St. Louis adoption agency sounds alarm on plummeting internation - KMOV.com

St. Louis adoption agency sounds alarm on plummeting international adoptions

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Paperwork on a desk at a St. Louis adoption agency (Credit: KMOV) Paperwork on a desk at a St. Louis adoption agency (Credit: KMOV)
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO -

Adoption agencies and hopeful families are sounding the alarm on the plummeting number of international adoptions. The reasons are varied and complex, but the impact is clear.

According to data from the U.S. Department of State, in 2004, 22,989 children were adopted from abroad into U.S. homes. By 2017, that number dropped to only 4,714, nearly an 80 percent decrease. At adoption agencies in the St. Louis area, the drop is even steeper.

“Our peak was 2004 when we have more than 800 adoptions,” said Nicky Losse, adoption services director for Children’s Hope International. “And last year in 2017, we just completed 24 adoptions.”

Each number represents a family, like the Roussin’s from Jefferson County.

“Due to some health things, I had to have a hysterectomy so adoption was the only way we could have a family,” said Jenna Roussin, who adopted two sons from China with her husband. “We didn’t want to go through Missouri and be a foster parent and deal with heartache of losing children again and again. We weren’t ready to take on any more that could possibly cause more heartache so international adoption was the best choice for us.”

Losse said that’s a common reason hopeful parents turn to international adoption, as domestic adoptions can fall through if a birth mother chooses to keep her child at the last minute.

“Also, we have a lot of Christian families and missionary families that go overseas and see these kids in impoverished countries and want to help,” said Losse.

But, that is becoming more and more difficult.

“The U.S. ratified the Hague in 2008 and that was to promote ethical adoptions and all the adoption agencies were on board with that and wanted ethical adoptions but it also caused a lot of blocks for families, a lot of paperwork, a lot of additional requirements,” said Losse.

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions.

Losse also faults the director of the Office of Children’s Issues and the State Department revising definitions and reinterpreting parts of guidelines.

“We are all for ethical adoptions. We believe in the standards and follow them. We follow the guidelines of the foreign government as well as our government but it seems to be they are pushing the envelope a little bit too much and imposing regulations that aren’t always necessary,” said Losse.

She is particularly concerned with banning soft referrals, which are when a child is matched with a family before the family’s background check is complete. This can especially impact children with disabilities. Losse said in the latest guidelines, soft referrals are still allowed if agencies continue to advocate for that specific child and if another family that is home study ready comes forward then the agency must put forward that application as well. That means a family that is non-home study ready has to understand that they could be matched and the referral taken away if another family comes forward that is further along in the process. 

“As you can imagine this is not good for families and they are not happy with this. Once they see that pictures of a child and decide that child is meant for their family it’s a very emotional process.  Then losing that child is another loss for some families that have already struggled with infertility.  So it makes families nervous to move forward with this type of adoption,” said Losse.

News 4 reached out to the U.S. Department of State, which overseas international adoptions, to inquire about the changing regulations.

A spokesperson said the main reason for fewer international adoptions is because of changes in other countries.

“In Russia, the government stopped intercountry adoptions for political reasons. In China, a rising middle class has allowed more families to provide homes domestically - tens of thousands of children are now placed with families in China each year. And in Guatemala, fraud concerns have led to the Guatemalan government’s long-term suspension of adoptions.  In many other nations, changing cultural attitudes about single mothers and domestic adoption have resulted in fewer children being eligible for intercountry action,” said an official with the Department of State.

The official continued, saying “Proposed regulations were withdrawn last year.  There have been no recent changes to the regulations governing intercountry adoption, the Accreditation Entity (AE) role, or the performance standards for accredited/approve ASPs. The Department continues to operate with the accreditation regulations in place since 2006 and subsequently extended through the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012.  The IAA, UAA, and the implementing regulations provide that the Department oversees the accreditation process for ASPs to ensure intercountry adoptions are safe and ethical.”

However, Losse, who was adopted as a child and has an adopted daughter of her own, says the damage is already done. She, along with other agencies across the country, are asking the Trump administration to take a look at the Office of Children’s Issues and see if the change in regulations are legal and justified.

“It’s hurting the kids,” she said.

It’s the kids the Roussin family worries about, too. Now at home with their two sons, Asher and Adam, they still keep tabs on the conversation about international adoption and want others to know why they feel it’s important.

“Even though they are on the other side of the world, they still need homes. Location shouldn’t matter when it comes to a child needing a family,” said Roussin.

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