ISS Responds to New Yorker Article on Intercountry Adoption

ISS-USA responds to a recent article in the New Yorker Magazine about the author’s experience with intercountry adoption from Haiti.

In the May 10th, 2010 edition of the New Yorker, John Seabrook wrote an article entitled “The Last Babylift” chronicling his adoption of a Haitian child. In it, Seabrook cites International Social Service as being anti-international adoption. (“…International Social Service emphasize (sic) improving social conditions within sending countries, rather than facilitating international adoption.”). This statement is misleading. ISS was a key participant in the drafting of the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

ISS, an international social service Federation, is not opposed to intercountry adoption. The ISS Federation has been involved in educating about, and facilitating, international adoptions for decades.   Every year, ISS-USA arranges for several hundred international home studies for kinship and adoptive placements. However, based on our more than 85 years of providing social work services between more than 140 countries, we know that far more must be done to increase the capacity of social service agencies to care for children in their home countries. This includes the development of legal frameworks, policy, procedure and protocol on domestic and international adoption.

ISS-USA is opposed to the lack of support and infrastructure in many countries for social service providers to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of their children. We believe more must be done to support biological and prospective domestic-adoptive parents in countries from where large numbers of children are adopted. It is crucial that all countries have laws, procedures and policies, and legal and social service professionals trained in these practices, to ensure that the child’s best interest are represented. More must be done to prevent the “social orphan” crisis. However, when an international kinship or adoptive placement is in the best interest of the child, ISS-USA advocates for the safe movement of that child across borders.

Seabrook also overlooks the fact that there are over 120,000 American children who are freed for adoption, and awaiting placement with a permanent family.  ISS-USA believes, consistent with our endorsement of the Hague Convention, that the U.S. must adhere to the principles outlined between countries, and, America must encourage her citizens to consider adopting domestically!  Those who are charged with caring for orphaned or abandoned children must explore domestic options first. International adoption by non-kin is the final alternative (the principle of subsidiarity). All countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption must follow this principle. The thousands of American children waiting to find a family are in need of that family just as much as “social orphans” in other countries. The emotional largesse of those American families in the aftermath of the Haitian disaster who want to “…just go and get some of them babies” need not look any further than the borders of our own country.

If our citizens really want to help they should demand that aid be made available to improve the social work capacity of all countries to provide for the safety and well-being of their children, and to work towards appropriate permanent homes for them. If a child cannot find a family there must be safe alternative domestic care options. PLease see the UN Guidelines on the Alternative Care of Children at:

Second, we must adhere to the safeguards in place to protect children and their biological families both here and abroad (e.g. the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption). There must be a strong partnership between government, law and social work to protect children’s best interests. The plight of orphaned and abandoned children around the world will not be resolved by international adoption. Their future will be determined by the level of support for social service institutions and agencies that promote the welfare and well-being of all children.