The January 21, 2013 issue of Time magazine features an in-depth article by Kayla Webley titled The Baby Deficit. I paused when I read those words, “Baby Deficit.” From my observation, people who wish to become parents will find a way—if not through the “usual channels,” then through in-vitro fertilization, embryo transfers, sperm donors, or surrogates. Some other people, like my husband and me, will choose adoption. While I’m not sure there exists a “deficit” of babies being born, there definitely is a shrinking number of babies available for adoption. From the article:
The number of international children adopted by American families has dropped some 60% from its peak in 2004. That year, Americans adopted 22,991 foreign children, according to the State Department. In 2011, despite long waiting lists at adoption agencies, the total was 9,319—the lowest since the mid-1990s.
Then I read the subhead, ”How changing attitudes about international adoption are creating heartbreak for American families,” and agree that much is true. Many American families are heartbroken, especially the families of the Guatemala 900, whose adoptions have been pending for more than five years, and families of the group known as the Kyrgyz 65, whose cases have been tied up in Kyrgyzstan for only slightly less time. I would add another group whose hearts may be broken, and that is children who will grow up in institutions, without ever being part of permanent families. In the article, nobody asked them how they feel about losing the possibility of ever being adopted.
The article focuses on one particular couple, Frank and Gabrielle Shimkus, who readers of this blog will recognize as members of the Kyrgyz 65. The Shimkuses have been trying to adopt their son for more than four years, demonstrating a steadfast dedication that would be unbelievable except for the fact some 60 other couples adopting from Kyrgyzstan have endured the same anguishing slog. In 2011, I wrote about Frank and Gabrielle here and here.
The Time article is thorough, comprehensive, and definitely worth reading—a kind of International Adoption 101. Maybe it will educate a few readers on the insane roller coaster ridden by so many of us adoptive parents. I read the piece the old-fashioned way: bought a copy standing in line at the grocery store. I’d post a link, but that option seems available only to subscribers.
We can argue all day about whether or not international adoption should continue, and when night falls, still not agree. But one point that seems undeniable is that children should not be used as pawns in long, drawn-out processes. Sadly, this is precisely what’s happening around the world: in Guatemala, in Kyrgyzstan, and soon in Russia. What good possibly can come from institutionalizing a child for four years while bureaucrats stall to make a point?
At least for now, the world is paying attention, with coverage in The New York Times, the Russian press, and this week, Time magazine. The question is, will anything change before focus shifts to the next big story?