Archive for December 29th, 2007

As 2007 wraps, organizations from the U.S. Government to the United Nations to every news provider on the planet are collecting data, crunching numbers and trying to find tidy ways to package the year for presentation to the world sometime after the calendar ticks over.

Already established and making headlines, the unsurprising revelation that the number of the world’s orphans finding adoptive American families has dropped significantly. What that means in the grand scheme of time passing and evolving humanity is debate fodder.

According to this report from Federal News Radio, there were 15 percent fewer international adoptions in 2007 than over the two years previous. From China alone adoptions have plummeted from 7,906 children in 2005, to 6,493 in 2006, to only 5,453 this year. With UNICEF figures calculating Chinese orphan numbers at somewhere around 20,600,000 and growing, the ratio of chance-of-family to no-chance is miniscule and shrinking.

Tightening of requirements for families hoping to adopt from China has had a negative impact. Automatic refusal now the case for people who are overweight, bearing a facial disfigurement, with hearing problems or treating depression, among other such arbitrary reasons for rejection, has eliminated thousands of potential homes for Chinese-born children.

Cultivation of a negative image of adoption from Guatemala has also served to cut the number of prospective adoptive families, and as other countries present viable options to families and children alike, they too come under fire.

The length of time it takes to complete an adoption has expanded greatly, resulting in increasing stresses on families as they fall in love with children they will not meet for possibly years while serving to sentence these same children to whatever hardship their pre-family life will bring for as long as the process takes.

Some hail this downward trend in Americans adopting from other countries as a positive step, seeing international adoption as a form of either cultural genocide, neocolonialism, unwelcome immigration into the USA, or a market-driven greed machine perpetuated by traffickers.

UNICEF, for example, takes the position that international adoption should begin to be considered only as a “last resort”, a stance many consider to be less child-focused than is healthy that results in masses of children falling through the cracks and living their entire lives in institutions or on the streets. (Or in the case of Romanian kids who lost the option of international adoption completely, under the streets.)

Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School, is quoted as finding the decreasing numbers of children internationally adopted as “totally depressing” and says, “UNICEF is a major force. They’ve played a major role in jumping on any country sending large number of kids abroad, identifying it as a problem, rather than a good thing.”

Those with views similar to Dr. Bartholet understand that a reduction in the number of adopted children implies little more than fewer children finding families, while genocide, colonialism, greed and trafficking saw healthy growth in 2007.

Where the numbers will be in December 2008 is anybody’s guess, and with estimates putting the global count of orphans at around 200,000,000 each child finding a safe and loving home will remove the burden resting on the shoulders of the others … just a bit.

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