Why International Adoption Still Matters

When Russia announced it was closing its international adoption program, social media exploded with opinions. Friends would forward me articles on international adoption and say, “Don’t read the comments section!” So of course I did. And I would read the words posted from people vehemently opposed to international adoption and wonder where our humanity has gone.

“Let them stay in their own country.”

“Why should we take their problem kids?”

“No more importing foreign children!”

I wonder if any of those caustic people have ever sat on a cold orphanage floor, holding an innocent child in their arms who was sick or malnourished. Every child on this earth has a basic human right to be raised in a family, regardless of country. Children are NOT supposed to be raised in institutions. It’s really not rocket science. Kids need families.

While I could write volumes on my thoughts about international adoption on the whole, for the sake of this blog series I want to focus strictly on China since all of the children we work with are from that country. Adoption from China has fallen to its lowest point in years. In 2011, the last year official data is available, Americans adopted just 2,587 children…699 boys and 1,888 girls. (Source 1). That number is just 2% of all the children in government institutional care there, and just 0.4% of the total orphaned children in that country. ZERO POINT FOUR PERCENT.

There are many charities working in China with orphaned children, and I am sure I could speak for all of them when I say that as we watch these amazing kids grow up in our programs, we wish more than anything that each one could have a family of his or her own. When you have met these beautiful kids in person, you know so deeply that it is a complete tragedy for even ONE of them to live their entire childhood inside an institution’s walls.

Some of the most painful memories I have of my work in China are the ones where I have held older orphaned children in my arms, while they have sobbed and told me what it was really like to grow up without parents. It is so completely unfair, and that is why I get so angry when I read someone’s “anonymous” posting online that they should “stay in their own country.” What a terribly cruel thing to say about any child growing up essentially all alone.

None of us should kid ourselves or try to make our own hearts feel better by saying that a nice orphanage nanny can take the place of a mom or dad. Would any of us want our own babies raised in an institution? Of course not. And if it’s not okay for our OWN children, why then is it okay for the kids currently living behind orphanage walls? We all know that the longer a child stays in an institution, the more they will suffer cognitive, physical, and emotional delays which can have lifelong implications.

As we have discussed, the majority of children in Chinese orphanages today have some sort of special need.  Without international adoption, these children would have almost no chance of finding a home.  Do I hope this continues to change over the years? Absolutely! I would love to see more and more Chinese families welcome orphaned children with cerebral palsy, blindness, missing limbs, spina bifida and more into their homes. And I am encouraged, as I mentioned in my post on domestic adoption, that we ARE seeing more and more local families adopt children from our programs with health conditions like repaired cleft lip and repaired heart defects. But do I think that a Chinese family will walk into our Heartbridge Healing Home this year and say, “We would love to adopt baby Jenny, with anal atresia, one missing kidney, and a urological stoma.” I do not, and the reality is that without being adopted internationally, Jenny will most likely pass away in childhood, from not being able to get the monitored medical care by a family that she requires.

Baby Jenny

TODAY, at this very moment, there are 2,000 children on the shared adoption list waiting for a home that no one has stepped forward to claim as a son or daughter. Why? Because they have special needs, and there simply aren’t enough families open to bringing them home.

We have to speak up for children who cannot speak for themselves. Keeping a child institutionalized can never be better than allowing a child to grow up in a loving family. What I have learned more than anything else in working with Chinese orphaned children for ten years is that EVERY child’s life is so important. Those of us who are Chinese adoptive parents cannot simply come home with our own incredible blessing and then forget all the children who still wait. China gave us the absolute honor to parent a child from that country, and I hope we will turn the love we feel for our own children into action:  to help even more incredible kids find homes.

Let’s not be silent. Let’s continue to promote special needs adoption far and wide, and continue to advocate for all the children on the lists who are not chosen. For every single child who eventually finds a family – a priceless life will be changed forever.

~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer


1) http://adoption.state.gov/about_us/statistics.php

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39 Comments to “Why International Adoption Still Matters”

  1. Annie 22 January 2013 at 11:04 am #


  2. Amy Rankin 22 January 2013 at 11:34 am #


  3. Meghan 22 January 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Thank you for this awesome article! Political boundaries do not make one orphan more important than another, children need families regardless of what corner of the world they are born. I was amazed and never expected any criticism for choosing to adopt internationally, it was hard to handle when it came up (and even now that we have our beautiful daughter people still feel the need to ask why we didn’t adopt a local child instead as if we made a mistake). I can’t wait to share this article with everyone I know, keep up the inspirational blogging

  4. Fliss 22 January 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    I wish I could take home all the kids… love them all like crazy

  5. MaryD 22 January 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    So well written . . . and thank you for writing this! We adopted our two boys internationally from S. Korea. I commented on a few local discussions regarding the Russia issue and was SO discouraged and saddened as to how many people left unbelievable comments stating that “they need to take care of their own” . . . “we should be adopting our own” . . . “there’s no reason to adopt internationally” . . . etc. The use of “their own” or “our own” is alarming to me. Thank you again for putting into words what I am feeling as well. I will definitely be sharing!

