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  • Morgan Robinson

Reproductive Ethics & International Adoptions

In the past decade, the numbers of international adoptions have skyrocketed with over 1,700 matches in the U.S. in 2021 [1]. With this influx of overseas adoption, there has been more research into the management of the system and its overlooked flaws. Adoption itself is complex, but adding an international barrier makes the potential drawbacks even more extreme, and new research has called the ethical aspects of the system into question. Some of these issues include unsanctioned agencies that acquire children through unethical processes, economic concerns, and a frightening lack of candor throughout the process.

As international adoptions became more popular, especially when China instituted the One Child Policy from 1980-2016, more and more “agencies” began to pop up in the Google search engine for adoptions [2]. The problem is many were not legit and the average person who was looking for a child did not have the resources or knowledge to choose the right agency. There are various reasons a person chooses to adopt, but a common one is the lack of ability to conceive a biological child. These people have usually attempted to conceive naturally and are committed to getting a child through adoption, perhaps even desperate. It can be difficult to take the time to find a legitimate agency, especially when the one you look at for a first glance seems to offer all the help you need. In reality, some of these websites are a front for stealing money with the “initial deposit” or could be an unethical group that pays women to give up their children for an adoption.

This problem is further exemplified with the increase in costs for international adoptions. While it is sensible to have some sort of payment for such a process, the North American Council on Adoptable Children explains why certain amounts of money may be too high and how these transactions can turn children into more of a commodity for sale rather than a human being looking for a home [3]. This also limits who can apply for adoptions because of such a financial barrier. Families who have been waiting for years are surpassed by someone who has been waiting a month because they have more financial means and to get ahead.

Furthermore, there is a stigma with most of these agencies regarding religion. It is common to find an adoption agency, even a vetted one, has certain religious requirements to meet in order to be considered. The process can be competitive and families may feel the need to exaggerate or make up their beliefs to get the child they so badly want. I myself tried to go through the process of international adoption as a part of a class research project last year and found terrible difficulty in understanding the process. First of all, how do you decide which agency to use? I struggled to find one without religious connections and ended up researching one called the Bethany Christian Services. The site's mission is to demonstrate “the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting children, empowering youth, and strengthening families through quality social services” [4]. While this is a strong message, it prompts only parents of certain religions to feel accepted in that service. What about those who do not identify? They have way less options and avenues to find help.

So how can one combat these issues? Adoption itself is a wonderful idea and there should be opportunities for children overseas to find homes regardless of where they come from. The main change should start in vetting agencies and providing lists through the government of proven safe options. There are lists like this for adoption within the U.S. but it should expand globally. There should also be more information for potential adoption parents who go into the process somewhat blind. They could attend seminars or complete online interactive lectures on how to go through the process correctly. There should also be a resource for asking questions. While this is not feasible immediately, there is definitely a drive for change with international adoptions to make the process more transparent.


Edited by: Kelly Ma

Graphic Designed by: Natalie Chou


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