During the past 22 years, U.S. families have adopted over 280,000 children from other countries. Behind those statistics, every number represents a child, birth parents, a history, and ultimately, a family formed by adoption. Each adoption experience is as unique as the individual adoptees. Some people may wonder why children in need of a “forever” home do not find adoptive families in their countries of birth. Indeed, many do. However, for one reason or another, many others do not. The State Department believes that every child should grow up in a safe family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding, and to that end, we work to make intercountry adoption a possibility for children who can’t find permanency in their birth country.
With the assistance of the State Department, U.S. families provide permanent, loving homes to fifty percent of the adopted children placed worldwide through the intercountry adoption process. How do we do this? We cooperate with foreign governments. We share information with the public on our website about the adoption process in almost every country in the world. We collaborate with accredited adoption service providers, state child welfare authorities, and other federal agencies. The State Department works to break down barriers to adoption across international borders, and to strengthen adoption policies, procedures, and safeguards. Our policies, rooted in the legal framework for international cooperation on adoption, ensure adoptions are as transparent, safe, and ethical as possible to protect adoptive families, birth families, and most of all, children.
While many of us have notions of adoption involving adoptive parents receiving newborn babies, the reality, particularly in intercountry adoption, is frequently much different. Intercountry adoptees represent a wide range of age groups, come from various backgrounds, and are often a much more diverse group of children and youth. Families in the United States open their hearts and homes to the most children with special needs, sibling groups, and children in older age groups worldwide. This says a great deal about us as a nation.
The State Department believes that every child should grow up in a safe family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding.Michelle Bernier-Toth Special Advisor for Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State
The State Department recognizes the unique backgrounds, histories, and experiences of adoptees, and we value the many voices of the intercountry adoption community. We recognize that some adoptees and their families have very positive adoption experiences, while others may have challenges, sometimes long after an adoption is completed. There are many factors that contribute to the variety of adoption experiences—the challenges of navigating foreign laws and regulations, cultural differences, global challenges like the pandemic, and of course the individual circumstances of each adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family. Our staff understand that the regulatory environment of adoptions can be intimidating and complex. We know the added challenge the ongoing pandemic has placed on the adoption community, and we have worked to assist impacted families and adoption professionals during this time. Our staff’s primary role is to provide information and tools to make the adoption experience as transparent as possible and to identify ways to be a better resource for the adoption community.
Every November, we welcome the opportunity to pause and reflect on the impact of adoption for children in need of permanency and their families. We also honor the varied collection of adoption stories and listen to adoptee voices, and we encourage those of you who have an adoption story that you would like to share with us to please reach out.
Today, on National Adoption Day , and every day, the State Department remains committed to continuing our work supporting the adoption community, listening and learning about the range of adoption experiences, and ensuring the long-term viability of intercountry adoption for children who do not find a home in their birth country.
About the Author: Michelle Bernier-Toth serves as the Special Advisor for Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Interested in sharing your adoption story? Email Adoption@state.gov