  6. Amy Murphy 22 January 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Absolutely wonderful series! And so heart wrenching. I wish I could adopt a ton more boys.

  7. Christine 22 January 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    Thank you! I am SO tired of Americans who think that Americans should only adopt American children.

  8. Cathy 22 January 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Thank you for your well written, thoughtful articles that put into words the feelings and heart-felt longings of so many of us who have adopted from China. Our two daughters are blessings beyond measure! And my heart breaks for the ones we had to leave behind…

  9. Ashleigh Bicevskis 22 January 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Wow, thank you so much for your heart and honesty. You have stirred my heart today… we cannot give up on these precious children and finding them families.

  10. Mary Ann Day 22 January 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Beautifully written! Every Life is Beautiful, near and far, healthy or with special needs. They all need a family.

  11. Nicole Kump 22 January 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Beautifully written, full of grace. Thank you and God bless you.

  12. Cynthia 22 January 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Amen!!!! I have often wondered at the very hypocrisy of those who question why we adopted Internationally or who choose to boldly say “leave them there”…funny how they never put feet to their own words/criticism by themselves adopting domestically. Cowardly to criticize when there is no action on your part to make the situation better in any country. That goes as well for those who picket and speak out against abortion but aren’t willing to sign up to adopt those children…I am fully against abortion, but I have no room to speak out against it, if I am unwilling to be a part of the real solution and encourage adoption as the answer for these young moms. Thank you Amy for speaking out so boldly AND for putting your feet, time, and effort in what you say.

  13. Kristin 22 January 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Powerful emotional closing….

    “Those of us who are Chinese adoptive parents cannot simply come home with our own incredible blessing and then forget all the children who still wait. China gave us the absolute honor to parent a child from that country, and I hope we will turn the love we feel for our own children into action: to help even more incredible kids find homes.”

    Thanks for putting my feelings into words!

  14. Jessica 22 January 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    YES & AMEN! This is a wonderfully written post that so resonates with me. We adopted our daughter from China through the special needs program & are so grateful for her life. We also felt that committing to her meant to never stop caring for the kiddos left behind- anywhere in the world they wait. Thanks for being a voice for the voiceless!

  15. Tracie 22 January 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Sometimes I like to razz the haters by saying…we had to import them to try to reintroduce some intelligence into the gene pool here in this country, and your comments underscore the necessity.

  16. Mike Snyder 22 January 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Well Written. As an adoptive dad (from China) — I hear questions and comments like you noted in your article. Hard to know how to graciously respond. :) Sometimes, people just don’t get it. Thanks for making the issue the issue. Kids are kids. Everywhere. :)

  17. Campbell 22 January 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    So beautifully written. I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason that China adoption has fallen is b/c the wait has stretched to nearly 8 years in some cases. One family that finally returned home with their baby started the process when their biological child was 2. She was 9 years old when they finally received the call that they could prepare to travel. The wait is just too long for some families. They begin to lose hope and get fed up and decide to go elsewhere. A little girl I work with finally came home from China nearly five years after her parents began the process. They had been given a travel date two years in and then b/c there was a change in the way one of the agencies wanted names written down, they were delayed another TWO YEARS…b/c of a clerical mistake. It seems so tragic that miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape is essentially sentencing some of these children to death, like another family I know whose little girl died in China of a serious heart defect. Had they been able to get her out sooner she would have gotten the medical care and surgical intervention she needed. Something has to be done to speed up this outrageously long process. I know that many will say “We got our daughter/son in X months start to finish” and I know that is true for some, but for the children languishing in orphanages as they wait and wait for red tape to clear, it doesn’t matter that some got out faster than others. To the ones who are suffering still, the wait is endless. I know it is a major deterrent to families looking to adopt. It has been for my family. I also worry for the NSN children who are usually at the end of these outrageously long waits. There are many healthy girls in particular who wait and wait and wait while the children with special needs are granted a speedier avenue. Of course I understand why, but it seems sad that many of the “healthy” girls grow increasingly unhealthy as they are raised in institutions. The entire system needs an over haul. Some families are led to adopt special needs children, others don’t feel they can handle all that serious medical needs brings. Every family who wants to open their home to a child in need of a family should be able to do so in a reasonable amount of time. God bless each of the little souls as they wait and wait.

  18. Tiffany 22 January 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    I couldn’t have said it better. Seeing all those children who are fatherless really rugged at my heart. While it is not practical for me to adopt them all, it is practical for me to speak up for those who are left behind. Our son was in Luoyang CWI. When we traveled in September we were told that there were over 600 kids in this facility and all were special needs. I am so glad that we made a decision after 5 years of waiting in the traditional program to switch to special needs. Our son is a healthy thriving little boy who is so full of life.

