Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Immigration, Adoption and Our National Identity by Shani King,Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2019
Intercountry adoption (ICA) involves tens of thousands of children moving from family to family among more than 100 countries annually. But what is its history? And how is this history relevant – if at all – to the way we in the West conceptualize ICA today? Is ICA primarily a humanitarian endeavor, an altruistic response to political turmoil, civil wars, and natural disasters in other parts of the world? Or alternatively, is it just the commodification of vulnerable children in Global South countries to meet the needs of wealthy families in the Global North? What are the legal, moral, and ethical dimensions involved in the removal of children from their birth cultures? Ultimately, is ICA rooted in compassion and love for vulnerable children and children in need, or is it just the latest form of colonialism and cultural oppression? What is the right story to tell here?
When we think of ICA, we often think of the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. But this is a recent chapter in a very long history that finds its roots in the immediate aftermath of World War II. What is the history of the legal regulation of intercountry adoption and the story behind this legal regulation? Why is this so underexplored and undertheorized? And, furthermore, how, if at all, is it related to our regulation of immigration in, say, the United States? Are these two bodies of law related and part of the same story? And why is this a question that seems odd, as if there is no connection when both bodies of law were born of the same social, economic, and historical context?
In this Article, I tell the story of intercountry adoption. Our starting point is the beginning of the adoption process, with so-called “sending countries,” in which I explore the reasons that countries enter their children into the intercountry adoption market. We begin in the aftermath of World War II and continue until the present day. The story starts in Europe (specifically, in Germany, Greece, and Italy) and Japan. It then continues throughout the Korean War and the communist regime of Nicolae Ceauseacu, until present-day Russia and China. Next, I tell the story of receiving countries; I discuss the social, political, and economic conditions over recent decades that have caused countries to become receiving countries of international adoptees. In the third section of this Article, I explore why intercountry adoption policy and immigration policy should not be thought of as discrete and separate issues, but, instead, as different sides of the same coin, the development of which has and continues to stress the welfare of the nation and society as a whole. And, finally, I turn to the Hague Convention and explore where we are today in the context of the complicated and nuanced history of intercountry adoption.