Daughter Preference in International Adoptions

Most of America’s international adoptions have been daughters & we adopt more kids than any other country

Most of the US’ international adoptions have been daughters & we adopt more kids than any other country.

China & Adoption

👶🏻 Since China began its international adoption program in 1991, the US has adopted more Chinese kiddos than all other countries combined.

♀️ As of 2022, 84.1% of them have been daughters due, in part, to the 1-child policy & son preference.

Overall US Adoption Stats:

Female (Hague) 41.99%
Female(Non-Hague) 18.81%

Male (Hague) 18.92%
Male (Non-Hague) 20.27%

Legacy of 1-Child Adoption — Joanna Creswell, 2021 (August 21)

Of the large number of adoptions, most of the abandoned children were girls — a sad circumstance born from the fact that when pressed to choose, families wanted boys. When girls were born, they were often given up for adoption or, in other cases, they were kept but their births never declared or made official. Many of those children — of whom there are presumed to be millions — remain undocumented to this day.

China & Daughter Adoption — Agnes Constante, 2020 (March 30)

“In researching the origins of his oldest daughter, adopted in 1998, Stuy learned that children at Chinese orphanages often weren’t actually unwanted or abandoned. China’s controversial one-child policy and preference for boys led many families to relinquish their infant daughters in public spaces in hopes that another family would adopt them.

China began its international adoption program in 1991, and adoptive families were told that the children being adopted had been abandoned at orphanages, at schools and on the streets.

An estimated 110,000 children from China have been adopted globally through the program, the majority of whom are in the United States. From 1999 to 2018, American families adopted about 81,600 children from China, according to the State Department.”

Davis et al., 2021

A mother’s death has also been found to increase the risk of child mortality more than a father’s death, underscoring the importance of maternal investment.

East Asians are the majority of international students in the US (IIEglobal, 2020; Liangyan Wang, 2020; Shenoy, 2019; Yu-Ri Kim, 2020).

Tu Mengwei, 2018

In 2014, women comprised 51% of Chinese students in the United States, 55% in Canada, and 63% in the United Kingdom.

Adoption by Country — Hiromi Ishizawa et al., 2018

“The number of children adopted from specific countries by Americans fluctuates sharply across decades and sometimes across single years because of societal upheaval or changes in the regulations or attitudes governing adoptions in the sending countries. Between the 1950s and late 1980s, for example, Americans adopted an estimated 100,000 children from South Korea (Alstein & Simon, 1991). However, the numbers of children adopted from Korea began to decrease in the late 1980s, a time of economic growth in Korea. Korean society was also embarrassed during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul by negative publicity about the large number of intercountry adoptions (Alstein & Simon, 1991). As a result, the South Korean government started to regulate intercountry adoptions more strictly in terms of who could qualify as adopting parents, instituted an annual quota for the number of passports issued for adopted children, and promoted their own domestic adoption program (Pertman, 2000; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 1994).

South Korea

As the South Korean adoption program became more restrictive, other countries emerged as major sources of adopted children. Between 1996 and 2005, the number of adoptees from China rose from approximately 3,200 to 7,000 (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, 1997; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2006). This upward swing is often attributed to the increase in the number of baby girls abandoned following the implementation of China’s strict one-child policy in the late 1970s (Volkman, 2003).

Given the increasing pressure on state-run orphanages to care for the large number of abandoned girls, [South Korea] government enacted [relaxed intercountry] adoption laws in 1991

that relaxed the previously strict requirements for intercountry adoption (Rojewski & Rojewski, 2001).


In addition, China’s guidelines for adopting parents, which favored a single parent or childless couple older than 35, were a good fit for Americans who had postponed adoption due to lengthy infertility treatments or career development (Vonk, Simms, & Nackerud, 1999). However,

in 2006, China implemented the Hague Convention and enforced stricter requirements on the health and ages of adopting parents (U.S. Department of State, 2015b). The number of children adopted from China by U.S. parents subsequently declined (Quiroz, 2011).


After the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1989 and the ensuing political and social upheaval, the thousands of Russian and East European children placed in orphanages drew attention and sympathy from prospective adopting parents (Freundlich, 2000). The number of Russian children adopted into American families steadily increased from 3,626 in 1997 to 5,878 in 2004 (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, 1999; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2005). However, controversy among the Russian public about the abuse of Russian children by American parents triggered tensions between the two countries (Freundlich, 2000).

