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International adoption: A big fix brings dramatic decline

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And, says Alejandra Diaz, the director of the orphanage, “Hannah’s Hope,” Silvia is probably going to spend many more birthdays in the orphanage: “It is hard to say it, because I knew her when she was a baby, but she’s going to be here for years.” Ms. Diaz says her facility, which used to process 90 adoptions a year, now has 31 seemingly permanent orphan residents, and cannot afford to take in more of the estimated 4,000 Guatemalan children now backed up in state and private orphanages.

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“We are in a period of adoption history where growing transparency is having a significant impact in various ways: Many of them are very good and some of them are very complicated,” observes Adam Pertman, author of “Adoption Nation” and the executive director of the Evan Donaldson Adoption Institute.

“Now that everyone’s watching, it’s incumbent on us to get it right – the short-term consequences clearly are leading to a decline in international adoptions,” Mr. Pertman adds. “But hopefully, if we really get it right now, the decline will be a blip, and more kids, not fewer, who need homes will wind up getting them, in their own countries or, if necessary, in others.”

As shown by the recent arrest of American missionaries in Haiti – accused of child trafficking for trying to take 33 Haitian children out of the quake-stricken country – the world’s intercountry adoption system needs to be fixed, agree children’s advocates and adoption agencies.

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