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Is International Adoption Justified In The Usa Social Work Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 4785 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The reason I chose this subject was mainly because International adoption has played a major role in the news during the last few years. On the one hand, there are thousands of orphan children worldwide, mainly in poor countries. On the other hand, there is an increasing demand for adoption in the U.S. and many people turn to international adoption because the supply of national children for adoption is lower than demand.

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In order to draw a conclusion I have made an extensively research. In particular, I made a thorough analysis for the current situation in the country, the types of adoption that exist and also some celebrities’ views and acts, since it is believed that celebrities have contributed to the popularity of international adoptions. Moreover, I have described the adoption system in the U.S.A., the main reasons people tend to adopt and why they turn to international adoption. Furthermore, I examined the consequences (positive and negative) of international adoption for the child, for the adoptive parents, for the birth parents and for the society in general.

In the end I concluded that international adoption should be justified under certain circumstances. More specifically, I believe that it is better for a child to be adopted from a family in its own country. If this is not possible, someone should turn to international adoption, instead of leaving the child in an inadequate orphanage, where social care is non-existent. Of course, he/she should not overlook the negative impacts of international adoption and the implications it may have on the child, the original parents and the country of birth.

Adoption is “the act of establishing a person as parent to one who is not in fact or in law his child” [1] . Adoption is so widely recognized that it can be characterized as an almost worldwide institution with historical roots traceable to antiquity. [2]    

Nowadays, adoption can be either open or closed. Open adoption is a process in which the birthparents and the adoptive parents meet and exchange identifying information. The birthparents relinquish legal and basic childrearing rights to the adoptive parents. Both sets of parents retain the right to continuing contact and access to knowledge on behalf of the child [3] . On the contrary, closed adoption, the traditional closed system in adoption, seals all identifying information and bans any contact between children and their biological families. [4] However, during the last decades more and more countries have acknowledged the legal right of the adoptee to search for his/her original roots.

There are also two types of adoption: national and international or intercountry adoption. National adoption is a type of adoption in which an individual or couple adopts a child born in the same country. On the contrary, international adoption, is a type of adoption in which an individual or couple adopts a child from a different country through permanent legal means, and brings that child to the home country permanently. Through international adoption, the legal transfer of parental rights from birth parent(s) to another parent(s) takes place.

United States citizens started adopting war orphan children from other countries mainly after World War II. Recently, the number of families that adopt children from countries other than their own has increased considerably [5] . In U.S., in particular, families have adopted on average approximately 20,000 children from foreign nations each year [6] . And, not long ago, factors such as poverty and social changes resulted in the adoption of children from Latin America, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China. [7] 

Nowadays, international adoption has become a common practice and in some countries accounts for the majority of cases. International adoption can be conducted through both public and private agencies in each country. However, each country has passed different laws as regards international adoptions.

In order to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children, The Hague Conference on Private International Law developed the Convention of May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. This is known as the Hague Adoption Convention and it is “an international treaty among over 75 nations around the world, including the United States” [8] . Its aim is “to prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children”; it enables intercountry adoption under certain circumstances and, “recognises intercountry adoption as a means of offering the advantage of a permanent home to a child when a suitable family has not been found in the child’s country of origin” [9] .

The aim of this study is to show whether international adoption in the United States is justified, examining the consequences on three levels: for the child, for the family, and for society in general.


International adoption is gaining ground in our day and time. Couples and individuals tend to look for children to adopt from developing countries, such as China, Thailand, India and may more. There are a plurality of reasons that urge American people to resort to this course of action and are related to the changes effected to the social structure of society at large, the status of women, the financial situation and the changes effected in the mentality of the population.

The social structure of the society and especially demographics in the United States has changed significantly. According to recent statistics [10] , the percentage of households headed by single parents is at about 9%, up from 5% in 1970. Out of 12.9 million one-parent families in 2006, 10.4 million were single-mother families and 2.5 million were single-father families. Some other highlights are as follows:

Average household size in 2006 was 2.57 people, down from 3.14 in 1970.

Slightly more than one in four households (26%) consisted of a person living alone in 2006, up from 17% in 1970.

In 2006, 33% of males and 26% of females 15 and older had never married, compared to a respective 28% and 22% in 1970.

In addition, contemporary society in the US faces fertility problems. According to recent data [11] , the level of childlessness among women 40 to 44 years old in June 2006 (20%) is twice as high as 30 years ago (10%). Moreover, 45% of the women in the principal childbearing ages of 15 to 44 years were childless.

Financial pressures and the changes in the traditional stereotypical perceptions about the role of women in the society, force American people to consider marriage at a later age in their lives (40-44), after having established their careers and secured a steady income. In particular, women at this age or older do not want to risk a pregnancy, which may put the mother’s life at risk or bear children with physical and/or mental diseases.

This was not the case in previous decades, in which American people were very conservative with regards to accepting young, unmarried mothers in the society. The norm called for a well-built family around the patriarchal symbol, with the woman playing the role of the child-raising parent. Back then, unmarried women who got pregnant had no option other than having an illegal abortion to avoid the consequences of ‘ostracism’ from the rest of the societal members. For those women who wanted to keep the child they were bearing, adoption away from home was the only choice once the child was born.

Changes in social norms nowadays have made it possible for unmarried women in the United States and abroad to give birth to their children without the fear of facing all sorts of different sanctions, be it moral or psychological. This significant turn on behalf of the American society to higher tolerance levels has made possible the acceptance of unmarried mothers. Even more so, in the case of young girls giving birth, their parents are willing to adopt the new-born and thus support both psychologically and practically their young daughter.

Tolerance to abortion has also been heightened and although illegal in many states, abortion is a safe resort -with the advancements in medicine- for many women who want to terminate their pregnancy at an early stage. This limits the number of children available for adoption nationally in the U.S.

Added to the above is the fact that women who have a career feel that the nine months of pregnancy could interfere with their job, therefore, adoption would be a better option for them. They may not even want to take that much time out of work to have a baby. This trend is further supported by the fact that in the last decades women have become more financially independent and educated; hence, they are more capable of making ends meet and stand on their feet to run their own households, without having to get married. Still, they want to have the privilege of raising a child and reap the benefits of parenthood. Because a married couple has much higher chances of being allowed to adopt a child, unmarried women resort to international adoption, to overcome their handicap against married couples.

In other cases, people who know that they carry a serious genetic disease may not want to give birth to a child, to avoid the risk of passing the disease to their offspring.

Still, some families choose to adopt believing that they will be saving a child, offering a loving and supportive family. This is mainly the reason why some people prefer international adoption to national adoption, believing they offer service to the developing world. They usually choose children from developing countries, where the standard of living is very low and they mainly prefer children with no families or relatives, who live in orphanage.

International adoption has received widespread media coverage lately, due to the recent adoption of foreign children by several high-profile celebrities. Nowadays, there are many cases of famous people who choose to adopt. Generally, famous people have the same reasons for adopting children that people who are not famous have. Adopting children may be one way for them to feel like they are helping the world out [12] . Moreover, famous people often have both financial resources and influence, so, in contrast to an ordinary family, adoption process is much easier for them [13] .

There are many examples of celebrities who have adopted several children from abroad [14] , such as Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan (from China), Mia Farrow (from Vietnam and Korea), Madonna/Guy Ritchie (from Malawi) and Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt (from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam).

However, in contrast to what has been discussed above, there are some negative aspects of adoption, mainly international adoption. A negative reason for adoption is when people choose to adopt in order to deduct an amount from their tax liability. In the US both those who adopt internationally and domestically can take advantage of the Adoption Tax Credit [15] . The Adoption Tax Credit is a valuable benefit for adopting families since they may take a tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child (including a child with special needs). Such expenses include “reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travelling expenses (including amounts spent for meals and lodging while away from home), and other expenses directly related to and for which the principal purpose is the legal adoption of an eligible child” [16] .

Another negative issue is when adoption becomes so crucial to a celebrity only to get fame, power and admiration. In such cases, international adoption becomes a trend that may result in a negative impact that could last a child’s lifetime.

Also, a negative aspect of international adoption relates to a tendency of the rich and famous to bypass the law. Celebrities sometimes are bending the rules and pushing the boundaries to bring babies to their own countries. They do not always respect the laws of the third countries and do not follow the procedures as ordinary people usually do.

Two cases of famous people that have been discussed a lot are the cases of Madonna and Angelina Jolie. Angelina Jolie acts as a very good example. She has adopted following the proper procedures, she has shown great sensitivity and interest in such issues and has been Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency. On the other hand, Madonna has not followed all the proper procedures according to the Malawian Law, and there have been legal disputes over whether her adoption was totally legal or not [17] . Her practice was condemned by many humanitarian organisations and agencies that deal with international adoptions (ISS Headquarters in Geneva expressed their disapproval for the way the procedure was carried out).

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In short, the discussion in this part of the essay has focused on the rationale behind international adoption. Evidently, there is a trend towards international adoption, which is attributed to the increasing demand for adoption in the U.S. It appears that many people turn to international adoption because the supply of national children for adoption is lower than demand [18] . Also, the rising number of single mothers in America – as well as in the rest of the western world – has turned international adoption into an attractive alternative to national adoption, with its legal complexities and the preference for married couples.


Adoption, either national or international, came into effect so that children can live in a loving and healthy environment. In addition, through adoption, individuals as well as childless couples who wish to raise a child can enjoy parenthood.

Adoption involves three parties, the child (adoptee), the family (adoptive parents) and the home country of the child (birth parents). It is evident that adoption alters traditional family structure and functioning. In other words, positive and negative aspects of international adoption emerge for each one of these parties.

Positive aspects

For the adoptee

As I stated previously, United States citizens started adopting orphan children from other countries in substantial numbers after World War II. Moreover, over the last twenty years, many children have been adopted from poor countries all over the world.

So there are numerous positive aspects for the orphan and poor children worldwide. Research shows that “children do best when raised in a supportive, caring family” [19] . The most important is that international adoption provides a permanent family for the orphan children worldwide.

Also, nowadays, many high society individuals are adopting children from underdeveloped nations. This, besides a good home to live, provides the children with a secure future. Living with a rich family, children can have not only a decent living, but also good educational opportunities that they would never have had in their birth country. In addition, most children who need new homes are older than five, sick, disabled, or somehow traumatised. So they have more opportunities for a better life if adopted by a prosperous and caring family.

Statistical data derived from parents, teachers and children themselves show that the vast majority of the adopted children demonstrate satisfactory adjustment [20] . More specifically, adopted children felt strongly attached to their adoptive families. This can be explained, in part, by the fact that the American society is highly multi-cultural, reducing thus the time for adjustment of a new member originating from a foreign country. Evidently, adjustment is even easier for an adopted international child at the age of five, which is quite malleable and open to stimuli from a different culture.

For the adoptive parents

Most adults, when they get married plan to have children. Few of these individuals expect ahead of time that there will be difficulties in conceiving a child. Yet, approximately, one in six couples in the U.S. will experience a fertility problem [21] . When this happens, most couples seek a medical solution. Nearly 50% of them will be eventually able to have a child biologically [22] . The remaining couples must decide whether to remain childless or to seek parenthood through adoption.

There are thousands of children without a family all over the world and people who wish to adopt have a better chance of obtaining a child internationally. Thus they are able to give a permanent home and a nurturing environment for an orphan child. This is definitely a positive scenario and, according to statistical data derived from interviews, adoptive parents expressed considerable satisfaction in their roles [23] .

For the birth parents

The biological parents are forced to give away their children, usually because they are very poor, and they cannot provide a stable home and the necessary basics for living. Giving their child for adoption makes them happy that their child gets a family, and a secure future in a loving and healthy environment. Even though the process of separation from their children is painful, they realise that this is a far better solution than not being able to provide their children with a safe, healthy and promising future. On occasions when the mother is very young and has little or no experience to raise a child, adoption is also a better option than entrusting the fate of a newborn to an inexperienced mother, who may be living in the slums of an impoverished nation.

For the society of the birth parents

International adoption brings significant financial resources into poor countries, putting them in a better economic condition. Still, societies are deprived of their younger members in cases where the adoptee goes to another country.

Celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie have provided significant financial resources to poor countries. In addition, celebrity adoptions, through the publicity that they have, play a major role in increasing people’s awareness as regards poverty all over the world.

Negative aspects

For the adoptee

International adoption often, but not always, involves trans-racial placement. Opponents of trans-racial adoption suggest that placement of children outside their own racial group will undermine the development of positive racial identity, ultimately leading to “cultural genocide” [24] .

