But the U.S. freeze on adoptions from some countries also means there are fewer children available to adopt.
Guatemala used to provide up to 4,000 children a year for international adoption at its peak in 2006. But the U.S. will not accept further adoptions from the country until it has fully revamped its system to root out corruption, Dilworth says.
"They have incredible problems with fraud," she says.
In one recent high-profile case, a Guatemalan court ruled that an American family must return their 7-year-old adopted daughter to her birth mother after allegations surfaced that the girl was snatched from her home five years ago. The child remains in the U.S.
Other countries that have seen large drops in the adoption of foreign babies include Spain and France, where international adoption fell 48 percent and 14 percent respectively from 2004 to 2010. Canada remained the same and Italy actually saw a 21 percent increase during that period, according to Selman, who analyzed data from 23 countries that are primary receivers of adopted orphans.
Last year's 25,000 international adoptions were the lowest since 1996, Selman said.
The global numbers could decline further as South Korea, one of the top providers of orphans for foreign adoption, works to phase out its long-running program.
Since the 1950s, more than 170,000 South Korean children were adopted by families overseas, with the majority going to the United States. Despite having one of the world's fast-growing economies and domestic concern about falling birth rates that are already among the world's lowest, South Korea continues to rank as a top destination for international adoption. Experts blame this on a strong cultural stigma against both unwed motherhood and adoption.
But pressure has been mounting to reverse the trend. In recent years, South Korean lawmakers have created new incentives to help promote domestic adoption, while quotas have allowed fewer children to leave.
If the decline in global adoptions is to be reversed, says Selman, Africa is likely to lead the way. Ethiopia has emerged in recent years as a top source of orphans available for foreign adoption, though it's unclear whether other African countries will follow.
"If it's going to go up, it'll be from Africa," he says. "It could be that they set their pace against adoption, and that could have a profound effect."
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Romina Ruiz in Guatemala City contributed to this report.
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