THE GLOBAL SEARCH FOR
We chose China because we heard there were healthy infants there.
My husband was persuaded because he thought a girl
would be easier to raise than a boy.
— ADOPTIVE MOTHER, 1997
In 1992, international adoption1 represented only 5 percent of all adoptions in the United States, far less than domestic adoptions through public or private agencies. By 2001, that percentage had tripled, a level it continues to maintain until today. As with domestic transracial adoption, the dramatic increase can be traced in part to the adoption reforms of the 1990s. The number of international adoptions to the United States keeps growing steadily, from about 6,472 in 1992 to 20,679 in 2006. As such, the United States is the largest importer of adopted children in the world, a trend that shows no signs of changing.
Why would U. S. citizens pursue international adoption rather than seek a child domestically? Gaining an appreciation of the racial, gender, class, and colonial dynamics in the history of U. S. adoption moves us toward an answer.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF U.S. INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION
The history of international adoption in the United States cannot be disassociated from the history of U. S. military occupation. Technically, the first international adoptions took place early in the history of the British colonies that later became the United States. Missionary groups and white settlers sometimes sought to adopt Native American children; often, indigenous