Press Release


Media Advisory: For Immediate Release

CONTACT: April Dinwoodie 212-925-8049


NEW YORK, Oct. 30, 2013 – The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) today released a new study showing that a growing number of the girls and boys being adopted internationally today are not the infants of adoption’s recent past but, instead, are older children with sometimes-serious special needs. As a result of this reality, the study recommends that best practices be created and implemented to help all of their families to succeed and, for those with severe problems, to prevent the kind of distress that leads desperate parents to seek radical solutions like “re-homing” their adopted children.

The 176-page report, titled “A Changing World,” represents the most extensive independent research to date into intercountry adoption, including the regulatory framework/treaty called the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption. The study – conducted over the past two years by scholars at Tufts University and DAI – included surveys of 1,500 adoptive parents and adoption professionals in “receiving” countries and countries of origin, as well as interviews with senior policymakers in 19 nations. Its key findings include:

  • Implementation of the Hague Convention has resulted in an increase in legal, safe and appropriate adoptions.
  • There is greater transparency and consistency in the international adoption process, as well as an increased focus on the best interests of and protections for children who need families.
  • More children are remaining institutionalized for longer periods, thereby incurring greater psychic and developmental harm and diminishing their prospects of ever moving into a permanent family.
  • Many countries of origin, including the largest ones such as China, are increasingly allowing intercountry adoption primarily or exclusively of children who have special needs.
  • Though many parents surveyed chose intercountry adoption to avoid children’s families of origin, a fast-growing number changed their minds – fueling a trend toward international open adoptions.

“The unfortunate reality is that too many current policies and practices do not adequately address the fast-changing realities of international adoption,” said DAI President Adam Pertman. “Now that we have this research, the challenge is to make improvements that truly serve children and families.”

Based on its analysis of the research, DAI’s recommendations include:

  • When children cannot be raised by their birth parents, and when supports or extended family alternatives are ineffective, swift placement in family-based care leading to adoption is optimal.
  • To the greatest extent possible, countries of origin should provide more complete and accurate diagnoses/records regarding medical and mental health issues.
  • Receiving nations should offer more training/resources for countries of origin to improve their child welfare and adoption systems, thereby helping more children stay in or find families domestically.
  • All pre-adoptive and adoptive families should be educated about raising children with special needs and about openness in adoption, and should receive a continuum of support services.

The Institute’s new report, “A Changing World: Shaping Best Practices through Understanding of the New Realities of Intercountry Adoption” – elaborates extensively on the findings and recommendations cited above. The research – funded by a generous grant from the American Ireland Fund – is being published at a time of steep declines in international adoptions, which have plummeted from a peak of 23,000 into the U.S. from abroad in 2004 to fewer than 9,000 last year – and which have fallen globally from about 45,000 to just over 23,000 during the same period. Costs also have risen, with an international adoption today sometimes exceeding $50,000.


Intercountry adoption has changed comprehensively during the last few decades – and is still in the midst of its transformation from a robust but largely unmonitored process through which tens of thousands of infants and toddlers moved into new homes annually, into a smaller but better-regulated system serving primarily children who are older and/or have special needs. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands (and probably far more) of boys and girls of all ages remain institutionalized around the globe, many if not most with minimal prospects of ever living in a family or reaching their potential. The accumulation of greater knowledge about domestic and intercountry adoption is critical to shaping, improving and implementing the laws, policies and practices that are ostensibly designed, first and foremost, to serve these children’s interests and to enhance their prospects for better lives.

About The Donaldson Adoption Institute
The Donaldson Adoption Institute is a unique think tank that is pre-eminent in its field. Its mission is to provide leadership that improves laws, policies and practices – through sound research, analysis, education and advocacy – in order to better the lives of everyone touched by adoption. Since its founding in 1996, The Adoption Institute has been the only organization whose mandate takes a holistic approach to adoption by considering the needs of adopted persons, birth parents, adoptive parents, and all of their extended families. For more information, please go to