Today was Orphan Sunday at many churches around the US. This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Recently, Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, reported that, “Last year [fiscal year 2011], US citizens adopted more than 9,000 children from countries around the world.”
In fiscal years 2004 and 2005, Americans adopted nearly 23,000 children each year from other countries. The number of international adoptions has been on a steady decline since then. And it seems this fiscal year, which ended September 30, is no exception.
There are some obvious clues as to why international adoptions have declined. China has dramatically slowed down international adoptions. The Guatemala adoption program was very popular, and the closing of this program was bound to affect those statistics. Also, the US economy has affected most Americans financially, making the cost of adoption prohibitive to many families.
But what about the children? In the last seven years, is it possible that there are so fewer children in the world who need loving families? Of course not. Millions of orphans around the world are still waiting for families, arguably moreso now than ever before.
The effects of this startling statistic (of 9,000 international adoptions last year) is most felt by the orphans. Imagine you’re running an orphanage in another country. And suddenly the adoptions slow down or stop all together. The children are no longer leaving the orphanage with their forever families like they used to. So the beds they occupy are no longer available for the other children waiting to come in to the orphanage. And the portion of money that used to come through your doors that once paid for kids’ care is now coming in much slower than it used to. Without that money, you need to make a choice between food and staff. So you let some staff go so that you can still feed the kids, but those staff are desperately needed to care for so many children…
This is a common scene in orphanages. Without staff and other resources, they are forced to make do with less and less. Instead of having enough hands to feed everyone, they prop bottles up with towels to feed babies. (This method can often cause pneumonia.) If you need to make a choice between changing diapers and giving the kids attention they need to thrive and attach, guess which one you’re going to choose.
As international adoption rates drop, children around the world pay the price. This National Adoption Month, choose to be the advocate orphans need. Consider supporting an agency’s humanitarian aid program in a given country, so that they can continue to provide care for the children in their orphanages. Continue to voice your support of adoption to policy makers. Tell your story to families considering adoption. More than ever, orphans need us…not just on Orphan Sunday.