TUE July 10, 2018 TUE July 10, 2018
3:30 pm 3:30 pm
International II International II

Peter Selman

Invited lecturer, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University

Anneke J.G. Vinke

Child psychologist, Adoptiepraktijk Vinke

Jacques Chomilier

Chairman of the Expert Committee, Mouvement pour adoption sans frontières (MASF)

Stéphanie Toutain

Associate Professor, Université Paris Descartes

Anne-Marie Piché

Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Université du Québec à Montréal

Rosita Vargas-Diaz

Graduate student in social work, Université de Montréal

Paper session: Legal and political issues

AFRICA: The 'new" frontier for international adoption - or the 'final frontier' ?.

The annual number of international adoptions has fallen by 77 per cent in the years from 2004 to 2016 from c 45,000 to just over 10,000.

In 2005 more than 14,000 children m China were placed for adoption with families in the USA and other western countries. By 2014 the number had fallen to less than 3,000. Similar declines are found in Russia, which sent over 9,000 children in 2004, but less than 1,000 in 2015. The fall in numbers has been attributed to a combination of factors including economic developments and interest in domestic adoption by childless couples in many states or origin which were sending children overseas, but also concern over irregularities and child trafficking.

However, in Africa numbers have been rising in many countries. In 2003 six per cent of international adoptions were from African country es; by 2013 this had risen to 28 per cent. This has been attributed by some to the growing number of orphans in Africa or the influence of ‘celebrity’ adoptions (Mezmur, 2009 ) 1, but others fear that it reflects a market in international adoption and the impact of a missionary zeal in some American adoption agencies. However, in subsequent years numbers have fallen and in 2015 only 20 per cent pf adoptions were from Africa

Although Ethiopia sent most children between 2003 and 2015 – c 60% of all those adopted from Africa over the last 12 years – the number of adoptions has risen most sharply in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in 2017 Ethiopia announced an end to international adoption.

This paper examines concerns over this growth in a continent where poverty persists and there is little understanding of western full adoption, drawing on the work of the African Child Policy Forum (2012), which held a conference on the topic in Addis Ababa in 2013 2 and discussions at the 2015 Special Commission on Intercountry Adoption, held in the Hague in June 2015 and examines the reversal in trends since 2012 and whether this marks the beginning of the end for adoption from Africa – or indeed for international adoption worldwide.

1. Mezmur, B. (2009) ‘From Angelina (to Madonna) to Zoe’s Ark: what are the “A-Z” lessons for intercountry adoptions in Africa’, International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 23, 145-73.

2. African Child Policy Forum (2013) Africa: The New Frontier for Intercountry Adoption. Addis Ababa: The African Child Policy Forum

Is there a future for intercountry adoption? The example of the Dutch debate

Ever since in November 2016 the Dutch Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles (RSJ) adviced the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice to put a halt to intercountry adoption. Policy as well as legislation should focus on ‘Family in country of origin’- scenario’s instead of facilitating intercountry adoption. Hence, the future of intercountry adoption seems at stake. Is this advice in the best interest of the children that are in need of a family? All eyes are turned to the Netherlands: will they be the first Western country to put a ban on intercountry adoption? The Councils’ advice, unexpected by friend and foe, elicited a firm debate, both in national and international media as well as in parliament. This added up to a parliament hearing of stake holders and adoption experts in May 2017, where I was one of the experts asked to bring forward my opinion based on scientific evidence next to clinical practice. Recently the debate continued amongst politicians in January 2018.

In this presentation I will focus on the Dutch debate, on the viewpoints of the various debaters , stake holders and government. I will combine scientific, political, practical and ethical arguments in order to shed light on the questions: do children at various places in the world in 2018 still need intercountry adoption? Is intercountry adoption in the best interest of the child or are there, as the Council proposes, better alternatives (to be developed)? Is this proposed ‘family in origin scenario’ viable? Can or should we in the Netherlands, as receiving country (countries), start with a banning intercountry adoption? Should we even aim at a world wide intercountry adoption stop altogether?

