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Why International Adoption Still Matters

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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



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