Sharp Drop In International Adoptions Last Year

Sharp drop in international adoptions by Canadians last year

Peterborough Examiner Night Editor
Local News – Thursday, September 06, 2007 Updated @ 10:09:12 PM

While Madonna and Angelina Jolie have grabbed headlines by adopting young children from overseas, fewer Canadians adopted internationally last year.

There were 1,535 children adopted from abroad in 2006, 18 per cent less than the year before and 30 per cent less than in 2003, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures.

The sharp decline is attributed to adoptions from China falling nearly 37.5 per cent to 608 last year from 973 in 2005.

Canadians adopting internationally have long turned to China as the top source because of its one child per family policy to curb overpopulation thats been in effect since 1979.

But China has become overwhelmed by increasing numbers of families wishing to adopt from many countries, said Sandra Scarth, president of the Adoption Council of Canada.

China announced tougher restrictions late last year on applicants that took effect in May, banning adoptions by single parents, obese parents and those under 30 or over 50.

Adopting couples must also meet income, net worth, education and health requirements and have to be married for at least two years and at least five years if its a second marriage for either partner.

The extra requirements was one way China has tried to help reduce the numbers of applicants and will likely result in a further decline in numbers next year, Scarth said.

That has meant longer waiting times for applicants to China, leaving some to turn to adopting from other countries.

There were modest increases last year in adoptions from some other countries, particularly Ethiopia and Vietnam, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures.

As economic and social conditions improve in the developing world, fewer children are waiting for families, said Martha Maslen, executive director of Childrens Bridge, a Canadian agency that sets up adoptions from China and other countries.

Canadians looking to adopt overseas are turning to new sources in Africa, such as Ethiopia, Maslen said.

Haiti was the second largest source of children for Canadians adopting overseas last year with 123 adoptions, followed by South Korea with 102, the United States with 96 and Russia with 95, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures.

Intercountry adoptions to Canada had been running stable for the past 11 years with between 1,800 and 2,200 a year.

Scarth and Maslen both said last years decline is not a case of fewer Canadians being interested in adopting from abroad.

Because the wait is getting much longer, there are fewer placements each year, Scarth said.

Long waiting lists have also built up for applicants to some other countries, such as South Korea, she said.

Some countries halt international adoptions temporarily to implement new rules.

Guatemala is closed to Canadians, while Vietnam recently reopened as an option.

Adoptions from Russia slowed a couple years ago when new regulations required all agencies handling international adoptions to become re-accredited.

The changes were triggered by Russian outrage over the killing of a six-year-old Russian boy by his American parent, Irma Pavlis, in Illinois in December 2003.

There have been 12 cases of American parents killing adopted Russian children since 1991.

Implementation of a 2000 international agreement to prevent child smuggling called the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption has also unintentionally slowed down legitimate overseas adoptions in many countries, Scarth said.

Some countries, such as India, now require a search for either a relative or another adoptive family in the childs country before a child can be legally freed for intercountry adoption.

India is now making some efforts to increase intercountry adoptions, but the process is quite slow, Scarth said.

Agencies handling international adoptions wont even work with a few countries, such as Liberia, because of questionable practices, she said.

Adopting a child internationally can cost $20,000 to $25,000 in fees and travel costs, but Scarth and Maslen said the high cost is not a factor in the decline in numbers.

The fees have not changed much in 12 years, Maslen said.

Adoptive applicants wanting young children sadly become quite desperate and seem to be willing to pay whatever it costs, Scarth said.

The federal government introduced a income tax credit in 2005 allowing up to $10,000 in adoption expenses to be deducted.

About 80 per cent of children adopted from overseas are younger than five years old and two thirds are girls, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures indicate.

Many families want to adopt healthy infant girls when in reality the majority of children waiting for families are older and/or boys, Maslen said.

Ontario and Quebec are the leading destinations for international adoptions, with 494 in Ontario and 487 in Quebec last year, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures.

(Online at 10:10 p.m. Thursday)