National Geographic : 2008 Jan
GEOGRAPHY The Politics of Adoption This year the map of international adoptions will be redrawn. The U.S., which adopts the most children from abroad, will be a full participant in the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adop tion. The treaty regulates adoption among the 74 members and helps ensure that agencies comply with Hague rules, which call for counseling for adoptive parents and ban child buying. That could be a problem for Guatemala, a mainstay of could plummet. Tom DiFilipo of the Joint Council for International Children's Services expects numbers to rise from other Hague participants-Colombia, for example. Would-be parents are used to such changes. South Korea once topped the list, sending some 100,000 children to the U.S. from the '50s to the '90s. When the Cold War ended, Russia and former Soviet-bloc countries like Romania-infa mous for its orphanages-opened to adoption. U .S. numbers soared. Romania closed its doors in 2001. Russia, with a dropping birthrate, now favors local families, as does China. For these and other reasons, U.S. numbers are sliding. But one thing remains constant: Parents often embrace the culture of their new child. "I now know in my heart," says Ellen Rathfon, mother of two girls born in China, "we're a global community." -Shelley Sperry U.S. Adoptions of Immigrant Orphans, 2006 Top 20 countriesof origin and numbers of adoptees Orphan Visas Issued by U.S., 1996-2006 22,911 V 20,705 Annual Totals 15,000 10,000 6,520 China 4,093 Guatemala 3,710 Russia - - 1,381 South Korea ,i 711 Ethiopia 1996 2001 2006 So-called orphan visas are required for U.S. adoptees from other countries. UKRAINE ' SOUTH KOREA 1,381 j *PHILIPPINES 252 Hague Convention participant (as of October 2007) PHOTO:NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHER MARKTHIESSENNGM MAPS SOURCE:U.S .DEPARTMENTOFHOMELANDSECURITY /"