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What's New in Adoption

Recent laws, rulings, and study results that benefit adoptive families.

Drop in international adoptions
Sadly, adopting from abroad became increasingly difficult for many would-be moms and dads Drop in international adoptions
Sadly, adopting from abroad became increasingly difficult for many would-be moms and dads within the last year. Disruptions in some countries' adoption programs and tightened restrictions--as well as long waits and increasing travel times and costs--led some parents to consider alternatives to grow their families. In 2008, the number of intercountry adoptions to the U.S. fell 12 percent from the previous year--from 19,613 to 17,438--to reach the lowest level since 1999, according to data from the U.S. Department of State.
• The largest drop was from China, with 3,909, due primarily to the slow rate at which applications are currently being processed. Prospective parents can now expect a wait of three years or longer.
• China was replaced by Guatemala as the top sending country, with 4,123 adoptions to the U.S. But in late 2008, Guatemala's National Council on Adoption halted its program in order to establish guidelines to comply with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Guatemala is working to complete transition cases, but is not accepting new applications.
• Ethiopia adoptions, however, are on the rise,  with 1,725 adoptions to the U.S. in 2008, up from 1,255 the previous year. Experts expect increases in other African and Latin American countries in the next year.
• The government of Liberia suspended processing of intercountry adoptions in January 2009. According to an official statement, the process was halted due to mismanagement and abuse at Liberian orphanages. Adoptions are expected to resume later this year, after new guidelines have been established.
• Nepal's Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare established new procedures for processing adoptions, as of January 1, 2009, and released names of 32 agencies in the U.S. that are approved to provide intercountry adoption services. (Nepal had suspended intercountry adoptions in 2007 because of serious fraud.) Under the new regulations, only 10 applications will be processed from each agency per year.
• In response to allegations of corruption within its adoption program, Vietnam announced on April 25, 2008, that it would not renew its bilateral treaty allowing intercountry adoptions to the U.S., after the pact expired on September 1, 2008. Although the country is not accepting new dossiers, the government of Vietnam has issued a formal diplomatic note to the U.S., requesting to begin negotiations toward a new Memorandum of Agreement.

U.S. enters Hague Convention
On April 1, 2008, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) went into effect for the United States. It establishes important standards and safeguards to protect intercountry adoptions, for both the children and the prospective parents. More than 70 countries have also agreed to the terms of the Convention, including China, India, and Thailand.  

Agencies and homestudy providers spent the past year working to meet the accreditation standards. To be accredited, adoption service providers must meet a broad range of ethical and professional requirements, including fee disclosure, records retention, professional qualifications, and staff education. You can find a full list of Hague-accredited adoption service providers at

In general, prospective adoptive parents receive more protections when adopting from a Hague Convention country, including a detailed adoption services contract, a standardized homestudy, pre-adoption education, and a medical history of the child. Parents may also report problems with their adoption service provider to a federal complaint registry. Read more about the Hague Convention on page 66 or at

More domestic adoptions
A USA Today survey of adoption agencies revealed that the numbers of placements for U.S. children have risen in the past year. And common misconceptions about domestic adoption being difficult and involving a long wait were once again overturned in our most recent AF survey. The majority of respondents were matched with a birthmother in less than 12 months, and 19 percent got “the call” to travel after the baby was born, without a prematch. In addition, domestic adoption fees are less than international adoption--an average of $20,000 to $25,000.

Adoption tax credit increases
The maximum federal tax credit that adopting parents may claim for adoption expenses climbed to $12,150 for 2009 returns. The credit is available to families who adopt internationally or domestically, though income limits apply. The tax credit phases out for taxpayers with high adjusted gross incomes (above $182,180). Families adopting U.S. children with special needs have historically received the full credit, regardless of their actual adoption expenses.

Qualifying expenses include necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel, and other expenses directly related to the adoption. Adoptive parents who plan to claim the credit should file Form 8839, titled Qualified Adoption Expenses, and attach it to Form 1040. For more information and to download required forms, visit

New face of adoptive parents
New findings from the National Center for Health Statistics' National Survey of Family Growth reveal some surprising facts about who is adopting now:
• A third of women have considered adoption--up from just a quarter in 1995. What's more, the number of women currently seeking to adopt has nearly doubled--to 1.6 percent, from 0.9 percent in 1995.
• Men adopt twice as often as women--2.3 percent of men versus 1.1 percent of women have adopted a child. Researchers think there are two possible causes. First, men who marry divorced or widowed women may adopt their wives' children; and, second, gay male couples adopt more often than gay female couples.

Adoption benefits on the rise
Almost half of major companies in the U.S. offer some adoption assistance, up from 12 percent in 1990. The average reimbursement provided by employers is $4,700--nearly twice that offered five years ago--and the average leave time is five weeks, according to a survey from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Companies find that providing adoption benefits makes them more competitive, and that they gain a significant return on their investment.

Workplaces with the best adoption benefits were recognized by the Foundation in its second annual Top 100 list,  based on the amount of financial reimbursement and length of paid leave per adoption. (See the full list at Top-ranked Wendy's offers up to $23,300 in financial assistance and six weeks paid leave, while 53rd-ranked Deutsche Bank provides $5,000 and 16 weeks. According to the Foundation, more than 50 organizations have newly established or enhanced adoption benefits in the past year.

Want to petition your employer to get on board? Adapt the downloadable sample petition at

Recession affects adoption
The economic downturn in 2008 had an effect on the adoption community. In a March 2009 survey, 49 percent of Adoptive Families readers said the economy has affected their ability to afford to adopt, and more than a third have considered a different route, such as foster adoption, or a country with lower travel costs.

Stay up-to-date on changes and news about the world of adoption on the Adoptive Families Adoption News Ticker, here:

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