HHS/ASPE. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.Background

Changes in the adoption landscape

The adoption landscape is constantly shifting, as a result of changes in U.S. and international laws, as well as changes in societal attitudes and other circumstances. These changes mean that readers should be particularly cautious in inferring how the snapshot presented in this Chartbook may apply to future adopted children and their families.

The Hague Convention, in particular, may result in substantial changes to international adoption. For example, according to the NSAP, 11 percent of all internationally adopted children under age 18 had been adopted from Guatemala as of 2007, but in March 2008, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would not process Guatemalan adoptions until further notice, due to concerns about the country’s ability to adhere to the guidelines of the Hague Convention. Additionally, in September of 2008, Guatemala stopped accepting any new adoption cases. Adoptions from Guatemala came to a halt immediately following a year during which it was the source of the single largest number of internationally adopted children.6

Even prior to the adoption of the Hague Convention, some other countries had changed their adoption requirements. For example, as of May 2007, China enacted a stricter policy requiring that adoptive parents be married couples between the ages of 30 and 50 with assets of at least $80,000 who are good health (including not being overweight).7 In addition to China, other countries, such as Russia8 and Korea,9 are attempting to promote domestic adoption rather than relying on international adoption. Such efforts are likely to reduce the number of international adoptions to the United States.

Overall, international adoptions to the United States have been declining since 2004,10 which may result in more parents adopting children domestically. Beginning in the 1990s, state, federal, and private initiatives to achieve permanency for foster children have influenced adoptions within the United States, as well.11 In particular, recent efforts have focused on adoptions for older foster youth who cannot be reunified with their birth family.

Recent and continuing developments in reproductive medicine may also affect the adoption landscape. For many people seeking to build families, treatments such as intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization, either with the parents’ own genetic material or with donor sperm and/or eggs, increasingly provide alternatives to adoption. At the same time, the relinquishment of infants born to never-married women has become rarer, declining from 8.7 percent prior to 1973 to 1 percent throughout the 1990s.12

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