Tracy Murphy

The adoption agency we used when we adopted our 3 kids recently published their annual report.  (Children’s Home Society of MN – chlss.org).  It was another year of decline in international adoptions with an increased need in domestic foster care adoptions.  While this would seem to be good news from an international front and alarming news on a domestic front, it is MUCH more complicated than what the high-level numbers suggest.

When I look at our agency in just the last 5 years, we see big changes.  In 2012 Children’s Home helped facilitate 299 adoptions, 257 of which were international. In 2016, that number fell to 217 adoptions with 109 being international.

The numbers are even more drastic when you look at national averages over a 12-year time frame.  In 2003, there were 22,000 kids adopted into the US internationally and in 2015 that number was 5,648.

This begs the question … Why? What’s changed? What’s happening?

A big part of the change is the Hague Convention ruling in 2008, its intention was to reduce corruption, child trafficking and increase transparency in the process. All organizations were required to be compliant by 2014.  (read more at ….https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/how-to-adopt/international-adoption-facts-need-know/).

As a social justice advocate I LOVE that we are putting kids 1st and that there are incremental international protections and measures in place to ensure that kids are protected, safe guarded and have the best possible process for their future.

Don’t even get me started on the domestic foster care needs for kids. The system is broken and doesn’t put the children’s needs at the center of the issue.  Alia Innovations (aliainnovations.org) is aiming to recreate the system and recently hosted a convening to start imaging a different future for our kids.   It gives me hope but the work needed to do is overwhelming.

As an adoptive parent, I worry about all the kids that are left behind.  I suspect that the number of available children hasn’t decreased because of the Hague Convention rulings.  Foster care kids are aging out and for all the kids, I worry that this means kids are spending more time in orphanages and less than ideal living environments.

While I don’t have data around it, I see how the Korean program has changed with Children’s Home.  When we adopted our kids (2001-2004), they came home between 4-9 months old. Now, I see kids coming home at 2-3 yrs old. I thank God, every day that Korea has a strong foster family program so feel better that these kids are in loving home environments but … what about the kids in other countries that are in orphanages – or worse (and it’s hard to imagine anything worse than an orphanage, no matter how well run or well-intended).

The 1st few years of live are critical for bonding & attachment as well as physical and mental health.  If a child doesn’t attach to SOMEONE by 2 yrs old, studies show that they may have lifelong attachment issues which can manifest in emotional, mental and physical challenges.  This is not the future I want for any child.

A few sections of the report really stood out to me…

Adoption has changed significantly in recent years. International adoptions are declining as the face of global politics changes country participation. Current trends in domestic foster care and adoption highlight the urgent need for more families as the number of children in care is growing considerably. The increase in the number of children in care needing permanency through adoption may be attributed to such factors as child protection policy changes, an increase in economic disparities and an increase in drug use. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Children’s Bureau, 112,000 children waited for adoptive families in 2015.

Nearly 500 of those children reside in Minnesota.

 Yet what has not changed is that behind every number is a child needing a home, a loving family to call their own. They need love, support and permanency. Both here in the U.S. and internationally, children who wait in care can wait for years to find an adoptive family. Many children who wait, both here and abroad, are part of sibling

groups, have identified needs or are school-age. We are seeing an increase in the number of sibling groups who wait. Having lost the foundation of their first family, siblings wait to be placed together in an adoptive family. We are also seeing a wide range of children who wait with identified needs, whether that be histories of trauma, abuse and neglect, or physical or developmental differences.

 What can we do?  I think it starts with each and every one of us … get educated and start talking.  Tell everyone you know about your adoption story.  Ask about theirs. Follow international trends. Learn more about what it takes to be a foster parent.  Lean in. Advocate. Educate. Question. Challenge.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG and share your story!  Yes, that in and of itself is a step in the right direction for all children.

Tracy Murphy sits on a board as a Vice Chair of Bellis (www.mybellis.org), a non-profit focussed on adoption education and support. She is the proud mom of 3 kids, all adopted from Korea. She and her family, including husband Tom, have lived in Minneapolis, Bangalore and Toronto. They are extremely active with sports/activities and love to travel/explore.

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