By sharing the ins and outs of the current debate with the academic adoption community at ICAR6, I intend to take it to the next level. By adding both scientific and research data to the positions, arguments and experiences, I hope to be able to take the discussion outcome back to the Netherlands in order to contribute to a balanced viewpoint on this hugely complex topic. Perhaps as academic community, we even can come to an answer of the main question: does the world in 2018 still need intercountry adoption? Do children need intercountry adoption? Or have we now reached the point where better alternatives (to be developed) are available and should we therefore as academics as well as governments aim at a world wide adoption stop altogether?

International adoption and the special needs children

We propose a preliminary study on the evolution of special needs international adoptees in France since the early 2010’s. In this country, the official definition of a special need child is a child with at least one of the following characteristics: 1) age of more than five years; 2) member of a sibling group larger than two; 3) affected by at least one pathology. Starting from 35% in 2011, the first year where this designation was specified in the records of the French Central Authority, the percentage of international adoption visas approved for special needs children has roughly doubled, until the recent statistics published about 2017. Considering the actual numbers of visas instead of rates, a fluctuation between 500 and 800 children is seen, but no regular increase over time. Rescaled in the long term worldwide decreasing trend of inter country adoptions, it shows that “hard to place” children, as they were originally called in the 50’s in USA, are still allowed to leave their countries of origin, following the subsidiarity principle of the Hague convention. This observation is nevertheless highly dependent upon the country of origin and also upon the authorised bodies involved in the process, some of them with almost all their adoptions categorized in this group of children. In order to compare these data to other receiving countries, an agreement about a common definition of the expression “special needs” is needed. This is unfortunately not the case so far, nor is there the necessity to document this characteristic by most of the European Central Authorities, presumably because The Hague Convention neither requires such information, nor provides a rigorous and homogenous definition. In Europe, some receiving countries do not specifically indicate special needs children in their records: Sweden, Germany, Spain. Some other countries (France, Italy, Netherlands, USA, Norway, but this list is not comprehensive) do maintain such records but these start at different years, rendering difficult the comparison of trends by country. We conclude that a better and more accurate knowledge of the specificities of inter country adopted children is necessary for an improved support to receiving families.

Evolution of intercountry adoption pratices in Quebec

This presentation of a qualitative study will provide a portrait of recent changes in Quebec’s international adoption practices, from different actor’s perspectives. In the global world of adoption, actors from sending and receiving countries are trying to adjust to new and stronger regulations; ethical and normative, following the guidelines of the Hague Convention (HCCH, 1993) applying to all intercountry adoptions. How have actors responded and adjusted their practices around these major reforms and transformations in Quebec?  How do they keep assuming their roles, missions and collaborations within the field of adoption; given the major changes observed in adopted children’s profiles and special needs, new regulations imposed from sending country partners and the central authority (SAI)? Quebec’s yearly intercountry adoptions avec reached an historical low in 2016 (134 children; Government of Quebec, 2017). Methods: Interviews were conducted with 17 actors involved in the realization of intercountry adoption processes in Quebec. A narrative analysis of transcriptions was conducted using a Grounded Theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 2008; Charmaz, 2014). Objectives: to identify what is currently at stake and actors’ preoccupations regarding assessment of candidates, children proposals by accredited agencies, pre and post-adoption family support practices (medical and psychosocial); and professional’s perception of their collaborations within the field, in recent years. Participants: 1) accredited bodies of intercountry adoption 2) mandated professionals in the assessment of adoption candidates 3) medical and psychosocial professionals specialized in pre/post-adoption. The following themes have emerged: 1) a regression in adoption competent support and fragmentation of professional networks; 2) a higher level of needs (physical and mental health of children, complex development) to support with fewer resources; 3) the marginalization of intercountry adoption; 4) a necessity to regroup and include new actors to raise the quality of adoption processes. Conclusion: Testimonies from professionals showed a high level of preoccupations around our capacity to keep responding to children and family issues, that have become heavier and more complex following sending countries reforms- involving a majority of children proposals with very special needs. Accredited agencies need to redefine their missions, in order to maintain their activities and survive financially. All expressed a willingness to strengthen their alliances and partnerships with other actors involved.