Adoption as a route to founding a family is becoming less and less common in Switzerland with just seven adoptions per 1,000 births reported in 2009.
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Social acceptance of unmarried mothers has also had a impact on children’s destinies. Some 300 Swiss children were offered for adoption in 1980, compared with 25 to 30 per year currently.
International adoption used to be plagued by the absence of agreed standards of regulation set against a backdrop of desperate need.
Shocking images of neglected children in Romanian and Chinese orphanages still endure in the collective memory 20 years after they were first broadcast.
“What’s new now is that in practically all countries there is a middle to upper class of people who are in a material position to adopt these children,” Rolf Widmer of the Swiss Adoption Board told swissinfo.ch.
“The Hague Adoption Convention stipulates that children should first be placed with adoptive families in their own country and only be offered for international adoption when this is not possible,” Widmer added.
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“The challenge for the future of adoption is to raise parents’ awareness about the children really in need of adoption, who are more likely to be a little older and suffer from health problems or a disability,” [says Marlène Hofstetter of the children’s charity Terre des Hommes.]
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Some couples are prepared to pay high fees or “donations” demanded by agencies or children’s homes in the quest for a dream baby.
One Swiss woman who adopted in Central America told swissinfo.ch she agreed, when asked, to pay $20,000 to the orphanage she was dealing with to expedite the procedure.
“When money begins to change hands, the risk of child trafficking increases,” Hofstetter warned.
“There is a tendency for parents not to see further than their noses when they set out to find a child on their own, without the help of a recognised agency. They may look in countries known for dubious practices. It is a question of a child at any price.”
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