GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The changing world of international adoption has led another adoption agency in Michigan to phase out its intercountry services.
“As an agency, we had to make the really tough decision like a lot of agencies have had to make — that it was time to phase out of international adoption,” Adoption Associates Executive Director Michelle Dykema told News 8.
Bethany Christian Services announced the end to its international adoption program earlier this year.
Both agencies explained their decision, in part by pointing to the steep decline seen in recent years when it comes to the number of internationally adopted kids.
“We’ve seen a significant downturn ourselves from a high in 2004 where we did around 250 adoptions from foreign countries into the U.S. and last year we only did four,” Dykema said about Adoption Associates.
The agency’s numbers mimic a nationwide trend. The U.S. Department of State reported about 23,000 children were internationally adopted by U.S. families in 2004, compared to 4,059 kids in 2018.
Dykema said the reasons for the decline vary but mostly have to do with the fact that fewer kids are eligible to be adopted by families from foreign countries.
She said in some cases, like in China, this is a good thing.
“There we have seen that more children in China are being adopted by Chinese families and that’s a great thing,” Dykema said. “We’re seeing there are fewer children that are being relinquished for adoption, so that’s also a good thing.”
However, that’s not always the case.
“Then, we have a country like Ethiopia,” Dykema said. “In 2018, the government of Ethiopia made the decision to stop adoptions out of the country. I think that was more of a political decision on their part, not because it was what was good for kids.”
Closer to home, Dykema believes the demise of international adoption will be felt in West Michigan as communities often take for granted the unique sense of diversity that comes with it.
“It brings so much richness to who we are as a community,” she said. “It expands our worldview when we know people on a really personal level that have come from different backgrounds. That’s not always the easiest thing to have happen just organically, so with adoption here we are.”
Similar to Bethany Christian Services, Adoption Associates plans to maintain a presence in foreign countries as a way to carry out their mission work with kids and families around the world.
For families still interested in international adoption, Dykema said there are still options and agencies that can help. More information about Adoption Associates can be found on its website.