Explaining The Dramatic Decline In International Adoption

Explaining The Dramatic Decline In International Adoption

International adoptions have decreased at an extraordinary rate over the last decade. Since 2004, the number of children adopted by US families from other countries has been cut in half, as nations across the world revise their guidelines to restrict overseas adoption. In 2016, only 5,370 children from other countries were adopted by American families.

International adoption has always been a small part of the overall US adoption picture. Within the United States, over 53,000 children are adopted every year through domestic adoptions. Even at its peak, in 2004, when 9,505 children were adopted from other countries, international adoption has always been an exception for American families, not the norm.

At one point, the Pew Research Center reports, around 71% of all international adoptees came to America from just five countries: China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea and Ethiopia. All five of these countries have tightened their adoption rules, making it harder and harder for American families to adopt. And most of the recent changes come, not due to anger against the US, but because of politics internal to these countries.  

In 2007, Guatemala’s adoption system became embroiled in scandal, after a United Nations commission found that the majority of the country’s adoptions had been finalized illegally. Bribes and fraudulent birth certificates were common; adoption became a corrupt, for-profit enterprise. So the nation cracked down, banning international adoptions and raiding adoption agencies.

Ethiopian legislators made a different argument in February 2018, when the country prohibited all international adoptions of Ethiopian children. Noting a 2013 case in which a 13-year-old adopted child died of hypothermia and malnutrition in America, Ethiopian lawmakers say children adopted by families abroad become vulnerable to abuse, neglect, “identi[t]y crisis, psychological problems, and violation of rights,” CNN reports. Ethiopian children, the country’s government suggests, should be raised in “Ethiopian culture, custom, social values and practices.”

After international adoption applications outstripped the number of available babies, China in 2006 set strict new guidelines, the New York Times writes, “barring people who are single, obese, older than 50 or who fail to meet certain benchmarks in financial, physical or psychological health from adopting Chinese children.” South Korea, on the other hand, chose to limit international adoptions as a matter of pride, the BBC’s Stephen Evans explained in 2015. It was just too shameful, Evans writes, for a newly-affluent player in the global market to lean on the United States for its parenting duties.

At one point accounting for around 20% of all international adoptions to the US, Russia banned the practice in December 2012. Tensions between the two powers had been growing for years. The high-profile case of a woman who put her adopted 7-year-old son back on a plane to Moscow tipped the scales further, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pushed a campaign to spur domestic adoption in Russia. But the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which hoped to punish Russian officials for the death of a tax accountant incarcerated in a Moscow prison, closed the door. Putin prohibited US families from adopting children, even choosing to stop ongoing adoption proceedings that had already begun. The ban is still in effect, proving that adoption isn’t just an act of love; it’s a geopolitical phenomenon, too.


Maxine Chalker, MSW / LSW is the founder and executive director at Adoptions From The Heart, a Philadelphia adoption agency and one of the East Coast’s largest private adoption organizations. An adoptee herself, Maxine has dedicated her life to advocating for the benefits of open adoption.


Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Katie Reed

Katie Reed

Katie Reed is a 38 year old mom blogger from Salt Lake City, UT. She is married to the man of her dreams and together they have four beautiful boys. Dexter is 9, Daniel is 7, Chester is 5 and Wilder is 2. She writes about living with mental health issues while navigating motherhood. Her blog focuses on tips and tricks for moms, information and parenting news, kid-friendly recipes and crafts. She loves to reflect on the humorous side of parenthood and shares the reality of her life, with a "warts and all" attitude.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow Us On Social

Most Popular

Get The Latest Updates


Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.

Thanks! Keep an eye on your inbox for updates.


Katie Reed [A Mother Thing] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

On Key

Related Posts

How to Boost Your Breast Milk Supply Naturally

Breastfeeding can be a beautiful and wonderful experience for a new mom. But if your milk supply is low, it can be scary and upsetting. Here are some common questions and answers about how to tell if your supply is low, what causes a low milk supply and how to boost your milk supply naturally.

Easter Candy Bark - Amazing Easter treat

Easter Candy Bark

This Easter Candy Bark is a great spring treat that is as beautiful as it is tasty! Using your favorite pastel candies and crushed up cookies, set into melted chocolate, it makes a fabulous dessert or treat for your Easter basket! #easter #spring #dessert

Printable Robot Finger Puppet Valentines - Just cut out, color and wear on fingers!

Printable Robot Finger Puppet Valentines

Don’t waste your money buying expensive Valentine’s Day cards that kids will throw away the minute they get home. Print out these free Robot Finger Puppet Valentine’s Day cards instead. The kids will have a blast coloring each one and then turning them into fun finger puppets they can play with for hours or days! Each card is different, so kids can join together to create stories with their characters and each one will be unique. These cards are an EXPERIENCE.

Join Our #1 Mom Community

If you would like to get in touch, please email:

Find Us Here:


Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.

Thanks! Keep an eye on your inbox for updates.