ALEXANDRIA, Va. (BP) – A substantial drop in the number of adoptions in the United States coincided with the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.
Intercountry adoptions declined by 45 percent from 2019 to 2020; private, domestic adoptions by non-stepparents by 17 percent; and public adoptions from foster care by 13 percent, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) reported May 11.
The fall in adoptions by Americans during the pandemic followed a 16-year plunge in the number of children adopted from other countries. International adoptions plummeted by more than 90 percent from a peak of 22,989 in 2004 to 1,622 in the fiscal year that ended in September 2020, according to the U.S. State Department. Meanwhile, total domestic adoptions in the United States dropped from 133,737 in 2007 to 115,353 in 2019, the NCFA estimated.
Southern Baptist public policy specialist Hannah Daniel called it “deeply concerning to see the dramatic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on all types of adoptions.”
“Jesus tells us that caring for orphans and vulnerable children is an essential part of living out the Christian faith,” said Daniel, a policy associate with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments for Baptist Press. “It is critical that the Church continue loving and caring for these children through adoption and finding ways to enhance and grow these efforts. The ERLC is committed to advocating for policies that further that goal.”
Herbie Newell, president and executive director of Lifeline Children’s Services, said he thinks the pandemic “did a lot of things as far as motivation to adopt.”
During the pandemic, knowing “that kids were languishing and that kids were in need at the same time we were locking our homes down, we were putting on masks, we were talking about social distancing” proved a “confusing message” for many families, he told BP in a phone interview.
“One of the things I think internationally that definitely COVID has affected is travel,” Newell said. “Of course, there’s still 400 kids that have been matched with U.S. families that are waiting to come home from China, and we don’t know when the end of that will be.”
The fact few children from China – the leading sending country for intercountry adoptions in 2019 – were adopted in 2020 and none in 2021 and 2022 has definitely affected the number of international adoptions, he said. The Chinese government has prohibited travel by adoptive families into the country during the pandemic.
The State Department largely attributed the 45 percent decline from 2019 to 2020 in intercountry adoptions by Americans to the pandemic’s effect “on operations in countries of origin worldwide, travel restrictions” and its own “Do Not Travel” global advisory.
In its report, NCFA said the pandemic “upended nearly every aspect of life in the United States, and child welfare is not an exception.” While the federal government had reported the decline in intercountry and public adoptions, its new report is the first to demonstrate the drop in private, domestic adoptions, according to NCFA. No government agency or non-governmental organization other than NCFA reports on the number of private, domestic adoptions.
NCFA acknowledged the fall in intercountry and public adoptions could possibly reflect delays in adoptions that occurred after the federal fiscal year ended in September that might result in “a catch-up” later but said it would be “unlikely to be true” for private, domestic adoptions.