Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ages, stages, & statistics

Just the other day, someone asked me how many children are adopted from Ethiopia each year. And I didn't know, but also became intensely curious to find out. Here's what I discovered:

If you click on the graph, it will open larger in a new window. But what it boils down to is that adoptions from Ethiopia to the US have been increasing steadily, and for 2008 the total number of adoptions was 1724. (Source: US Dept of State).

I've heard estimates on the number of orphans in Ethiopia to be anywhere from 4.8 million to 6 million. With that many zeros, I'm not sure a 1.2 difference makes all that much difference!

If 10% of Ethiopian orphans were adopted (going on a 5 million orphan estimate), then 500,000 orphans would no longer be family-less. I'm sure you can do the math, too (probably faster and better than I can!), but it really hits home for me to break it down. 5% of orphans finding a home would 250,000 fewer orphans. A measly 1% of children being adopted would mean 50,000 new families for these kids! Instead, .04% of all Ethiopian orphans are being adopted. Forgive me if my math is wrong. But wow. And with the estimate of a new orphan being created every 18 seconds...we're not doing very well at keeping up or with helping to prevent them from becoming orphans in the first place.

Statistically, only 9% of the children internationally adopted by Americans
in 2007 were adopted from Africa. 71% of the 9% were adopted from Ethiopia. Looking at the Office of Immigration Statistics over a 12 year period for Ethiopia adoption... On average an equal number of boys and girls are adopted from this country. About 60% of children are 4 years or younger. 40% are 5 years or older. (Quoted from here).

I do occasionally sense an undercurrent of criticism for adopting an infant, when there are so many older kids who simply have no hope of ever being adopted. Older than age 5, and their chances plummet. And even though I know that within our personal family situation of having 3 young children already, we wouldn't have the time or emotional resources to support an older adoptee, I still feel a twinge when I hear "Oh everyone just wants the babies."

I'm thrilled when I hear of an older child getting a chance at a family. It's a beautiful, albeit difficult, process. I am thankful that there are families out there that have the capability of taking on an older adoptee.

But after looking at the statistics of the percentage of orphans from Ethiopia being adopted in the first place, all .04% of them, I feel the guilty twinge unwrinkle. Because if everyone adopted an older child, there would simply be another baby growing older to take its place. By adopting an infant, we are adopting an older child...before they get there.

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