Maybe author mixed up stats for adoptions in US and Uganda

by Phyllis B. Smith

Maybe author mixed up stats for adoptions in US and Uganda


As the parent of a multinational and multiracial family, I was deeply offended by the opinions and “harsh analogies” of Jim Longworth in the Voices column of the Jan. 29 issue of YES! Weekly. I was also appalled that you would publish an article with such blatantly erroneous statistics. Whatever happened to fact checkers? Longworth states in his article, “Americans should adopt Americans first,” that “depending upon which source you cite, there are currently about 3 million orphans in the United States.” Citing his sources would have indeed been helpful in determining how he came up with such a wildly inaccurate figure. After checking a number of sources I was unable to find a single statistic that even came close.

According to an assessment published by the US Department of Health and Human Services on March 31, 2011, there were 115,000 children eligible for adoption in the United States. Although variations existed among the sources I searched, the highest statistic I could find for any source was 123,000. In addition, The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System report of July 2012 ( showed a “steady downward trend” in the number of children in foster care and/or eligible for adoption in the United States since 2007. Perhaps Longworth stumbled into the wrong website.

Maybe he was actually quoting statistics from Uganda, where approximately 2 million children (the highest number of any country) are orphans. Or maybe he confused Haiti with other American territories located in the Caribbean.

Since the devastating earthquake of 2010, the number of orphans in this in this small, independent nation has doubled to over 750,000. Or possibly he was thinking of Kenya, with an estimated 1.7 million orphans, or Zimbabwe, with 1.3 million. Are you starting to get the picture? The need to provide loving, stable homes for orphaned children is imminent and overwhelming throughout the world. To place borders on where Americans should adopt from is both narrow minded, and in my opinion, rooted in Mr. Longworth’s own bigotry.

Why else would he make an issue of “multiracial families?” As Longworth points out, there have been concerns and allegations of corruption among some foreign adoption programs over the last several years, but while isolated incidents of abuse are widely reported, the thousands of legitimate adoptions carried out under the guidance of reputable adoption agencies are overshadowed and often ignored. Agencies are working hard throughout the world to rectify abuses, resulting in measures such as the ratification of the Hague Convention by many countries, including the United States. One of the principles of the convention is that attempts should be made to place children in their own county before international adoption is considered. In a perfect world this would work, but the harsh reality is that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Uganda has been ravaged by a 20 plus-year civil war where rebels kidnap orphans and turn them into child soldiers. Kenya is so devastated by AIDS that 42 percent of the population is under the age of 14 and the average life expectancy is 48.

Of the remaining population, 50 percent fall below the poverty level. Orphanages in poor countries are sometimes few and far between and often lack the resources necessary for healthy development. And many children in such countries never even make it into an orphanage, resulting in homelessness, sex trafficking, juvenile mortality and slavery. If one takes Americans out of the picture, whom does Longworth really expect to help these children? Longworth credits the Hague Convention and the “consensus within international child welfare circles that orphans should be kept in their own families or communities” with the steady decline in international adoptions since 2004, when in reality this drop is due more to factors such as increased regulations and anti-American sentiment. In China, rules passed in 2007 placed restrictions on single parents, same-sex couples, age and even weight and “facial deformities.” The result has been a steady increase in the number of Chinese orphans. In Russia, children in need became political pawns when the government banned American adoptions in 2012, in what was widely interpreted as retaliation against a US policy addressing Russian human rights issues. Meanwhile, over 140,000 Russian children with disabilities languish in institutional care while hundreds of American families live through the heart-wrenching anguish of having their adoption process halted. In my opinion, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana should be commended for introducing the Children in Families First Act to encourage more Americans to adopt foreign children.

The fact that this bill is actually garnering bipartisan support within such a polarized political climate truly speaks for the bill’s merits.

Longworth wonders “how, then, in good conscience can any American adopt a Russian or Ethiopian child.” Well, I think he hit the nail on the head. We do have a conscience and it’s working fine. The article accuses Sen. Landrieu of “being blinded by her own compassion for foreign orphans.” What a lovely world this would be if we were all blinded by compassion! Perhaps Longworth had trouble getting his facts straight because he was blinded by bigotry and ignorance. The fact is, that according to statistics published by the Donaldson Adoption Institute, Americans adopt more children, both internationally and domestically, than all the rest of the world combined. Way to go, America! Parents of adopted children, more than anyone, want to see all children in need, domestic or foreign, placed in loving homes.

The reasons that some of us choose to adopt internationally are often very personal and sometimes intertwined in red tape that makes domestic adoption unfeasible. By supporting policies that foster the adoption of children throughout the world we are in no way relegating American-born orphans to “second-class status” and “signaling them to take a back seat to foreign kids.” My “foreign kid” (I found this wording particularly offensive) is an American citizen, with every God-given right to live the life that she was granted through what I fervently believe was divine intercession. God does not see geopolitical boundaries when it comes to children in need and neither should Americans. I challenge readers to reach out in all directions by considering adoption or foster care, or lending your time and/or financial support to both foreign and domestic adoption programs.

Phyllis B. Smith identifies herself as a former YES! Weekly reader.

Jim Longworth’s regular column is not appearing in this week’s issue of YES! Weekly, as Jim and his family are grieving the loss of his mother. We ask that you keep the family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Jim’s column returns next week, on Feb. 12. !