The Department of State has released the 2016 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions, per requirement by the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000. In general, the numbers of adoptions from other nations to American families is continuing to decline. This follows a twelve year trend of decline and the data here represents 5% fewer adoptions than the previous 2015 report. Specifically, there were 5,372 adoptions from other nations to the United States. This number is down from the 5,648 international adoptions in the 2015 report. For you who are big picture thinkers, compare this year’s number to the all-time high of 22,884 adoption reported in 2004. That’s a decrease of 76% in 12 years.

The report goes on to detail efforts in which the State Department is currently engaged for the purpose of maintaining international adoption as a viable option for the orphaned children around the world, including visits to 30 countries “to engage in bilateral and multilateral efforts to strengthen and enhance adoption procedures and relations between the United States and intercountry adoption partners around the world.” Also noted was the introduction of the “International Visitors’ Leadership Programs, where emerging leaders from other countries travel to the United States to observe U.S. practices on issues related to child welfare, and welcomed 26 delegations from foreign governments.” Further information on Congressional activity, domestic conferences and seminars, and how new countries work with the Hague Convention was also interesting to read.

Another very element of the report is the summary of the three factors which the sending countries consistently reported to be “challenges to maintaining and improving relationships and adoption processes.”

  1. Post Adoption Reporting – Almost every sending nation requires some sort of post-placement follow-up reports to be filed by the placing agencies and/or adoptive parents. “When parents fail to fulfill the obligation they agreed to, it reflects badly on U.S. adoptions and may impact the country’s willingness to continue to engage and partner with the United States.”
  2. Unregulated Custody Transfer (UCT) – Also known as re-homing, UCT is typically mentioned in relation to Post Adoption Reporting and is of grave concern to sending nations and to the State Dept. The report details several efforts being taken to reduce re-homing through improved parent education, increased accountability, and improved documentation. “UCT circumvents established safeguards that protect children from risk of harm and is difficult to track because it is intentionally kept in the shadows.”
  3. Adoption Service Provider (ASP) Conduct – The concerns about potentially illegal or unethical practices by ASPs is cited by the participating nations as another challenge to promoting and maintaining strong adoption programs with the United States. There are mechanisms in place to report and monitor concerns of questionable activities but the use and oversight of these mechanisms is underutilized. “Those most likely to have information on misconduct often express hesitancy about filing complaints. Adoptive families cite the fear of being unable to complete their adoptions, or losing their newly adopted child, if they complain. ASPs with information about other ASPs’ conduct speak of ostracism within the ASP community and express concern about retaliatory actions…” Clearly sending countries are concerned and looking for solutions and safeguards.

The full report is dense with data, including charts and graphs detailing that data. We also found this AP news story to be a helpful summary of the report for those that are looking for an overview.

Photo Credit: AP News/Andrew Harnik