International Adoption: An Ethical Analysis

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay


The idea of saving a child from abandonment in a developing country and bringing them into a prosperous American family can hinder the reality of today’s international adoption system. With the topic of intercountry adoption, our research will discuss how illegal practices found in the international adoption system can be reduced. International adoption can be approached from ethical, political, economic, social aspects. It is essential to discuss an ethical view point to address the remorseless mentality of supply and demand in adoptions. Along with the allowance of children to become treated less humane and more as a commodity.

False Information

Numerous adoption agencies obtain children through false pretenses by deceiving biological, and adopting families. David Smolin, Professor of Constitutional Law and Director, Center for Children, Law and Ethics, explains that some birth families are told by adoption agencies that their children will still be in contact with them, are only going away temporarily, and that after their child has matured, they also will be given a visa to immigrate to America, (2006). Lies as such, deceive families in hope of giving their child better opportunities, but result in giving agencies their child, and forever giving up their connection, and parental rights of their child. In turn, kidnapping their child, in the biological parent’s point of view.

The UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) declared that a child can be considered an orphan, if they have lost one or both parents. Thus, stating that a child living with a single mother/father, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. can be taken into adoption centers, and sold across the globe. For decades, information has been told to Americans that there is a world orphan crisis. Implicating that millions of children are in gruesome conditions, in dire need to be adopted. Graff, an award-winning journalist, commentator, and author that has appeared numerous times in credible journals such as New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy proves this claim inaccurate by stating that “many of the infants and toddlers being adopted by Western parents today are not orphans at all,” (2008). In actuality, many the “orphans” are children living with extended families in need of financial support.

In developing countries where false orphan status is common, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, policies should be implemented to prevent fraud in the international adoption system. Robi, Rotabi, and Bunkers, a professor in at Brigham Young University, and scholars in Social Work, present the structural barriers to socially just intercountry adoptions, and introduce the concept that informed and voluntary consent should be enforced in the adoption process (2013). Thus stating that adoption agencies should be bound by law to assist biological families with the adoption process, including pre-adoption services.

Services would lack inducements that coerce families to place their child in orphanages. Common coercions include, but not limited to include money, gifts, promises of future opportunities, and psychological pressure (Robi, Rotabi, and Bunkers, 2013). Unbiased and regulated pre-adoption services would include, a counselor to inform families on the realities of adoption. With enforced informed and voluntary consent, more families would be educated, less children would be wrongfully placed in international adoption.

Positive Consequences of Adoption

Since the beginnings of widespread intercountry adoption in the United States in 1955, the idea that has developed of “saving” children from poorer countries, there has been an influx of international adoptions. Elizabeth Bartholet, the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard, a part of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and founder and director of the Legal Action Center claims that there are more positive effects that outweigh the negatives in intercountry adoption. She advises that intercountry adoption should be seen as an opportunity to solve desperate problems for children (1993).

In developing countries children die regularly due to diseases, malnutrition, neglect, and deprivation. With children being placed in developed countries, their overall quality of life will improve. Therefore, international adoption can be a major success. However, Bartholet also exclaims that the adoption system should be structured to maximize this positive potential. With the corruption in the current adoption system, policies are not in place to benefit the orphan’s lives, and agencies are benefitting from children exploitation

Child Trafficking and Abduction

In areas where developing countries are prominent, including parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, practices such as child trafficking, abduction, and “baby selling” are common. Most adopting families do not realize that when going through the adoption process, they may not be adopting through an adoption agency, they may be contacting an intermediary.

Intermediaries are an unlicensed independent party, separated from adoption agencies. They are the ones responsible for “locating” children for adoption, (Herrmann, 2010). Agencies have no legal correlation to intermediaries. Therefore, they are able to avoid consequences of immoral practices, such as child laundering. Child laundering is described as obtaining children illegally, then using the adoption process to legitimize them as “legally” adopted children.

A previous event that exemplifies child laundering is in Chad, with a foundation called Zoe’s Ark. In 2004, six French members of the foundation were caught abducting children from their homes. It is explained by Kieran Uchehara, an assistant professor Dr. at Hasan Kalyoncu University that the children were baited with money, candy, and food to abduct them, (2011). The children were sold by expressing to adopting families that the children’s biological parents died during the Darfur war. In actuality, the birth parents were under the influence that the Zoe’s Ark employees were taking their children to be educated at a project in Chad.

This isn’t the only case of abduction in international adoption, thousands of instances similar to this go undetected. In orphanages associated with criminal activity, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) describes that it is common to see horrendous conditions. Including “rusty cribs, hammocks covered in feces, torn window screens, and the smell of human excrement,” (Herrmann, 2010).

Rick Gladstone, an editor and author of the newspaper, International Desk since 1997, states that for every 800 victims of child trafficking, only 1 is convicted,” (2014). Unfortunately, cases like this are not protected by The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The act states that only applies to “severe forms of trafficking”. Only extremities of exploitation: prostitution, forced labor, and organ removal, are included. Thus, allowing children to be abducted and placed in inhumane conditions.


Compared to the beginnings of international adoption, the current system has changed, and not in a positive way. When researching information on the ethical point of view on “How can illegal practices found in the international adoption system be reduced,” it has been concluded that there are some positives in bringing a child from a developing country to a developed one.

However, the negatives of how the children are placed in the adoption system and the conditions they live in, overpower the positive effects. With corruption in the international adoption system, immoral practices in the international adoption system, including false information and child trafficking have become normalized. Corruption in adoption agencies has resulted in many international adoption agencies working not to find homes for needy children, but finding children for Western homes.

Work Cited

  1. Gladstone, Rick. “Real Threat in a Known Market for Children.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 May 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/world/africa/real-threat-in-a-known-market-for-children.html
  2. Graff, E. J. “The Lie We Love.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 6 Oct. 2009, foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/06/the-lie-we-love/.
  3. Herrmann, K. (2010). Reestablishing the Humanitarian Approach to Adoption: The Legal and Social Change Necessary to End the Commodification of Children. Family Law Quarterly,44(3), 409-428. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23034365
  4. Oesterle, Heidi. “International Adoption: Cultural Socialization and Identity Development.” International Adoption, 2006, core.ac.uk/download/pdf/5165666.pdf.
  5. Roby, J., & Shaw, S. (2006). The African Orphan Crisis and International Adoption. Social Work, 51(3), 199-210
  6. Smolin, David M. “Child Laundering: How the Intercountry Adoption System Legitimizes and Incentivizes the Practices of Buying, Trafficking, Kidnapping, and Stealing Children.” Bepress Legal Repository, 2006, law.bepress.com/expresso/eps/749.
  7. Uchehara, K. E. (2011). Compromize and Controversy over Global Intercountry Adoption: A Comparative Analysis of Adoption in Haiti, Chad, Southeast Asian Countries, and Cambodia. Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, 10(1)


Cite this paper

International Adoption: An Ethical Analysis. (2021, Jun 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/international-adoption-an-ethical-analysis/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out