International adoption: a bad rep in recent news?

With the recent buzz surrounding Artyom Savelyev, the 7-year-old boy who was sent back to Russia alone on a plane by his adoptive family in the USA, and the Russian government’s subsequent threats to freeze adoptions from the country, international adoption continues to be a prominent issue in the world.

CCAI takes these issues very seriously, and we expect to release a statement regarding the current state of international adoption in Russia in the near future, so keep your eyes here and on our website for updates. For some background information and a general overview of international adoptions from Russia, you can also check out our country update page for Russia.

In the meantime, we would like to address some general concerns about international adoption, and how it is perceived in the world today.  Below are some questions that we have recently received, followed by our responses:

1) Isn’t international adoption often used as a guise in child trafficking?

While the safety and protection of children is always utmost concern, a number of measures have been put in place both by the U.S. government and increasingly foreign governments to ensure the ethical adoption process.  USCIS uses the Form I-604 Request for and Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation to ensure the child is an orphan.  When a country is suspected of unethical adoption procedures, both the U.S. and the foreign government has the power to cease adoption processing until measures have been put in place to ensure children are not trafficked nor are birth families being coerced to give up their children.

2) Why are monies not given to the child’s birth family or a family in the child’s country of origin so that the child is not removed from their homeland?  Isn’t this in the best interest of the child?

The reality is that many foreign countries lack sophisticated child welfare systems like what we have here in the U.S when we moved away from orphange-type settings in favor of foster homes in the 1970s.  As a result, children in foreign countries spend years of their life in institutions.  Research and common sense tells us that children do not develop emotionally or physically without the attention and human interaction that a family provides.  A recent study found that Children adopted from institutional care performed worse than those raised in families on tests measuring visual memory and attention, learning visual information, and impulse control.  Children living in orphanages are at risk for disease, malnutrition, or even death.  This pictures speaks for themself:

Inside an orphanage

Rows of infants in Palna, India orphanage

3) Why are adult adoptees’ voices not heard?  They are the true experts?

Read an article by an adult Colombian adoptee to get insight into her experience.  The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute conducted a survey in 2000 to examine the adult adoptee’s perspective on international adoption.  They found that, “despite the many questions about how adoptive parents were chosen and many statements of mistrust of adoption agencies, few adoptees expressed dissatisfaction with the institution of adoption.”

While we must admit that international adoption is not a perfect system, we cannot ignore the millions of orphans around the world who are forced to rock themselves on the floor because they have no mother to hold them.  We do not believe that international adoption should be the first resort, rather, we believe in strengthening child welfare systems around the world to promote safe care and domestic adoption, but when domestic options are not possible, international adoption.  Because, every child deserve the safety, support, and love that only a family can provide.

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The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

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