Thursday, May 6, 2010

Babies Onboard

Here's an interesting article, Babies Onboard, in Foreign Policy, arguing for strengthening oversight of international adoption.  The article notes that the two most recent high-profile adoption disasters occurred in two countries that have not ratified the Hague Convention on International Adoption -- Russia and Haiti.  Ethan Kapstein makes some concrete suggestions for strengthening compliance with the Hague Convention:
Yet states could and should be doing much more on behalf of the HAC. To date, the United States has not provided foreign aid to help countries in the developing world meet their Hague Convention obligations. Since U.S. citizens adopt a large share of the world's adoptable children, and those prospective parents want clean and transparent procedures, the United States should allocate some foreign assistance to educating national governments and judiciaries on their responsibilities under the HAC and relevant U.S. legislation. Other countries whose citizens are active in international adoptions, such as France, should make similar efforts. The United States should also lead a multilateral initiative to provide resources for inspecting and improving conditions in orphanages. Much as the efforts of global activists forced many corporations to open up their factories in the developing world to outside inspectors, a similar movement should work for transparency on behalf of orphaned children.
Kapstein also takes a swipe at Elizabeth Bartholet's excessively simplistic "human rights" argument in support of international adoption:

Some have argued that the emphasis in adoption policy should not be on enforcing the HAC but rather ensuring that the adoption process serves what has been called "the best interests of the child." This view has in turn produced two disparate arguments: one, that children are better off in their own national and cultural environment, and two, that a loving home is nearly always preferable to an orphanage. After all, would it not be better for orphaned children to be raised by families in Europe and the United States than to remain in institutions in the developing world -- even if this process contains hints of so-called baby buying? Bartholet, for example, has compared baby buying in international adoptions to surrogacy. What is the moral difference between these two approaches to having a child?

Yet, surely, there must be an important legal distinction between eggs carried by a surrogate and orphaned children who have already been born. Ironically, this so-called human rights argument risks transforming children into mere commodities or utilitarian goods. This is the real lesson of the recent controversies over the Haitian children and the Russian adoptee. In both cases, the children were treated as goods that could be freely traded -- or returned -- across borders.
Kapstein made the same call to strengthen the Hague Convention in this 2003 essay in Foreign Policy.  This current piece shows we haven't made much progress on that front in the past 7 years.

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