Motivated by the desire to provide a home to a needy child, parents like the Franklins don’t like to talk about international adoption as a business. But clearly the market forces of supply and demand have been at work.
A country opens its doors to prospective parents, whether because of war, natural disaster, civil strife or chronic poverty. Adoption agencies and their clients rush in, suddenly turning a small country such as Kazakhstan or Nepal into a major exporter of children.
The demand for healthy babies is extremely high among American and European parents, who are willing to spend upwards of $25,000 to $50,000 in fees and travel costs. That kind of money — multiplied many thousands of times over — has led to cases of corruption in many countries.
Numerous countries, including Guatemala and Vietnam, have experienced problems such as judges and lawyers taking bribes, and gangs or even police stealing children. In response to such charges, a nation’s government might decide to put a halt to intercountry adoptions, as Romania did a decade ago. Other countries have seen their markets closed, with U.S. or European nations blocking visas for their children, as happened in Nepal.
In 2008, Guatemala was the leading source of international adoptions in the U.S., with 4,123 children. Over the past year, the number plummeted to 32, as Guatemalan authorities sought to regain control of the country’s troubled adoption system. (The State Department releases adoption figures not by calendar years, but by fiscal years that run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.)
Under Guatemala’s old system, no government agency had authority to match birth mothers willing to surrender children with adoptive parents. Private attorneys rushed to fill this void, leading to widespread allegations of baby buying and stealing.
Once a country such as Guatemala closes its doors to international adoptions, demand shifts to a new “sending” country such as Ethiopia, and the boom-and-bust cycle repeats itself.
“What we see is a country becoming fashionable,” says Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser for children’s issues. “People go to the countries where it’s easiest to adopt, where the rules are lax and you can do an adoption quickly and perhaps get a baby.”
Access the full article here.