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Stuck – Why International Adoptions Have Dropped by 50% in the Past 5 Years

My family just finished watching Stuck, a documentary that highlights the problems of international adoption.  The film tells the stories of several adoptive families as they move through the long and arduous process of bringing their children home.  Each family faces large financial hurdles, bureaucratic rejections and set backs, and waves of discouragement as they watch, hope, and wait for their little ones.  Here’s the film’s trailer.

The documentary, which was released in 2013, shares some harrowing statistics about international adoption.

  • It costs on average $28,000 to fund an international adoption.
  • It takes on average 896 days (almost two and a half years) to complete an international adoption.
  • In the last 5 years, the number of international adoptions has declined by 50%.
decline of International adoption
Graph courtesy of a CNN article on the decline of international adoption.

Stuck is critical of the policies and procedures that both foreign and domestic governments put in place which slow down international adoption.  Some of these delays are appropriate, or at least well-intentioned, to ensure that children and their adoptive families are a good match for one another, and that there or not prospective families in-country who might adopt the children.  However, things that look good on paper don’t always work in reality. One family in the movie fought red tape for over three years to bring  their son Nate home from Hanoi, Vietnam.

While measures like the Hague Convention are meant to promote and protect the best interests of children, Stuck asserts that they have largely had the opposite effect — drastically increasing the difficulty of the process, and thus decreasing the number of inter-country adoptions, even as the number of orphans grows. The film calls for change in such regulations to expedite international adoptions, though it’s short on specific suggestions and recommendations.

For my own family’s part, we have already encountered resistance in our adoption journey from foreign governments, even though we are still relatively early on in the process.  Several countries’ restrictions on BMI and legal blindness have kept us from considering them as potential places to adopt from.  It can be disheartening to think that these are only the first obstacles we will face in our endeavor.

In light of this, it’s helpful to remember that it really isn’t the government’s mission to care for orphans.  According to Scripture, that’s the Church’s responsibility. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” writes  the apostle James.  And this is what my family is finding in our own journey.  Our church family is where we are consistently finding the encouragement and support we need to keep moving forward.  When someone in our congregation asks how the process is going or how they can be praying, that really is caring for an orphan because it inspires and spurs us onward on the long path to bring our little girl home.

Have you or someone you know experienced setbacks in adoption efforts due to government bureaucracy? How did these work out? Where did encouragement (if any) come from?

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