Shifting Tides

As an adoptee who grew up in MN, I’ve been watching with interest as news trickled out that the two largest adoption agencies in the state, Children’s Home Society & Family Servies, and Lutheran Social Services of MN, are merging.

According the letter I received last week, LSS will be providing management services for both organizations, although they will remain separate entities.

“What we’ve learned as we prepare to combine our work in adoption is that both organizations share best practices, common values, a long history of adoption dating back to the 1800’s and a commitment to the highes quality service to children and families.”

So, I was not surprised this morning to wake up and read about this interview coming up on MPR about the “dwindling” international adoption industry and its effects on local agencies like CHSFS and LSS. According to an MPR report earlier this week:

The number of foreign children adopted by Americans has plummeted from 22,991 in 2004 to 9,319 in 2011, according to U.S. State Department statistics. Minnesota has experienced a similar decline. In 2005, the state reported 923 international adoptions. The number has fallen every year since then, reaching a low of 355 adoptions last year.

The sudden drop has led to financial problems for one of the country’s oldest and largest adoption agencies, St. Paul-based Children’s Home Society and Family Services.

Faced with long waiting lists and high overhead costs, the nonprofit agency has been unable to bring in enough money from adoption fees to cover expenses. It recorded year-end deficits of more than $2 million for each of the past three fiscal years.


Children’s Home Society executive Maureen Warren said she expects her 123-year-old organization will learn to recover financially and that the adoption industry will rebound.

“We really think that this is a reset and that some of the change is very welcome, even though it has put us in some financial stress,” Warren said.


Really? The “adoption industry will rebound”? At least when I was kid there was a pretense that adoption wasn’t about selling children…

I guess the real question here is what does this mean for the adoption community in MN?  The fact that the two largest agencies are merging leaves a lot of unanswered questions.  As an adoptee, I would like to know what this will mean for post-adoption support services. They’ve been pretty minimal anyway, especially since I don’t live in the Land of 10,000 Adoptees anymore…but I can’t help feeling like this is a major shifting of the tides. Agencies are merging, and their focus is on economic survival, by trying to drum up a market for more international adoptions. It doesn’t really look like something  like post-adoption support services will be taking much of their time–after all, we’re not really increasing their profit margin once we’re here.

In the meantime, there are so many awesome individual adoptees and adoptee organizations in MN. I think the time is ripe for those groups to come together and re-imagine how they can create a stronger community support network for adoptees of all ages.  What does comprehensive, on-going support look like? If we could have anything, what would it be? What crazy, awesome ideas can we dream up that an agency would never have the time, money, or inclination to invest in?

I don’t live in MN anymore, but I have to say, I’m a bit envious of this opportunity that adoptees in MN have to totally re-write the book on adoptee support programs. Carpe diem, folks, and dream big!


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