Declining Adoptions

Tim Young, left, hangs out with his grandson, Luuka, center, and his son, Raymond. Young, of Grand Marais, Minn. is the father of six kids, most of them adopted. (AP)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Adoptions in Minnesota are plummeting, and Tim Young doesn’t know why.

Young is in the process of adopting three teenagers as a single parent. But he’s bucking a trend of fewer people adopting in Minnesota and nationwide.

Especially notable are international adoptions, which peaked in 2004 and have dropped 82% to 4,058, according to the U.S. Department of State.

In Minnesota, the plunge in international adoptions has been even deeper — 85% in 14 years. Last year, there were 135 in the state.

Domestic adoptions in the U.S. — the placement of infants by their birth parents — have decreased. That’s in part due to fewer unplanned pregnancies, greater social acceptance of single motherhood and more support systems, according to the State Department, the St. Paul Press Pioneer reported.

Another reason could be generational, said Rachel Walstad, director of the St. Paul nonprofit MN Adopt. Walstad said that millennials are waiting longer to have kids.

The decline of international adoptions has been a worldwide trend that affects all receiving countries, not just the U.S.

The cancellation of China’s decades-long one-child policy decreased the number of Chinese babies coming to the U.S., according to Children’s Home Society adoption director Alexis Oberdorfer.

Other countries, such as Guatemala and Ethiopia, have cut down on international adoptions because of concerns about human trafficking.

There are also fewer international adoptions because of the extensive paperwork process and high cost.

International orphans are similar to local foster kids in some ways, according to MN Adopt’s Walstad. Many are older children who have experienced trauma, abuse or poverty.

“The whole landscape of international adoption has changed,” she said.

But even as the number of domestic and international adoptions plummets, the number of children available through foster care is surging, according to Oberdorfer.

The number one reason? Opioid-addicted parents, Oberdorfer said.

The goal of the foster care system is to reunite kids with immediate family members. If that doesn’t happen, then they can be adopted.

According to Children’s Home Society, more than 800 Minnesota foster kids were waiting for adoptive homes in August 2018, the most in a decade.

From 2017 to 2018, more than 300 kids were added to that list — a 60% leap.

“We desperately need people to start looking at the need in their own back yards,” Oberdorfer said.

When prospective adoptive parents see foster children’s case files, they sometimes conclude that the teenagers are juvenile delinquents.

“These are kids with some really tough life experiences,” Walstad said. “The reality is that they’re there for no fault of their own.”

Foster care adoptions in Minnesota have seen a slight uptick, according to Walstad. Last year, 136 kids were adopted, but even more aged out of the system.

“I wouldn’t say it’s great, but it’s promising,” she said.

As a single 59-year-old empty-nester, Young knew he wanted to adopt older kids. He began by looking at over 100 video profiles on the MN Adopt website.

“’You’re crazy,’ was what a lot of my friends told me,” Young said. “But the main thing I am is a parent. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be.”

Last fall, Young connected with a sibling group — Summer, now 18; Raymond, 17; and Shawn, 15 — on the website.

Their video was made by the Reel Hope Project, a local nonprofit that introduces adoptive parents to kids in foster care through two-minute films.

“We’re trying to do what we can to spread the word,” MN Adopt’s Walstad said. “By having a nice video that shows their personalities, it helps families connect to them.”

Young received the original video he saw of Summer, Raymond and Shawn while he was naming his fishing boat. Only one option for the name came to mind — Reel Hope.

“We have not caught one fish, not even a little thing to throw back,” Young said. “I’m just happy to spend time on the water with the kids.”

Information about adoption can be found by contacting a county social service agency, licensed adoption and child placement agencies or MN ADOPT at 612-861-7115 or toll free at 866-303-6276.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at jjackson@owatonna.com

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