Elizabeth Bartholet Critiques Save the Children

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Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet has spoken against the decision of a court in Malawi denying Madonna’s request to adopt a child there:

Spokesman for Save the Children, UK, Dominic Nutt, says that Mercy and other children in her position should remain in a Malawi orphanage. For no better reason than that these children may have living relatives, he believes that they should always remain in their original communities. Unfortunately, Nutt ignores the fact that these children’s presence in an orphanage is the surest indication that their relatives are deceased or, if alive, unable to care for them.

The usual justification for Save the Children’s approach is that children who remain in their country of origin can enjoy their racial, ethnic and national heritage. But children doomed to grow up in orphanages or on the streets cannot expect to enjoy their cultural heritage in any meaningful way. And the real choice today for most existing homeless children in most of the countries of the world  is between life – and often death – in orphanages or on the streets in their home country and, for a lucky few, life in an adoptive home abroad.  Research on children who started their early life in orphanages demonstrates vividly the damage such institutions do.

International Adoption has come under fire recently from UNICEF and others who share Save the Children’s views. But International Adoption provides children the possibility of finding the permanent nurturing homes they need to thrive, homes that are typically simply not available in their countries of origin. And International Adoption is completely consistent with other positive social responses to the problems of unparented children, bringing new resources into poor countries to support such efforts, and developing new awareness of and concern for the plight of poor children and poor communities worldwide.

Professor Bartholet’s full statement is here.

-Bridget Crawford

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