Welfare agencies in Russia stopped renewing contracts with adoption agencies in the United States, with the last agency’s contract expiring on April 11, 2007 (Koch, 2007).

In 2013, Russia banned the adoption of Russian children by U.S. parents (U.S. Department of State, 2015c).

Central & South America

American adoptions from Central and South American countries grew rapidly in the 1990s (Freundlich, 2000). After the civil war ended in 1996, the number of adoptions from Guatemala increased sharply (adoption.com, 2015). By 2006, Guatemala was the second most popular sending country for intercountry adoptions (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2007) and the most popular sending country in 2008 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2009). Adopting children from Guatemala became particularly attractive to Americans because Guatemala imposed relatively few bureaucratic regulations on adoption procedures (adoption.com, 2015). However, the lack of regulation raised significant ethical issues. Allegation of corruption in Guatemala’s adoption practices resulted in many receiving countries disallowing adoptions originating in Guatemala (Quiroz, 2011).

After 2008, international pressure forced Guatemala to suspend its intercountry adoption program.


Adoptions of children from African countries started to increase around the turn of the 21st century (Davis, 2011a). In 2000, for example, American parents adopted only 217 children from Africa, but the numbers increased until 2010, when it peaked at 3,156. The increase may have been driven by media attention centering on the plight of the millions of orphans who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS (Isanga, 2012). But there is dissension within the African population about international adoption.

Supporters of intercountry adoption argue that the adoption potentially serves the best interests of children given their dire circumstances (Isanga, 2012). Others argue that intercountry adoption can lead to child trafficking (Roby & Shaw, 2006), the loss of the child’s cultural identity, and enforced separation from the child’s extended family members (Isanga, 2012).

The internal debates in African countries over intercountry adoption may have contributed to the decrease in adoptions of children from Africa by American families after 2010.

The number fell from 3,156 children in 2010 to 1,872 in 2013 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011, 2014).”

📸 Biology & Family Photos

Foster Parents

“Foster parents are routinely prevented from sharing photos of the children in their care on social media” (Lazard et al., 2019). Foster parents ‘place emojis over their foster kiddos faces to hide their identity when sharing on social media because foster parents aren’t allowed to show their faces on public platforms’ (Knotts Family Agency, 2015).


“Those who adopt have to avoid posting anything online that may make their child identifiable” (Laura Abernethy, 2020). .

What does that mean for the adoptive parent in same-sex couples?

📸Lazard et al., 2019

“Family and child focused uploads by mothers to social media can be understood in some instances, as an enactment of investment in children. Social media has amplified the social expectations that mothers devote a disproportionate amount of time and labor.

Women’s mothering is under social media surveillance much more than men’s fathering. [As such,] mothers post information about their children, particularly family photos, with greater frequency than fathers (Ammari et al., 2015; Duggan et al., 2015).”

📸 Mother Avatar — Kumar & Schoenebeck, 2015

“Women face social pressures to enact and perform good mothering (Collett, 2005). Online, mothers can present a constructed view of themselves using their children as “props” & showcasing their children’s manners, clothes, & activities as reflections of their mothering.

Among Facebook users, 98% of new mothers upload pictures to the site (Bartholomew et al., 2012). Women tend to be more active social network site users, mothers are the fastest growing demographic of social media users, & mothers post to Facebook more than fathers do.

Kodak Culture

The widespread adoption of inexpensive cameras throughout the twentieth century gave rise to what Chalfen (1987) called “Kodak culture,” referring to the taking, organizing, and sharing of family pictures.

Though family photograph collections may contain many pictures, certain types of pictures are more prevalent: births more than deaths, young children more than older children, and firstborn children more than their younger siblings (Chalfen, 1987; Titus, 1976).

“Sharing information about one’s children online provides social capital benefits (Jang & Dworkin, 2004). Mothers face social pressures to enact and perform good mothering (Collett, 2005). One way of doing this is to present themselves to others

using their children as “props” and showcasing their children’s manners, clothes, and activities as reflections of their mothering (Collett, 2005).

Among new parents who use Facebook, 98% of new mothers had posted pictures of their children to Facebook, compared to 83% of fathers (Bartholomew et al., 2012).”



I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.

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Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.