Private agency international adoptions in Michigan are on the rise

May 24, 1999
Bernie DeGroat

The number of children from foreign countries adopted by Michigan families through private agencies increased by nearly two-thirds in 1997 (the year for which most recent data are available), says a University of Michigan researcher.
Of the 2,718 children placed for adoption in 1997 by 64 private agencies in the state, 648 (24 percent) came from outside the United States.
“This represents a 64-percent increase from 1996,” says Leslie D. Hollingsworth, U-M assistant professor of social work. “And for the first time, adoptions of children from Eastern Europe exceeded those of children from Asian countries.”
According to an annual study by Hollingsworth and the Michigan Federation of Private Child and Family Agencies, 295 children came from Eastern Europe (including 212 from Russia, 41 from Romania and 26 from Poland) and 289 came from Asia (including 176 from Korea and 87 from China). In addition, 62 came from Latin America (including 51 from Guatemala) and two came from Egypt.
Overall, the total number of private-agency adoptions by Michigan families increased 12 percent in 1997, Hollingsworth says. Permanent placements through private agencies accounted for 59 percent of all adoptions in the state that year.
“The increase in U.S. adoptions, at least in the case of children in the child welfare system, responds to the commitment of the federal government and the state of Michigan to reduce the number of children in the foster care and institutional system by getting more children into permanent placements,” Hollingsworth says.
More than half (1,434) of the children placed for adoption in 1997 were permanent wards of the state with special needs (older children with emotional, behavioral or physical problems often associated with abuse or neglect), 460 were infants voluntarily released by birth parents to adoption agencies and 176 were children whose custody was given up by their parents or guardians to previously identified prospective parents.
Hollingsworth says that the rise in private-agency adoptions in Michigan can be attributed to a number of factors, including keeping siblings together by making their permanent placement as a group a priority; encouraging adoption by non-relative foster families whom the children already know; and placing children, whenever possible, in permanent homes with relatives who are able to provide a stable environment beneficial to the child.
“Although often relatives consider themselves already ‘family’ and are, therefore, reluctant to pursue formal adoption—preferring arrangements like legal guardianship and permanent foster care—13 percent of families adopting through private Michigan agencies in 1997 were relatives,” she says. “In addition, 33 percent of adoptive families in Michigan that year were foster parents, many of whom were specifically licensed for foster care to facilitate an earlier adoptive placement—a mechanism used by families to increase their success in adopting a child.”
According to the study, 44 percent of private-agency adoptive families in the state in 1997 were members of ethnic minority groups, 28 percent were single parents and 14 percent had incomes under $20,000. Among adopters of children with special needs, these percentages were even higher—61 percent were members of minority groups, 60 percent were single and 28 percent made less than $20,000.
Further, all but two of the adoptions of children with special needs involved the allocation of medical and/or economic subsidies paid to their adoptive families, many of whom would not have been able to adopt children otherwise, even though they may be quite qualified to raise children, Hollingsworth says.
The study also shows that legislation in recent years aimed at eliminating barriers to the adoption of children across races and ethnic groups is working, with a 20-percent increase of children in Michigan adopted cross-racially in 1997. More than 40 percent of these 278 children were less than a year old.
Other findings include: