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It was during a conference in Barcelona on the topic of international adoption that Laura Briggs felt compelled to work to expand the dialogue on the topic in the United States. Briggs, who had already begun researching the issue of adoptions, said critical parts of the global discussion were missing from the United States dialogue on the topic.
It was during the conference that she opted to collect the work of scholars of adoption from Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Canada with Diana Marre, a fellow researcher who lives in Spain and organized the conference.
After more than one year of work, the culmination is "International Adoption: Global Inequalities and the Circulation of Children," which was published by New York University Press and is set to be released next month. . . .
[T]he researchers collected and edited stories written by scholars from around the world. The stories are about child placement policies, fears in sending countries about the abuse of children adopted abroad, adoptions of related children, gays and lesbians who want to adopt and also issues of identity and how reproduction is defined.
"I was excited to get these stories in front of a U.S. audience," Briggs continued. "Particularly, what the conversation is in other countries because, here, we basically have two – and only two – conversations about adoption." One, she said, involves a "sweet and sentimentalized" version of adoption in which adoptees are "saved;" the other is about child trafficking.
But transnational adoption is not always as dichotomous as a "wrenching loss" on one end and a new beginning on the other.
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One facet of adoption not often disussed that the book notes is that the United States is also a "sending country" in transnational adoption, with Europeans adopting African-American children in particular to "save" them from the problem of racism in the United States.
Another troubling fact, Briggs said, is that birth families are often placed at arm's length in the adoption process. The book also explores non-traditional aspects, including adult adoptees and contact adoptees have had with birth families.
"My hope is that adoptive parents and all of us affected by international adoption will have a more complex sense of the system in which we are participating," Briggs said. "I hope we can restore, both for the parents who adopt and for the children themselves, something richer than a story about ‘this horrible place you left.'"
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