Adoption has helped to create and expand families all over the world. The option of adopting a child can serve as an invaluable resource both for underprivileged children around the globe and for potential parents who prefer to adopt, are unable to conceive, or are single. Celebrities who have famously adopted children from foreign countries – such as Angelina Jolie and Madonna – have consistently made the topic of international adoption a high profile one.
In April of 2008, the United States began behaving in accordance with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. This agreement between participating countries ensures the prevention of abduction, sale, or exploitation of children. The guidelines of the agreement also protect the birth and adoptive families, placing one central authority in each country so that adoptive parents are given the most accurate information regarding their adopted child. At present, 90 countries including the United States have joined the Convention (although America does not allow adoption from 10 of those countries). China is the most popular Hague country from which Americans adopt. As some of this article’s content will demonstrate, the Hague Convention does complicate adoption between the United States and certain countries, as Hague and “Non-Hague” countries are not allowed to adopt from one another.
The number of international children adopted by Americans has decreased in the past few years: In 2004, a total of 22,990 children were adopted, while in 2011 the figure was only 9,320. It appears that more Americans are adopting domestically than internationally. One reason for the steep decline in international adoption is that many orphaned children abroad are finding homes in their own countries, since many countries have recently made efforts to increase domestic adoption. Furthermore, adopting from abroad is, despite its rewards, a very complex and elongated process.
That being said, the intensive requirements for all of these countries are not only a testament to how difficult it can be to adopt, but also an homage to the ways in which adoption agencies make sure that orphaned children are matched with parents who will care for them in the most loving way and in the best possible circumstances. The following list features the top 10 countries Americans have adopted from and the numbers next to each country represent the number of children adopted as of 2013.
10 Taiwan (177)
While Taiwan is not party to the Hague Convention, it is still possible for Americans to adopt from Taiwan in specific cases. Prospective parents can work with adoption facilitators in Taiwan in conjunction with the Child Welfare Bureau. To bring a child into the United States from Taiwan, the child must meet the definition of an orphan, and must be deemed eligible to enter the country under an immigrant visa. Both married couples and single individuals may adopt from Taiwan. Prospective parents must meet requirements for a stable residence, legitimate employment, and sufficient financial means in order to adopt.
9 Colombia (195)
Adoption between the United States and Colombia is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention, thus making the process of adoption from Colombia a little more traditionally regulated. Still, hopeful adoptive parents must be found eligible to adopt by the US government, specifically the US Dept. of Homeland Security and US Citizen and Immigration Services. Prospective parents must also provide documentation stating that they meet basic income requirements to provide for the adopted child. According to Colombian law, parents must also be at least 21 years of age and found to be “physically and emotionally capable” of adopting a child.
8 Nigeria (197)
Nigeria is a complicated country from which to adopt due to Hague Treaty guidelines. Nigerian law technically states that non-Nigerians may not adopt from Nigeria, even though this law is often inconsistently applied. That being said, the US Consulate advises non-Nigerian citizens not to adopt children from Nigeria. If a family is able to adopt, they must establish a strong parent-child relationship before the court decision is final. Each individual state determines how much time it takes to establish this relationship; often it is up to 2 years. Both single and married individuals may adopt, though in the case of singles, the parent must adopt a child of the same gender unless granted an exception.
7 Uganda (238)
Due to the Hague Treaty requirements, it is also becoming quite difficult to adopt children from Uganda. The Children’s Act requires that adoptive parents must have resided in Uganda for at least three years and have fostered the child for at least 36 months (though judges have been known to make case-by-case exceptions to these strict rules). Applicants must be at least 35 years of age, and must be at least 21 years older than the child they adopt. Adoptive parents must also demonstrate that they have no criminal record and have full approval from their country of nationality to adopt.
6 Congo (240)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, located in central Africa, is the second largest country on the continent. The country underwent a civil war that ended in 2003. However, the country still faces political instability and extreme poverty. Many children are orphaned, either by death of both parents or by neglect and abandonment. Children reside in very poor village-based orphanages until a family can take them in. This makes adoption from the Congo increasingly rewarding and necessary. Parents who want to adopt must have been married for at least 5 years and have a minimum age of 25 years.
