Towards the end of 2018, the U.S. State Department changed its “soft referral” policies related to international adoptions. Prospective parents no longer could have access to information or pictures of specific children. Home studies and children becoming officially available for adoption became the priority.
The new direction flies in the face of the single motivation parents have to take on the time-commitment, bureaucratic complexities, and financial commitment that come with the international adoption process. The images and stories are what helps prospective moms and dads make that all-important decision both for them and the child they want to call their own.
A Swift Legal Response
On behalf of the 100-plus adoption agencies they represent, the National Council for Adoption filed suit against the State Department, claiming that the about-face was illegal. They cite the violation of their own, federally-mandated “notice and comment” process, not to mention the current pool of children with special needs ready for adoption by families in the United States.
The NCA asserted that international adoptions already face challenges with 2018 seeing an all-time low. Special-needs children need a higher level of medical treatment that countries like the U.S. offers. Without American families standing up to help, many kids will languish in overseas orphanages.
In response to the legal action, State Department counsel asserts that the policy is a nothing new, but merely a reinterpretation. Citing the best interests of the children, they fear that distribution of photos and personal information could subject them to potential traffickers.
While little evidence of trafficking exists, the State Department and several countries are uniting around an additional argument. They believe that removing children to live with American parents should be, at best limited, and represents a type of “cultural imperialism.” International adoption is undignified and sullies the image of foreign nations.
Meanwhile, the actual images of special needs children are off-limits while they statistically remain the least likely to be adopted and most likely to live out their lives in orphanages. Protecting a country’s reputation has a cost that comes at the expense of kids waiting for homes and parents to call their own.