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U.C. Davis Journal of International Law & Policy





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The two sides of the intercountry adoption debate seem worlds apart. Proponents view international adoption as an effective solution to stop the proliferation of institutionalized and street orphans across the globe. To them, intercountry adoption is a panacea-offering a potential solution to such diverse issues as children orphaned after war and disaster; adults who are unable to conceive; global intolerance; and the limited resources of developing nations. On the other hand, critics of intercountry adoptions view it as modem-day imperialism, allowing dominant, developed cultures to strip away a developing country's most precious resources, its children. Moreover, the view one holds in the debate impacts how subsidiary issues such as culture, family, rights, and sovereignty are treated.

The emotional nature of intercountry adoption often leads each side to demonize the other, impeding the ability to find common ground. Moreover, keeping the debate focused on whether intercountry adoption is good or bad is problematic; there will always be compelling arguments on either side, and compelling reasons to which each can point in support of their position. As such, focusing on the positives or negatives in the debate amounts to a stand-off in which neither side is willing to compromise any ground, a perpetual lose-lose situation.

Yet are these two sides really so far apart? Is there not another way of examining the debate that accommodates both viewpoints and makes allowances for each side? What if, for instance, one legal instrument could accommodate both one country's view that culture should be paramount in deciding a child's adoption and a prospective parent's desire to adopt across cultural lines? These are not simply rhetorical questions. Currently, many countries (predominantly potential sending countries) refuse to participate in intercountry adoptions. These countries refuse to allow intercountry adoption largely because of issues that fall under the rubric of family, culture, and rights. In crafting a framework that accommodates all sides of the debate we can move the process forward to a more fluid structure that takes into consideration both sides of the debate.

To do so we must start from a different premise, one where a prism of choice frames the intercountry adoption debate. Instead of locking the groups in a war of right and wrong, each group in the intercountry adoption debate can work together within a framework that is flexible enough to accommodate the different arguments and the hierarchical presumptions that embody each approach. This paper argues that such an approach to international adoption is possible if we analyze how each side of the debate treats the main axes of debate: issues of culture, family, and rights. Accordingly, the thesis of this paper provides that one can develop a framework that accommodates each side by recognizing the importance it attaches to each of these axes. Under this paradigm, this Paper examines the legal landscape, not to determine whether it facilitates or restricts intercountry adoption, but to determine how successful it is at accommodating the various viewpoints towards intercountry adoption and its underlying presumptions regarding family, rights, and culture.

Recommended Citation

Jena Martin, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly - A New Way of Looking at the Intercountry Adoption Debate, 13 U. C. Davis J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 173 (2007).



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