  19. Teresa 22 January 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    I agree with Campbell, part of the contributing decline is the ridiculous amount of paperwork that has to be completed and the wait times to get that paperwork processed. Additionally, who can ignore the HUGE price tag? We waited 5 years for our first adoption, many times saying we were done. Thankfully, we never officially quit and have our amazing daughter home. We are returning for our second adoption and I have been hoping (wrong or right) that God doesn’t ask us to adopt again internationally and that somehow we can help orphan children another way. The process is just too hard on our family and currently my husband and I are working 3 jobs and fundraising. I know this is temporary and will be worth it, but it will likely keep us from bringing home any more kiddos. I believe the process should be sped up, domestically and internationally, if you have already adopted once and no major changes have occurred in your life, reduce the paperwork and reduce the time frame…and let’s get children in their forever families!

  20. Lynda 23 January 2013 at 2:32 am #

    AMEN to that. As someone who has volunteered in a desperately under funded orphanage in South America, I applaud your words.

  21. Jocelyn Scott 23 January 2013 at 9:47 am #

    I spent six years in boarding school, which was supposed to be a privilege, as it enabled me to get a better education than I would have otherwise. Ever since, I’ve always said that I wouldn’t put a dog I liked into an institution, let alone a human being.
    P.S Fortunately I lived close enough to be able to get home on weekends; otherwise I would have been traumatized by the emotional barrenness.

  22. Katie Sharp--Heart of the Matter Seminars 23 January 2013 at 11:31 am #

    This article gave me goosebumps. Well said. Thank you for so eloquently expressing what so many of us feel.

  23. Jenna 23 January 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Thanks for the insight ! I wholeheartedly agree with you-all children deserve the chance to have a family. What I would like to comment on, specifically, is the severe restrictions placed on PAP(especially through China) that make it so difficult for those brave-hearted who are actually willing to step forward with a hand raised, an open heart, and an open home. And why do they make it so expensive? How do we change the numbers when the govt refuses to bend for adoptions that would be fully appropriate? Another heartbreaking reality …..

  24. Tracy 23 January 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I agree with much of what you wrote. I agree that NO child anywhere should grow up alone or in an institution. We are so glad that we have been blessed with 3 of the SN waiting children from IA. We are blessed.
    I would like to say that there would likely be MORE families willing to adopt if the cost was not so high. I hear all the time, “I would take a child with sn but can’t afford it.” I am pretty sure my husband and I would take a few more if the cost was not so crazy. It is not just the cost, but it is SO much stress and worry. It is a hard things to do. Yes, we have done it 3 times. Yes we would do it over again. But I think there would be even more who would if the cost was not an issue.

  25. Lee Anne 25 January 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Is there a reason that can be inferred or that you can expound on, with such long waits, that Americans are only adopting 0.4% of the children in Chinese Institutionalized care? Are they mostly SN and Americans are waiting for NSN? Are they not available bc they aren’t “paper ready” ? Are there other reasons

  26. roomforatleastonemore 25 January 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Same question as Lee Anne for me.

    As to the comments people make, I walk around wondering which people we encounter feel the exact same way. That really bothers me, and can I just say it is not that far from racist? I hate to say it, but I think it is.

    I think the reason adoption number are down is obvious–writing on the wall. I won’t say it blatantly here but I think it is planned and not at all because there aren’t people wanting to adopt these children. Just my 2 cents.

  27. Randy Fowler 27 January 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Well written!!!! Most people in the Us don’t relize how hard it is to adopt a small child. A child in the US will usually be taken over by a family member. I know several Grandpa and grandma who are raising small children. We adopted a two year old girl who had a cleft lip and palate. We started out in the traditional adoption but changed our prefrance in Jan. of 2012. We logged in China in 2006 we didn’t think we were ever going to be matched. If i knew than what I know now I wouldn’t have wated so long to get a waiting child.

  28. Ashley 10 April 2013 at 8:11 am #

    To me, it’s also a shame that there are so many restrictions on who can/can’t adopt. My husband and I would LOVE to adopt a special needs child who desperately needs a home, but we are turned away simply because we have not been married the requisite five years (my husband was divorced once). Marriage stability should be something assessed in the home study process. A number is just a number and while I understand that statistically, marriages are less likely to dissolve the longer a couple has been married, it shouldn’t be a blanket restriction. We have a great marriage, a lovely home we own, financial stability, and I have years of experience working with children and adults with special needs-yet the Chinese government feels like their children are better off in orphanages than with us without even giving us a chance. Makes my heart ache for the children we could help.

