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International Adoption: The Human Rights Position

Global Policy, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2010

39 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2009 Last revised: 29 Dec 2015

Elizabeth Bartholet

Harvard Law School

Date Written: July 24, 2009


International adoption is under siege, with the number of children placed dropping each of the last several years, and many countries imposing severe new restrictions. Key forces mounting the attack claim the child human rights mantle, arguing that such adoption denies heritage rights, and often involves abusive practices. Many nations assert rights to hold onto the children born within their borders, and others support these demands citing subsidiarity principles. But children’s most basic human rights, at the heart of the true meaning of subsidiarity, are to grow up in the families that will often be found only in international adoption. These rights should trump any conflicting state sovereignty claims.

Keywords: adoption, human rights, children, child welfare

Suggested Citation

Bartholet, Elizabeth, International Adoption: The Human Rights Position (July 24, 2009). Global Policy, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Bartholet (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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