Ethical Issues in International Adoption

Do your research and stick to your principles in order to ensure fairness and morality.

Nancy J. Evans Hall November 27, 2017
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International adoption involves a variety of considerations which often include making
ethically-based decisions in addition to choosing the age, gender, and country of the child whom you want to adopt. Some of these considerations must be made in advance and some are unforseen and only arise in the course of the adoption.

One such decision is whether it is morally correct to remove a child from his or her birth
culture. However, according to Steven Conn in “The Ethics of International Adoption,” the idea
that “biology equals culture” is an “archaic” notion (1). If this is a concern for you, a good
resolution might be that you raise the child in a way that includes their biological heritage such
as making foods from their country, buying or making them cultural dolls, taking them to special internationally-oriented events, and more.

Another issue is the selling of babies and children, particularly in poor countries. “So often
vulnerable birth moms are coerced and misled, families are manipulated and deceived, children
are flat out bought. International adoption is big business” (2). Do your research and make sure
your domestic agency is reputable and the organization in the child’s home country is scrupulous.

Intercountry adoption agency fees should be taken into account. Exorbitant fees could mean
that the adopting family could be supporting a corrupt overseas organization (3). Again, this comes down to doing your homework in order to support an ethical process.

We found out on our journey that there are certain countries which have components of their
legal systems which encourage and accept bribes to speed up the adoption process. Often there is a temptation to give into these pressures, but not only is that unethical on personal and systemic levels, but paying the bribes could only make it harder for other families by setting a precedent.

Families who set out to adopt internationally have good intentions. Therefore, considering ethics only make sense when going through the process. Do your research and stick to your principles in order to ensure fairness and morality; in doing so, you will help ensure an adoption that starts out in a positive, conscientious, and virtuous manner that is ultimately the best choice for you and your child, no matter what the most convenient or expedient thing might be along the way.

1 Conn, Steven. The Ethics of International Adoption. The Huffington Post, March 22, 2015.

2 Hatmaker, Jen. Examining Adoption Ethics: Part One. May 14, 2013.

3 Zappala, Marc and Johnson, Chuck. A Case for Ethical Intercountry Adoption. Adoption
Advocate. April 2009.

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Nancy J. Evans Hall

Nancy Hall is married to the love of her life and has a wonderful teenage daughter. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A.T. in Humane Education. She had the privilege of studying at Oxford Univerisity in England for a while and eventually moved overseas for nearly 4 years. She enjoys traveling, writing, yoga and Pilates, rock music and festivals, and all things animal-related -- she has several rescued pets. She currently works as an academic advisor at a state college.

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