Red Thread or Slender Reed: Deconstructing Prof. Bartholet's Mythology of International Adoption

59 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2009

See all articles by Johanna Oreskovic

Johanna Oreskovic

University at Buffalo Law School

Trish Maskew

Ethica, Inc.

Date Written: February 18, 2009


This article responds to Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet's article entitled, International Adoption: Thoughts on Human Rights Issues, that appeared in volume 13 of the Buffalo Human Rights Law Review. In that piece, Bartholet contended that millions of children in the developing world who could be adopted internationally are languishing in damaging institutions or living on the streets, in part because of the human rights community's opposition to international adoption. The authors question five of Bartholet's central assumptions about international adoption: Whether Bartholet's claim that there are millions of adoptable children in institutions and on the streets has sufficient empirical support to be credible; to what extent the current private adoption agency system actually serves the needs of children, maintains the integrity of the adoption process, and protects the rights of children, birth, and adoptive families; to what extent existing legal frameworks in sending countries and in the U.S., specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act's (INA) orphan provisions and the Intercountry Adoption Act implementing the Hague Adoption Convention, provide the overlapping layers of protection against abuses that Bartholet claims exist; to what extent the available evidence supports Bartholet's contention that abuses like child buying, kidnapping, and coercion in international adoptions are overestimated; and finally, whether Bartholet is correct when she argues that issues of culture, heritage, identity, and integrity of process should, in effect, be relegated to the background of any analysis of international adoption. The authors argue that the available evidence, while clearly incomplete, offers virtually no support for any of Bartholet's contentions.

Keywords: international adoption, Hague Convention on Interncountry Adoption, adoption agency, INA orphan definition, child buying, birth parent, UNICEF, adult adoptee, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, adoption fraud

Suggested Citation

Oreskovic, Johanna and Maskew, Trish, Red Thread or Slender Reed: Deconstructing Prof. Bartholet's Mythology of International Adoption (February 18, 2009). Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 147, pp. 71-128, 2008; Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-08. Available at SSRN:

Johanna Oreskovic (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

Trish Maskew

Ethica, Inc. ( email )

No Address Available

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