As the world learns more each day about the novel coronavirus spreading from Wuhan, China, the impacts of the virus on all aspects of life are beginning to crystalize. Airlines are shutting down flights, factories are shifting work to alternate locations and some trade has screeched to a halt. Adoption has not escaped the effects of this global health concern.
Families preparing to travel to China and families currently in China for placement have found themselves in a nearly unprecedented situation. International adoption can be more challenging because of the unexpected twists and turns inherent to any process involving multiple countries. There are more laws to navigates, language differences to maneuver around and international travel to organize. But this is something that no one could have seen coming.
Some families, like this adoptive family from Dallas, were able to return home with their newly adopted son despite the travel warnings. They took health precautions while traveling and will monitor their situation now that they are home.
Other families, however, will not be so lucky. A Minnesota family that was preparing to travel to China next month for placement with their son have been informed that the trip is cancelled. They are planning to adopt a 5-year-old boy from Wuhan. Now along with being unable to travel, they have the additional concern of their future son catching the virus.
Holt International, one of the largest international adoption agencies in the country, announced that they will be temporarily cancelling all adoptive family travel to China. While this move is a responsible and rational response, it is undoubtedly devastating to any adoptive families who were preparing to travel. Many wait months and years for this moment, and it is now delayed by an unexplained virus.
It is unknown how long the coronavirus will continue to spread and how long this travel logjam will last. Along with international airlines cancelling flights to and from China, the country itself has begun shutting down significant portions of public transportation, making in-country travel difficult as well.
The long-term impact of this virus on international adoption may be drastic. The U.S. has seen a decline in international adoption since its peak in 2004, and China is by far the largest sending country for U.S. intercountry adoption. If adoptions are halted for a long period of time, 2020 could see the fewest international adoptions by U.S. families in decades.
We often say that adoption is full of surprises, but this is a truly unique situation. If you are in the process of adopting from China, stay in close contact with your adoption service provider and continue to monitor adoption.state.gov for updated information.