The COVID-19 pandemic has put some adoptions on hold for more than a year, leaving hundreds of children waiting in line.
Aimee and Stephen Welch adopted their daughter, Penelope, in 2020. But due to the pandemic, they have been waiting for more than a year to bring her home from China.
"Every time I go into her room and to see her pink bed there, that's no one has slept in. It's just a heartbreaking reality," Aimee Welch said.
"She knows we're coming. She draws pictures of a house with ‘mommy and daddy’ written on it," Stephen Welch said.
The China Adoption Program is a special-needs adoption program, meaning the year-long wait has had some devastating consequences.
“Many families that we're in touch with, whose children have deteriorating conditions or need urgent surgeries or therapies that they just can't get until they are home," Aimee Welch said.
International adoptions have opened up again in many other countries, including Bulgaria, Colombia and India, and the adoption process is taking steps toward normalcy in the U.S. But the National Council for Adoption says it varies a lot by state, depending on how quickly things have opened back up.
Even in states that have opened quickly, there are still some delays.
“It has put a strain and the stress on families…who were already requiring additional support and resources as they care for children who've experienced difficult things,” said Kristen Hamilton with the National Council for Adoption. “When you put some of the stresses of the pandemic, on top It creates some extra needs.”
There continues to be about 120,000 children who are waiting for adoption in the U.S. through the foster care system. As far as private adoptions in the U.S., the number of people interested continues to be more than the number of women choosing to place their babies up for adoption.
The pandemic has also sparked a new interest for some in adopting.
“I think, as families have had this time to be together and they have gone through the pandemic, they've realized, with a new sense of clarity, how important family is,” Hamilton said. “They imagine what it would be like to be a vulnerable child who doesn't have that family there for them to count on.”
Hamilton says she sees positive momentum with COVID-19 vaccines for helping get adoptions back on track to where it was before the pandemic.
Find more information about becoming a foster parent or adopting here.