NEW YORK — The number of foreign children adopted by Americans fell by 13 percent last year, reaching the lowest level since 1995 due in large part to a virtual halt to adoptions from Guatemala because of corruption problems.
China remained America’s No. 1 source of adopted children, accounting for 3,401, according to figures released by the State Department on Monday for the 2010 fiscal year. Ethiopia was second, at 2,513, followed by Russia at 1,082 and South Korea at 863.
Guatemala was the No. 1 source country in 2008, with 4,123 adoptions by Americans. But the number sank to 756 for 2009 and to only 51 last year as the Central American country’s fraud-riddled adoption industry was shut down while authorities drafted reforms.
The overall figures for 2010 showed 11,059 adoptions from abroad, down from 12,753 in 2009 and down more than 50 percent from the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.
The last time there were fewer foreign adoptions to the U.S. was in 1995, when there were 9,679.
The latest figures did not include the more than 1,100 children airlifted from Haiti to the United States after the earthquake in January 2010. Most of those children were in the U.S. adoption pipeline, but the adoptions were not finalized by the end of the fiscal year.
The adoptions from Ethiopia were up by more than 200 from 2009, but adoptions from Russia fell by about 500.
Some pending adoptions from Russia were slowed after an incident in April when a Tennessee adoptive mother put a 7-year-old boy on a plane back to Moscow, unaccompanied by an adult. As a result, U.S. officials agreed to a Russian demand to negotiate a new, binding agreement to cover adoptions between the two countries.
Organizations representing U.S. adoption agencies have called on the U.S. government to be more active in trying to reverse the decline in international adoptions. However, the State Department says any such efforts must be accompanied by initiatives to provide better options for orphans in their home countries, including support for birth parents and foster care.
“Not every child is going to be eligible for international adoption,” said Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser on children’s issues. “The first thing we need to do is protect children in the own countries.”