Points of Progress: US foster child adoption rates peak, and more

Category: News

United States

An all-time high of 63,000 children were adopted across the United States through the foster care system in 2018, an almost 25% increase since 2014. The upturn largely reflects the thousands of families that have been broken by the opioid crisis – forcing children to be placed in new homes. But the rise also shows successful efforts by states to promote adoption, especially those hit hard by the crisis, such as West Virginia and Louisiana. Next to living with their biological parents, children succeed best when in a stable household with adoptive parents, rather than moving between families in the foster care system, experts say. (Pew Charitable Trusts)


Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Leaders from the People’s Party and Green Party meet to negotiate a coalition government in Vienna on Nov. 15, 2019.

A new coalition government between Austria’s People’s Party and Green Party means that for the first time in the country’s history, its Cabinet is majority female. Nine of the 17 ministers will be women, reflecting the population’s demographic of slightly more women than men. After months of negotiations following an election last year in which no party won a majority, returning Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced his government’s two main focuses would be immigration and the environment. Mr. Kurz has regained the title of the world’s youngest leader at 33, as the People’s Party and the Greens also mark their first attempt to govern together. (Deutsche Welle)


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in Burundi in 2014 has uncovered 4,000 mass graves, a result of multiple state conflicts since independence in the 1960s. The findings, while sobering, are a starting point for the public to forgive and “forge a peaceful future for Burundi’s generations,” said commission Chairman Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye. In its two years of investigation, the commission has identified more than 140,000 Burundians who died as a result of ethnic conflict in the state, particularly between the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu groups. Many graves and remains have yet to be identified, says Mr. Ndayicariye, but he hopes confronting past trauma will help relatives and communities heal and move forward. (BBC, Reuters)

Galápagos Islands

Galapagos National Park/AP

Diego, the centenarian species-saving giant tortoise, will return to his home island of Española after at least 80 years away.

A centenarian tortoise named Diego who fathered more than one-third of its living species is returning to its island of origin on the Galápagos from a captive breeding program on the islands to join hundreds of his progeny. Diego was one of 15 tortoises selected for the program, which was begun in the mid-1960s to save the species, the Chelonoidis hoodensis. Prior to that, Diego had lived in the San Diego Zoo for about 30 years. Out of the 2,000 tortoises bred in the program, Diego fathered nearly 800 of them, meaning he is responsible for about 40% of those on the Galápagos island of Española. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state,” said Jorge Carrion, director of the Galapagos National Park. (BBC)


Farmers are embracing an agricultural evolution, which uses innovative methods such as dike gardens, or growing vegetables in sacks beside rivers, to succeed in a shifting environment. Even as climate change threatens to displace 1 in 7 people in Bangladesh by 2050, the country is adapting. These new methods have helped some farmers increase their harvests nearly fivefold. Others are surviving by turning to new professions, such as fish farming and shrimp farming, which have been made more profitable by rising sea levels. (The Guardian)

Southeast Asia

After declining from around 200 in the 1990s to only 84 in 2018, the Irrawaddy dolphin – a beluga-whalelike species native to Southeast Asia – is increasing in number. Last year, its population rose to 92, as conservation measures addressing its two major causes of death – dams and fishing nets – took effect. “When the river dolphin is doing well, you know there’s enough fish in the river. You know the water is clean. You know there’s natural habitat. So when the dolphin is doing well, people will do well,” said Daphne Willems of the Global River Dolphin Initiative for the World Wildlife Fund. (NPR)