NEW YORK — The number of foreign children adopted by Americans has dropped for the third year, a consequence of tougher policies in the two countries — China and Russia — that over the past decade have supplied the most children. Figures for the 2007 fiscal year, provided by the State Department on Friday, showed that foreign adoptions have fallen to 19,411, down about 15 percent in the past two years. The number of foreign adoptions had more than tripled since the early 1990s, reaching a peak of 22,884 in 2004 before dipping slightly in 2005, then falling to 20,679 in 2006.
China cuts backAdoptions from China, the No. 1 source country since 2000, fell to 5,453. That's down by 1,040 from last year and well off the peak of 7,906 in 2005. Two main factors lie behind this: an increase in domestic adoptions as China prospers, and tighter restrictions on foreign adoptions that give priority to married couples between 30 and 50 and exclude single people, the obese and others with financial or health problems. One consequence, adoption agencies say, is the waiting time to complete an adoption from China has more than doubled to 24 months or more. Adoptions from Russia also dropped over the past year — from 3,706 to 2,310. Russian authorities suspended the operations of all foreign adoption agencies earlier this year and have been reaccrediting them gradually. Adoptions from South Korea and Haiti also declined significantly, although the drop was partially offset by big increases in adoptions from Guatemala , Ethiopia and Vietnam Tom DeFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, said adoptions from Guatemala could decline over the coming year as its government — under intense international pressure — tries to impose tough regulations on adoption that was widely viewed as susceptible to fraud and extortion. The State Department has advised Americans not to initiate adoption applications for Guatemala while that overhaul is under way. Overall, DeFilipo — whose council represents many international adoption agencies — found reason for optimism in the new statistics. "What you're seeing is fewer countries sending very large numbers of children and a broader range of countries participating,” he said. He mentioned Kenya, Peru and Brazil as countries not now among the most common nations from which children are adopted, but which might increase international adoptions in coming years.
‘Totally depressing'By contrast, another adoption expert, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, depicted the new numbers as "totally depressing.” She said China and Russia reflected a trend in which countries opened themselves up to international adoption, then scaled back. She attributed this in part to UNICEF and other international organizations encouraging countries to care for children within their homeland, even when domestic programs such as foster care might be inadequate. UNICEF's child protection spokesman, Geoffrey Keele, said the U.N. agency does believe it is preferable to care for orphaned or abandoned children in their own countries if good homes could be found. "The best interests of the child must be the guiding principle,” he said. "We don't go about discouraging international adoption. We just want to be sure it's done properly.” For U.S.-based adoption agencies, the biggest impact has been on those specializing in placing children from China. For the second year, no Romanian children were adopted by Americans. The Eastern European country, which provided 1,119 children to U.S. families in 2000, has banned adoptions by foreigners, except for relatives.
Adopting internationallyCountries providing the most children adopted by Americans during the 2007 fiscal year, according to preliminary figures from the State Department. Figures from 2006 are in parentheses: •China 5,453 (6,493) •Guatemala 4,728 (4,135) •Russia 2,310 (3,706) •Ethiopia 1,255 (732) •South Korea 939 (1,376) •Vietnam 626 (163) •Ukrain e 606 (460) •Kazakhstan 540 (587) •India 416 (320) •Liberia 314 (353) •Taiwan 311 (187)