Foreign adoptions by the numbers

International adoptions have dropped dramatically since 2004 but China still leads in the number of children it sends abroad.

International adoptions have dropped significantly since 2004

A Chinese girl from Nanchang is lined up in Tiananmen Square with other children for photos with their adopted Spanish families in March 2003. Thousands of children are put up for adoption in China every year and most are girls. (Reuters) (Reuters)

International adoptions peaked in 2004 at just over 45,000 and have essentially been declining almost everywhere ever since, according to sociologist Peter Selman of Britain's Newcastle University, one of the world's foremost authorities.

China is still the leading "exporter" of adopted children, not surprisingly because of its huge population. But its numbers have dropped by almost two-thirds since its peak in 2005.

Indeed, with the exceptions of Ethiopia and Vietnam, most countries have seen large declines in the number of children sent abroad for adoption in the past seven years.

In a survey of the top 23 countries that received the most children through international adoption between 2003 and 2009, Canada placed fifth, with 13,291 adoptees, or 4.8 per cent of the total.

The top five — the U.S., Spain, France, Italy and Canada, in that order — accounted for 229,433 international adoptions during that period, 84 per cent of the total.

These numbers are compiled from individual governments as well as submissions by most of the participants to the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

Looking at the same numbers over a longer period, Selman has found that over 120,000 Chinese children were sent to new homes in 17 receiving countries between 1992-2009.

In that period, the U.S. was far in the lead, adopting 74,142 children. Spain was second (13,495) and Canada third (11,471).

The top five countries sending adoptive children abroad

   2003-2009  2009
 China  69,667  5,078
 Russia  44,471  4,039
 Guatemala  24,013  799
 Ethiopa  17,822  4,564
 South Korea  12,184  1,125

The top five countries receiving adoptive children from abroad

   2003-2009  2009
 The United States  137,711  12,753
 Spain  29,197  3,006
 France  25,637  3,017
 Italy  23,597  3,964
 Canada  13,291  2,122
 Total, 23 countries  271,993  29,951