Cos and Rachel Gardner of Lafeyette, Ind., hope to bring their adopted daughter home from Ethiopia sometime next year. They completed paperwork in May, and have requested a girl under a year old. Rachel said they chose Ethiopia because it “has roughly 4.3 million orphans primarily due to poverty. We discussed adopting a transracial child and ultimately felt that the race of a child should not determine his or her ability to be loved or our ability to raise them in our family.”
But while many couples like the Gardners desire international adoptions, the number of families brining children home from overseas is falling as it becomes more difficult to adopt from certain countries. At the same time, CNN reports couples from Canada and Europe are looking to adopt babies from a country that provides ample medical and family history: the United States.
While the number of international adoptions to America grew during the past few decades, they peaked at 22,884 in 2004 and have since dropped more than 60 percent to 8,668. This is mostly due to countries closing their doors to international adoption: China recently tightened rules for foreign couples, and Russia will ban adoptions by U.S. couples by 2014. Concern over whether the adopted children are actually orphans has also decreased international adoptions.
Despite the difficulties—wait times for international children are often one to three years and costs tens of thousands of dollars—the Gardners said they want to adopt from Ethiopia in part because Rachel’s parents were missionaries in Africa while she was growing up. “We felt God used our international experiences to open our eyes to other places outside the United States,” she said.
As couples who would have sought international adoptions turn to options closer to home, they might have more competition: Couples from Europe and Canada are looking to adopt infants from the United States. While the exact number of overseas adoptions of American children is unknown, in 2010 five countries—Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Ireland—reported adoptions of 205 children born in the U.S., according to CNN. In the Netherlands this past June, 70 families who adopted U.S. babies gathered for a celebration of their American heritage. Most of the U.S. babies adopted by foreign couples are black or biracial.
Although the trend may be surprising, birth mothers will sometimes choose an international couple for their child because they believe another country will have less racism and thus provide better opportunities for their child. Also, the United States is one of few countries that allow homosexual couples to adopt, attracting gay couples from European countries.
On the flip side, some U.S. couples are reluctant to adopt domestically because they worry the birth mother will change her mind at the last minute. Adam and Keri Johnston of Mechanicsville, Md., worked with three birth mothers who changed their minds either just before or just after their babies were born, losing $41,000 in the process.
Still, U.S. couples adopt more children, domestically and internationally, than the rest of the world combined. Rachel Gardner said adoption mirrors God’s redemptive story: “We are humbled and excited to be a multicultural family and reflect the body of Christ in a very real way.”