Over the last few decades, the U.S. government has instituted monumental and progressive laws involving nearly all areas of child welfare and adoption, including foster care, domestic and inter-country-reflecting the changing dynamics in this field. Ultimately, the U.S. is seeking to make adoption more commonplace around the world, because it is clear that there is more than one right way to build a family, and because every child in the world deserves a safe and loving home.
In the United States, not so long ago, we came to the conclusion that foster care was a better option for children than orphanage care, because children grow best in a family setting. However, foster care was never intended to be a permanent option for children, but was created to be a temporary place of healing that gives the support and stability needed for children in crisis until they could safely be reunited with their birth family or be adopted.
Unfortunately, for complex reasons, children began to languish in non-permanent care with far too little tangible efforts being made to find them permanency. Even in this family-like setting, a sense of security does not materialize for most children. One former foster youth stated that, "To this day, each of us struggles with security-it is like the bottom can drop out from underneath us, and it seems that disaster is just around the corner."
Over the past few decades, legislators created new laws to alleviate some of the critical problems in the system. These laws seek to provide maximum protection of children's rights while providing measures to proactively achieve permanent placement with a family structure and offer the needed funding to support families once permanency has been attained.
Although the numbers of children who find permanency are increasing, millions of children around the world continue to wait for a family. The growing global orphan crisis will only continue to increase due to disease, war, and poverty, as well as serious social ills, such as, abuse, neglect and abandonment of children. Efforts are being made on a daily basis by national and international nongovernmental organizations to help meet the basic survival needs of children around the world, and yet their greatest need to be adopted is often overlooked and dismissed. For those children who cannot remain with or be reunited with their birth families or find an adoptive home in their country of origin, international adoption is their only chance to find a permanent and loving home. The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (1993) states:
"...the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding..." and that "...inter-country adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her State of origin...".
In the year 2004, United States citizens adopted 22,884 children from foreign countries (U.S. Dept. of State office of visa processing). This trend has grown tremendously in the last several years as a way to expand a family and assist an orphaned child in need.
There are three basic ways to respond to the great need of orphans around the world- one way is through adoption; a second way is through outreach and support to those orphans who cannot be or have not been adopted, but still need to be cared for and visited; and a third way is to serve the families-birth, foster and adoptive families-in need of support. These three options are by no means mutually exclusive. Those who decide to adopt, often see needs that are not being addressed and move into other kinds of caring ministries as well. Certainly, those caring for orphans through humanitarian trips and other forms of outreach often decide to adopt.