According to UNICEF, more than 130 million children in the world today have lost one or both parents. Marie and David Friess wanted to parent one of those children and, after one failed domestic adoption, began the process of adopting in Rwanda. In 2012, after waiting three years, they were finally matched with—or referred, in adoption lingo—a child. (Although Rwanda officially closed its program in 2010, one year after the Friess family began, they allowed families who had already started the process to continue.) Five months later, the Rwandan government determined the 13 referred adoptions that existed within the program would be permanently frozen and those children would be adopted domestically. After looking for more than a year, the Rwandan government has yet to successfully find a local family for the child who remains in an orphanage, despite being referred to the Friesses.
Stories like this showcase one of the many reasons international adoption (IA) has, according to the U.S. State Department, dropped nearly 60 percent from 22,991 adoptions in 2004 to 9,319 last year. Other contributors include a slowed economy, an increase in domestic adoptions and special needs and older children available for adoption, and a concerted effort to crack down on fraud and corruption—the selling or trafficking of babies and children.