The US Department of State recently released statistics on the number of children placed for intercountry adoption in fiscal year 2011. Unfortunately, and tragically, the overall number of orphan children who found families through intercountry adoption fell for the seventh straight year. This last year, it dropped by 15% - to only 9,320 children adopted by U.S. citizens. The numbers/report can be found here. It’s sobering to see the dramatic decline in intercountry adoption in the last half decade – in fact, the United States hasn’t internationally adopted this few number of children since 1994. I’ve been asked many times over the last few years why there has been such a sharp decline. I know many different professionals will respond to this question differently. What everyone will agree on, is that in most countries, the ability to adopt has become much more difficult and expensive for adoptive parents and that the US government adoption authorities have only added to the roadblocks and difficulties.
Not long after I read this report, I came across this poem, written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, and now engraved on the Statue of Liberty:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame.
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The poem, titled “The New Colossus” is a beautiful reminder to us of how our nation used to welcome in the less fortunate and did not shut our doors on the homeless and vulnerable. Now, it seems, we go to great efforts to make it difficult for the most vulnerable – orphans – to come to our country.
I don’t intend for this blog post to be “negative” – I’m really hopeful that our country will change their immigration laws to treat the adopted children of U.S. citizens differently than other potential immigrants. This Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful for the adoptive families that are waiting eagerly and expectantly during a process that is taking much longer than it should. I’m thankful for the families who have saved and sacrificed for an adoption process when money is tight and our nation’s economy is stagnant. I’m thankful for the families who faithfully and obediently follow God’s call to adoption, even though it doesn’t logically make sense. And even though thousands of orphans remain homeless, I’m thankful that the 9,320 children who found families through intercountry adoption this past year will have a Thanksgiving in which their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, moms and dads will look at them and say, “I’m thankful for you this year.”