The child’s removal from its birth country would mean the loss of the child’s original language and culture. According to research, adopted children may experience the loss of birth parents and extended birth family; loss of status; loss of ethnic, racial, and genealogical connections, loss of feelings of stability in the adoptive family, and loss of identity [25] . For some children, adoption is associated with feelings of confusion, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and shame. When children begin to understand the meaning and implications of adoption, around five to seven years of age, emergence of sensitivity to adoption related stigma and loss occurs. Some children appraise being adopted in negative ways and have great adjustment problems. In reality, the younger the children the more sensitive they are to adoption issues.

For the adoptive parents

Among the many tasks experienced by parents are those associated with coping with infertility and the transition to adoptive parenthood, discussing adoption with their child, creating a family environment that supports the child’s exploration of adoption issues, helping their child cope with loss, supporting a positive self-image and identity in their child in relation to adoption and, in some cases, as the adoptee moves into adolescence and adulthood, supporting their child’s plans to search for birth family. Although not necessarily a negative implication of adoption, it is a great challenge for the adoptive parents, especially when they have adopted a child from abroad. For this child, the pursuit of answers to questions about his/her origins, cultural differences, ethnic background and the like is a long journey that many a times has an unclear destination.

The decision to adopt a child is not an easy choice. Profound stress, typically associated with infertility, often results in both short-term and long-term psychological problems, including heightened feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, and depression; diminished self-esteem and marital difficulties [26] .

For the birth parents

The child is genetically connected with the birthparents and this connection is lost with adoption. As a result, birthparents suffer from a loss of their role as parents, which makes them feel irresponsible and incapable of bringing up their child. Sometimes birthparents are under great pressure and are enforced to give their child to adoption against their will. Sometimes they worry about the future of their child, and they wonder if they will ever see it again. They may feel anger with themselves, with the society, even with the adoptive parents. And the most important issue is that they will have to deal with this for the rest of their lives.

From what has been covered in the preceding paragraphs it is concluded that adoption can change significantly the life of all parties involved. Adoption is therefore justified and should be made with the best interests of the child. Likewise, international adoption “should be an option only when and if there is no viable alternative in the child’s country of origin” [27] . It should be also mentioned that Unicef believes that international adoption should be considered as a last resort, for children who cannot find a permanent home in their country [28] .


Through my study I can understand that international adoption constitutes a great part of the total adoption and has caused public reaction, both positive and negative. I agree with adoption critics, which focus on the issue of exploitation since adoption often involves the transfer of children from less to more privileged people, or from black to white families [29] . However, I would like to make it clear that international adoption does not always cause injustice. It should be taken under consideration that there are many orphan children in poor countries or families that are not in a good situation to raise a child.

In the case of international adoption, I believe that all alternative solutions for orphan children in poor countries should be considered. These children have no home and family and they are suffering neglected in various institutions. Keeping orphan children in inadequate institutions rather than giving them good permanent homes, does not mean that they will be happier. If a family in their country could offer them home, love and affection, I am convinced this solution would be preferred. If not, international adoption clearly represents an extraordinarily positive option for them. Otherwise, homeless children around the world will probably live or die in inadequate institutions or on the streets.

In my opinion the U.S. is a suitable new home for internationally adopted children since a large part of the population who want to adopt a child are well-off and can offer a good and caring family. Since the number of national children for adoption is less than the demand for adoptions, international adoption is the next best alternative [30] . To this end, international adoption in the U.S. is justified. Yet, we should not overlook the negative impact of international adoption discussed in the previous section and the implications it may have on the child, the original parents and the country of birth. Ideally, it would be better to provide a home in the country of birth but this is not always possible if the child was born in a very poor country, where social care and infrastructure to support local adoption are non-existent.

Banning international adoption will not solve the problems of homelessness in poor countries. Being anti-foreign without a reason is not reasonable. As far as international adoption works well under the existing adoption laws and serves children’s interests, it should be justified and facilitated. The destructive earthquake in Haiti left almost 300,000 people dead and thousands of children without a family. I am of the opinion that for many of these children, international adoption could be a justifiable solution and a unique opportunity for the U.S. to prove that its citizens can make good use of it for the sake of the children and their future.


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