NEW YORK - The number of foreign children adopted by Americans has dropped for the third year in a row, a consequence of tougher policies in the two countries - China and Russia - that over the past decade have supplied the most children to US families.
Figures for the 2007 fiscal year, provided by the State Department yesterday, showed that adoptions from abroad have fallen to 19,411, down about 15 percent in just the past two years.
The number of foreign adoptions had more than tripled since the early 1990s, reaching a peak of 22,884 in 2004 before dipping slightly in 2005, then falling to 20,679 in 2006.
"A drop in international adoptions is sad for children," said Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption. "National boundaries and national pride shouldn't get in the way of children having families."
Adoptions from China, the number one source country since 2000, fell to 5,453.
That is down by 1,040 from last year and well off the peak of 7,906 in 2005. Two main factors lie behind this: an increase in domestic adoptions as China prospers and tighter restrictions on foreign adoptions that give priority to stable married couples between 30 and 50 and exclude single people, the obese, and others with financial or health problems.
One consequence, adoption agencies say, is that the waiting time to complete an adoption from China has more than doubled to 24 months or more.
Adoptions from Russia also dropped sharply over the past year - from 3,706 to 2,310. Russian authorities suspended the operations of all foreign adoption agencies for several months earlier this year and have been reaccrediting them only gradually. Like China, Russia has been trying to boost the number of domestic adoptions.
US adoptions from South Korea and Haiti also declined significantly, although the overall drop was partially offset by large increases in adoptions from Guatemala (up from 4,135 to 4,728), Ethiopia (732 to 1,255) and Vietnam (163 to 626).
Tom DeFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, said adoptions from Guatemala could decline over the coming year as its government - under intense international pressure - tries to impose tough new regulations on an adoption industry that was widely viewed as susceptible to fraud and extortion.