New United Nations Report Will Show U.S. Leads World in Child Adoptions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 29, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New United Nations Report Will Show U.S. Leads World in Child Adoptions

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by Maciej Golubiewski
May 29
, 2008 Note: Maciej Golubiewski writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax publication.

New York, NY ( — An upcoming report from the United Nations Population Division is expected to highlight adoption trends worldwide, some of which appear linked to changing social norms and legal developments.

Data from 118 countries indicate that there are around 260,000 domestic and international adoptions a year. The United States adopts over 120,000 children, significantly more than any other country.

The US is followed by China, Russia, Ukraine and a few Western European countries, which together account for the bulk of adoptions worldwide.

Although the quality of adoption reporting varies from country to country with reliable data oftentimes hard to come by, adoption is mainly a domestic phenomenon, with eighty-five percent of all adoptions involving citizens or residents of the same country.

Yet the number of children adopted domestically has been declining over the past decades in many developed countries. This trend is especially prevalent in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and, to a lesser extent, the United States.

Clare Menozzi, a demographer with the UN Population Division and the principal author of the report, told the Friday Fax that wider societal acceptance of single parenthood, increased access to welfare support for single mothers and the widespread availability of inexpensive contraception may have contributed to this trend.

Ms. Menozzi also believes that policies to discourage adoptions by step-parents may have resulted in a decrease in domestic adoptions in some countries. These legal reforms aim at safeguarding the rights of non-custodial biological parents.

Whereas the number of domestic adoptions has been declining in many developed countries, several developing countries such as India and Sri Lanka have experienced an increase in the number of domestic adoptions, in part as a result of policies to encourage adoption by local residents.

Concerning international adoptions, China and Russia have emerged in the past decade as the most important countries of origin, replacing South Korea and India.

There have been steep increases in international adoptions by some countries, such as the US, Spain and France, though the rate has been flat in Sweden, which traditionally took in a substantial percentage of foreign children.

In April, the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption has come into force in the US. Some policy makers have seen it as a useful tool for promoting domestic adoption, which is considered by them superior to international adoption and more in a child’s interest.

Thomas Atwood, the President of the National Council for Adoption, believes however that those who see domestic and international adoptions as being in conflict are mistaken.

Atwood told the Friday Fax that those views are unfortunate since many countries simply cannot take care of their orphans, and international adoption might be the only way for these children to have a family.

Atwood also said that given the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) claim that there are 143 million orphans in the world, he would like to see the United Nations and its agencies to show more leadership in promoting a global culture of adoption.