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International Adoption: The Child's Story


Elizabeth Bartholet


Harvard Law School

March 21, 2012

Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2007
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 07-21

Abstract:     
Millions of infants and young children worldwide are desperately in need of nurturing homes. Many are living in institutions, and many on the streets, and almost all these children will either die in these situations, or if they survive, will emerge into adulthood so damaged by their childhood experience, and so deprived of parenting, educational and other essential childhood opportunities, that they will be unable to function in the worlds of family and work. International adoption could provide significant numbers of nurturing homes for these children. However current policy restricts international adoption, limiting its ability to provide such homes. Moreover most of the powerful organizations of the world that claim to represent children's rights and interests have joined with other forces opposing international adoption.

This article argues that effective child advocacy is a challenge, given the fact that infants and young children are unable to voice their views or promote their interests, and the related risks that adults will use children to further various adult agendas. True empathy is required to imagine what children would want were they able to think rationally and make informed decisions. But if we were to imagine homeless children capable of making such decisions, then it seems obvious that they would choose international adoption given the horrors of institutional and street life, and the limited options for any kind of adequate home care in their countries of birth. Opposition to international adoption cannot be justified based on any best interest of the child principle, despite the claims of many children's rights organizations. Instead it is grounded in a group of commonly shared but deeply flawed ideas about children and the role of the state, and driven by adult agendas that are not truly informed by children's interests.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 49

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Date posted: November 2, 2007 ; Last revised: January 16, 2013

Suggested Citation

Bartholet, Elizabeth, International Adoption: The Child's Story (March 21, 2012). Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2007; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 07-21. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1025472

Contact Information

Elizabeth Bartholet (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
Hauser Hall 422
1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 495-3128 (Phone)
(617) 496-4947 (Fax)
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