African governments should be urged to overcome their traditional wariness of international adoption.
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