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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Permanency through international adoption

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This guest post was written by Chris Murphy.


Elizabeth Bartholet wrote this article on achieving permanency through international adoption, and it was published in the Harvard Law School Journal. Elizabeth Bartholet is a professor at New York Law School. This article was developed from a lecture that Professor Bartholet gave at the Permanency for Children Conference on March 5, 2010.

Professor Bartholet is adamant that just simply providing permanency for children is not enough. She pointed out that multiple children are growing up in homes recognized as permanent, but are still suffering from abuse and/or neglect. Professor Bartholet stressed the need for all children to have early, permanent, and nurturing parenting in order to flourish.

Professor Bartholet said both nurturing and permanency can be given to children. One way is for policy around international adoption to become less strict. Professor Bartholet would like to see the restriction lessen on international adoption so all children have an opportunity to be adopted and nurtured in homes which are prepared to adopt children. Professor Bartholet argues that international adoption will help other countries in reducing costs associated with raising multiple children who are without parents. Her point is that thousands of international children are raised without parents. These children essentially end up having issues as adults such as homelessness, incarceration, and/or unemployment.

Professor Bartholet suggests all interested parties recognize the international adoption system is currently in crisis. She feels individuals need to maintain hope, work together, and fight for the goal of providing all unparented children with nurturing and permanency early in life.

Professor Bartholet said there is a push to keep children in their countries and find solutions which will assist them in staying connected to their birth family. However, Professor Bartholet said racial matching profiles for adoption should not occur. She is not saying culture and/or ethnicity isn't important. What she is saying is a child being allowed to grow up in a nurturing and permanent home from early on is crucial. Professor Bartholet also points out that the unparented children in other countries are generally hidden away in institutions or growing up on the streets.

The system of international adoption has flaws. Individuals need to come together in order to ensure children have an opportunity to be nurtured and parented from early on in childhood. This may take a change in policy and/or law. There are different rules and regulations depending on what country the international adoption is occurring. Professor Bartholet gave an example of twin boys from Guatemala who was to be adopted, at their birth, by a couple in the United States. The birth mother wanted the children adopted so badly she made a video so nobody would question her consent to adopt her children out to a new family. Delays in the international system held the boys in Guatemala until they were almost one year of age. One of the twins developed meningitis while waiting and almost died. He had delays and such that would have been rectified had he been in the United States for medical treatment. This is just one small example of the laws not being conducive to the need for children to have early nurturing and permanency in order to flourish.

Bartholet, E. (2010). Permanency Is Not Enough: Children Need the Nurturing Parents Found In International Adoption. York Law School Law Review, 781(55). You can download the pdf of this article here.

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