5 Ukraine (395)
There are hundreds of orphanages in Ukraine filled with children waiting for a loving home. Many were abandoned at birth or taken from their biological parents who were deemed unfit caretakers. One central adoption center is in Kiev, Ukraine; the organization includes experienced interpreters and lawyers to facilitate the adoption process. Many of the children available for adoption are five years and older - older than one might typically expect. There also tend to be more boys available than girls. Couples who adopt must be married and they must make a minimum of one trip to Ukraine to spend time with the child and complete the adoption process.
4 South Korea (627)
Although beginning in the 1960s South Korea shifted towards increased domestic adoption, there is still a significant need for international adoptive families in Korea. The children in need of homes are mostly boys, aged 6-9 months at the time of matching, and are typically approximately 2 years old when they are allowed to leave the country. South Korea does not place children with single parents, and the parents who do adopt must have been married for a minimum of three years. South Korea also requires two parental visits of one week’s time, giving prospective parents a chance to bond with the child before officially being allowed to adopt.
3 Russia (748 )
Since March of 2013, Americans have been barred from adopting Russian children. The result is the devastation of hundreds of families in the process of adoption as well as thousands of stranded children in orphanages throughout Russia. President Vladimir Putin was quoted explaining the decision; “We should do all we can so that orphaned children find a family in our country, in Russia.” However, UNICEF has reported that there are over 700,000 orphaned children in Russia currently, with only about 18,000 Russians on adoption waiting lists. In fact, NBC News reported on Jan 13, 2013 that thousands marched in Moscow to protest the Russian adoption ban.
Though the relationship between Russia and the United States has always been notoriously tenuous, the Russian adoption ban has been criticized by both Russians and Americans whose ultimate goal is to protect the thousands of orphaned children in need of homes. One of Putin’s representatives did say, however, that some of the adoptions already in progress could move forward so that children who have already bonded with an American adoptive family would be allowed to leave the country.
2 Ethiopia (1568)
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s poorest nations; the country’s GDP per capita is about 1/135 of that of the United States. In rural Ethiopia especially, children’s futures are constantly threatened by malnutrition and illness resulting from the nation’s level of poverty. These factors certainly give Ethiopian adoption added meaning and urgency. Typically a child needs to be placed in the Ethiopian government’s care for at least 3 months before he or she is eligible for adoption.
If a parent is unable to provide care for their child because of a medical condition, that child can be deemed an ‘orphan’ and is thus placed in institutional care. The requirements for parents adopting from Ethiopia specify that they must be at least 25 years of age and at most 65 years. The Ethiopian government has also revealed a preference for placing children with married couples who have been together for at least five years, as opposed to single parents. Ethiopian law also prohibits adoption by gay or lesbian individuals and couples (an issue that will hopefully be addressed in the coming years).
1 China (2697 children adopted in 2013)
As of 2011, China had a population of 1,336,718,015 and growing. In China, more than 10,000 children have been abandoned and are living in state and private orphanages. An astonishing 95% of these children are affected by minor to severe physical conditions, and are therefore considered unadoptable in Chinese culture. On February 17, 2014, an article was published which revealed that China has opened so-called “baby hatches” where people can leave unwanted children. Alarmingly, one of these locations in Guangzhou received 79 babies in its first 15 days. There are currently 25 baby hatches in 10 provinces across China.
As the #1 destination from which U.S parents adopt children, China has had more than 20 years of international adoption experience and has established an adoption process that is regarded as one of the most reliable. Many adoption services have strict guidelines for who can and cannot adopt from China. For example, potential parents must have a clean bill of health: they cannot have had major surgery in the past 10 years or a diagnosis of major depression or any other mental health concerns and they cannot be on any medication for depression or anxiety. An adoptive family must show a positive net worth of at least $80,000 dollars. Though these requirements are more demanding than one might assume, they do show a commitment on the part of adoption agencies to provide good and stable lives for children who would otherwise be neglected.
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