I’m off to the Adoption Policy Conference sponsored by the Center for Adoption Policy and New York Law School’s Center for Children and Families. There I’ll present my paper with Rose Kreider on disability rates among internationally adoption children, in Pediatrics last year. I’ve posted slides from the paper here, and pasted a few of the highlights below, beginning with this chart showing the dramatic drop in immigrant adoptions since the peak in 2005 – a drop of nearly one-half.
With the Haiti earthquake shaking up intercountry adoption, the organizers have retooled the agenda to address the crisis.
Faced with extremely bad situations for children in Haiti, as well as both child trafficking and legitimate adoptions, I tried to do a little reading on the issues. That led me to several legal scholars. Harvard’s Elizabeth Bartholet believes intercountry adoption “serv[es] the most fundamental human rights of the most helpless of humans.” She discusses the issue from a human rights perspective in several papers on her website. On the other hand, Stanford’s David Smolin has several recent papers on the implications of corruption and child trafficking, the most recent of which “looks to the future, and describes the kinds of reforms that would be necessary to make the intercountry adoption system meet the goals of the Hague Convention.” The current situation seems to provide plenty of fodder for both the ethically critical and humanitarian perspectives.
As for our paper, the gist of it is that we analyzed data from the 2000 Census for the presence of disabilities among internationally adopted children ages 5-15 (so, mostly adopted in the mid-1990s or before), and compared them with those adopted domestically. We found no major differences between domestic and international adoptees — though they all have disability rates about twice the national average.
We also compared them by country of origin, and here the differences were quite large.
Some, but not much, of these differences were attributable to other things we could identify — such as the very large proportion of girls among those adopted from China. We didn’t speculate much about the cause of the remaining differences, which could reflect specific conditions affecting poor women in the various countries, the type of care the children received before adoption, and lots of historically specific features of the moments. (These results should not interpreted as predictions about the health or disability of children adopted in the future.)
Anyway, the conference will feature some health experts, as well as immigration and state department folks, so I expect an interesting exchange.