The international adoption
International adoption, or intercountry adoption, is a type of adoption in which an individual or couple becomes the legal and permanent parents of a child born in another country.
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of children by families in the United States continues to present a desirable alternative to the limitations associated with domestic adoption and infertility treatment (Bartholet, 1993). A total of 12,596 children were internationally adopted by U.S. families in 1997 (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service


], 1998), an 11 percent increase over the 11,316 adopted in 1996 and a 71 percent increase over the 7,348 international adoptions in 1993. In 1993 international adoptions were reported to constitute between one sixth and one-fifth of all non-relative adoptions by families in the United States and "a somewhat larger portion of all infant adoptions" (Bartholet, p. 90). International adoption, however, raises a number of social justice issues that should be of interest to social workers. The purpose of this article is to critique international adoption, as it currently exists, using an egalitarian framework of social justice by Rawls (1971).

My perspective is that international adoption, although providing assistance to some children, exploits unjust social structures in the "sending" countries from which children are adopted, where they and their biological families have not had access to the freedoms and resources enjoyed by more advantaged children and families in both the sending and "receiving" countries. At the same time, an opportunity to parent is provided to those who desire to parent and either are not able to produce a child biologically or decide not to have a child. A different approach would be to seek changes that would bring about more socially just structures.

An alternate perspective held by some is that international adoption is itself an act of social...

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