At this critical juncture in the era of reform: Reviewing 35 years of social work literature on intercountry adoption

Robert L Ballard (Editor), Naomi H Goodno (Editor), Robert F Cochran (Editor), Jay A Milbrandt (Editor), Karen Smith Rotabi, Carmen Mónico, Kelley McCreery Bunkers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Because social work is a central profession in the practice of intercountry adoption (ICA), interfacing with children and families, the discipline's contribution to the literature offers an important perspective on the rapid changes undergoing the practice in this era of reform. To give structure to this literature review, the authors defer to Masson's exploration of ICA and her questioning the practice as A global problem or a global solution? Masson identifies typologies of value-positions or perspectives on ICA: (1) abolitionists, (2) pragmatists, and (3) promoters. These positions may be simply described, respectively, as (I) those who demand a cessation of the practice of ICA due to ethical problems and illicit practices, (2) those who advocate for practice improvements to safeguard ICA, and (3) those who act as proponents, often with a dismissal of problems in practice with the argument that the greater good of ICA serves the most vulnerable children in the world. This latter group further argues that the problems are far outweighed by a multitude of social gains for the adoptee herself as well as the family and community in which the adoptee becomes a part of. Rotabi and Gibbons found that there is diversity across the disciplines actively involved in researching ICA with the majority voice of pragmatism. Based on his examination of the adoption ethics and history of adoption in the Americas, historian Dubinsky asserts that 'professional concerns about adoption practice are voiced in relative obscurity of social work journals.' In this chapter, we gather pieces of writing within a systematic literature review process and collate social work contributions on the subject of ICA, indicating a small but strong body of work providing critical discourse and recommendations for change. Generally speaking, when reviewing social work literature, the majority voice is pragmatic, and this is logical given social work's long-standing commitment to child welfare policy and practice. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe intercountry adoption debate: Dialogues across disciplines.
EditorsRobert L Ballard, Naomi H Goodno, Robert F Cochran, Jay A Milbrandt
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameThe intercountry adoption debate: Dialogues across disciplines.


  • Adoption (Child)
  • Cross Cultural Differences
  • Family
  • Social Casework
  • intercountry adoption
  • policy making
  • pragmatism
  • social work literature

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