  29. Kitty 21 June 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Just a note to second Campbell and Ashley’s comments. My husband is Chinese, we live in Beijing, and we’d love to adopt. However, we face the same problem as Ashley (married 4 years now with 1 previous divorce) and when we went to the Chinese gov’t agency that handles international adoptions, we got a chuckle and a recommendation to “zuohao xinli zhunbei” (prepare yourselves emotionally) for the loooooong wait times. We’re 40 this year, and the idea of waiting until our late 40s to start parenting just didn’t seem to make sense. We haven’t given up exactly, but we’re not moving forward with a plan either. Does anyone know why the wait times are so long now? Is it for good reasons (increased domestic adoption making fewer children eligible for international adoption, fewer children being put up for adoption in the first place as economic conditions improve) or bad reasons (senseless bureaucracy) or both? It’s mysterious to us. It just seems a pity that we could in theory give a child a loving Chinese AND American family, and yet we have been discouraged by the government officials that we have spoken with. If there is no need for people to adopt in China anymore, we get it. But it doesn’t quite seem to be the case…

  30. mdelu 2 March 2014 at 10:04 am #

    How lucky are we God doesn’t have favorite countries or label us by our race? I don’t remember reading ” love thy neighbor” or ” I won’t leave you as orphans” meaning ” only those that look and act like me” or only those from MY country…..

  31. worldmom 3 March 2014 at 8:28 am #

    This is a great article and I agree with the overall sentiment. This, though, I disagree with:

    “TODAY, at this very moment, there are 2,000 children on the shared adoption list waiting for a home that no one has stepped forward to claim as a son or daughter. Why? Because they have special needs, and there simply aren’t enough families open to bringing them home.”

    I would argue that there are plenty of families “open” to bring home kids with SN. Probably not enough to fully meet the need, but certainly more than are stepping forward now. The difficulty is the cost. It is so completely overwhelming to most families to think of coming up with that kind of money. We’ve adopted 9 children (4 from China), 3 of whom have significant special needs (Down syndrome, albinism and deafness) and several others of whom have more minor needs (ADHD, attachment issues, learning differences, etc). The special needs pray is doable, but as much as we’d like to return to China for a little guy with DS we met when we adopted last year, we just. can’t. do it again. With what we’ve spent on our adoptions, we could have purchased a house! I’m absolutely not complaining; we love our children and it was worth every sacrifice to get them home. But I have people tell me all the time that they would adopt in a heartbeat if they could just afford it. I can think of several families off the top of my head who would happily adopt children with special needs if they could simply afford to do so.

    I don’t know what the solution is. I know it’s complicated and those who work with adoption certainly have the right to be compensated for their work, but the international adoption system has become so convoluted over the years, with so many agencies’ hands in the pot, that it’s worked its way out of the realm of financial possibility for many families. It’s a travesty.

  32. Rebecca 4 March 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    Well said, Amy! I am the adoptive mother of three Russian children. The orphanages were packed to capacity and hundreds more waited across the street in a hospital for a spot in the orphanage. It just breaks my heart. I’m at your side educating, fundraising,and helping one child at a time. I’d like to repost your blog on mine-www.teamorphans.com/blog to help spread the word. I’ll give you all the credit and link back to your page. Blessings to you!

  33. chinalwb 5 March 2014 at 7:45 am #

    Hi Rebecca! Of course that would be absolutely fine to repost our blog on your site. Thank you for asking and for all you’re doing to advocate for orphaned children!

  34. Peg Miller 6 March 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    Amy, I’m giving a presentation on Adoption at our church next month, and hope it will be ok with you to use what you’ve written in “Why International Adoption Still Matters.” Is it ok to include pictures? ~Peg

  35. chinalwb 7 March 2014 at 7:50 am #

    Absolutely, Peg! We would love to have you use any part of it that you like in your talk. We appreciate you checking with us. Please let us know how it goes!

  36. ginna 9 March 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    We brought our daughter home from China in June of this year. Her SN are very similar to Jenny’s. It breaks me to think that this little girl could perish because of her needs. Is she available for adoption. I would love to advocate for her or speak with any family interested in her. Her needs can definately be handled with routine.

  37. Annmarie 13 March 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    I just keep praying one day my husband and I will find the money to adopt from China again. Our daughter has been home 6 years and is so wonderful, we just keep praying. I just know it’s going to happen.

  38. dawn 2 May 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Our two beautiful girls were born in Anhui and Jiangxi. My response to anyone questioning our choice is that adoption is an intensely personal experience and a choice that is not made lightly. Having researched every possibility at home and abroad, China was the right fit for us. Most people who raise objections to international adoption have never adopted a child.

  39. Beth Johnson 29 July 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    Considering the huge number of children on the shated list, why make it so incredibly difficult to bring them home? Mountains of paperwork, strict upper age limit requirements, orher requirements that make it possible for only a select few to adopt. Many more children would find families if adoption were not made to be such a daunting undertaking.

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