International adoptions plummet globally

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Finally, in January, Ms. Brooks learned the child she had named Akira-Li would instead be adopted by a Vietnamese family.

“That was my one shot,” says Ms. Brooks, who now believes she is too old to qualify for most international adoptions. “Everything in my life has been at a standstill.”

Decline in demand

Vietnam joined The Hague convention on Feb. 1, and U.S. officials say they hope adoptions will resume within the next year.

Shutdowns in other countries such as Guatemala, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan have coincided with changes in big sending countries like Russia and China, which have placed more emphasis on domestic adoption and tightened restrictions for foreigners.

China, for instance, stopped allowing single women to adopt children - up to one-third of U.S. adoptive parents fell into this category in the late 1990s, Mr. Selman says.

Advances in fertility technology and the increasing number of couples turning to surrogacy have all contributed to the global drop.

The U.S., which historically has received about half of the world’s annual international adoptions, saw a decline of more than 60 percent from 2004 to just over 9,000 last year.

Ms. Dilworth, the U.S. adoptions official, says the economic downturn is at least partly to blame, with foreign adoptions typically costing between $20,000 to $40,000.

But the U.S. freezes on adoptions from some countries also are curtailing the supply.

Guatemala used to provide up to 4,000 children a year for international adoption at its peak in 2006.

But the U.S. will not accept more adoptions from the country until it has fully revamped its system to root out corruption, Ms. Dilworth says.

“They have incredible problems with fraud,” she says.

Other countries that have seen big drops in the adoption of foreign babies include Spain and France, which fell 48 percent and 14 percent, respectively, from 2004 to 2010.

Canada remained the same and Italy actually reported a 21 percent increase during that period, according to Mr. Selman, who analyzed data from 23 countries that are primary receivers of adopted orphans.

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