by Adam Pertman (2000)

19,797 children were adopted from other countries into the United States in 2006. That’s more than half the size of a college campus, even a big one like UCLA. 

“The confounding dilemma in the adoption world is that there are probably more than enough needy children in the US to fill the homes of everyone considering adoption. There’s a big obstacle in the doorway, though: They’re rarely perfectly healthy white babies. “ (p. 31-32)

In other words, white American adopters don’t want to adopt domestic children if they’re black, Latino, disabled, emotional, or within driving distance (anywhere in the contintenal US) of their birth families. But they’re willing to pay incredible amounts of money to adopt Asian babies from abroad. 

Regarding the foster care system:

“…getting kids into permanent homes more quickly isn’t the ultimate answer if they continue flowing into the system unabated, and decreasing the influx would require finding remedies for the poverty, mental illness, racism, drug abuse, and alcoholism that underlie most people’s inability to raise their own children.

To date, society hasn’t done an exemplary job of resoving these problems. Whatever people’s divergent views about a nation’s obligations to its citizens, it’s a cold fact that even during the greatest economic expansion in our history, even as public adoptions set records, so did the number of children still in foster homes. If there’s no serious headway for the best of times, it doesn’t augur very well for the future.” (p. 281) 

So what is the future of adoption? As Pertman suggests and history proves, if white Americans continue to prefer adopting from abroad instead of at home, many children will be left circulating through foster care. And as some sending countries close their doors (Korea, hopefully), others will be thrown more open (China, unfortunately). Transnational adoption has become an easy solution to a difficult “problem”: excess children – but only children in other parts of the world. Not only does the child get parents and parents get a child, birth parents and governments are free of childcare responsibilities, and get paid for it on top of all else. The child gets free passage to the US to live out the American dream, and the US gets to celebrate and embrace multiculturalism.

What about the birth parents (mostly mothers) who are often forced into giving up their children, the unequal relationships between the sending/receiving countries, the highly questionable transfer of dollars for children and the subsequent commodification of children, the racial/ethnic/cultural hierarchies of preference, the illegality of adoptees accessing their birth records…

Children need loving homes, no doubt. But if we don’t address the problems that beget these children in the first place, then really, what hope is there for the future?