Elizabeth Bartholet

Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law

Faculty Director, Child Advocacy Program

Biography

Elizabeth Bartholet is the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP), which she founded in the fall of 2004. She teaches civil rights and family law, specializing in child welfare, adoption, and reproductive technology. Before joining the Harvard Faculty, she was engaged in civil rights and public interest work, first with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and later as founder and director of the Legal Action Center, a non-profit organization in New York City focused on criminal justice and substance abuse issues. Bartholet graduated from Radcliffe College in 1962, and from Harvard Law School in 1965.

Areas of Interest

Elizabeth Bartholet, Differential Response: A Dangerous Experiment in Child Welfare, 42 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 573 (2015).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
Differential Response represents the most important child welfare initiative of the day, with Differential Response programs rapidly expanding throughout the country. It is designed to radically change our child welfare system, diverting the great majority of Child Protective Services cases to an entirely voluntary system. This Article describes the serious risks Differential Response poses for children and the flawed research being used to promote it as “evidence based.” It puts the Differential Response movement in historical context as one of a series of extreme family preservation movements supported by a corrupt merger of advocacy with research. It argues for reform that would honor children’s rights, confront the problems of poverty underlying child maltreatment in a serious way, and expand rather than reduce the capacity of Child Protective Services to address child maltreatment. It calls for a change in the dynamics of child welfare research and policy so that we can avoid endlessly repeating history in ways harmful to child interests.
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: The Human Rights Position, 1 Global Pol'y 91 (2010).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
Human Rights Law
,
International Law
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Nobody's Children: Abuse and Neglect, Foster Drift, and the Adoption Alternative (Beacon Press 1999).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Book
Abstract
Argues that the current system of adoption in the United States is not in the best interest of the children.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Book Review: Rebecca J. Compton, Adoption Beyond Borders: How International Adoption Benefits Children, Adoption Q., Sept. 1, 2016, at 1.
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Thoughts on the Liberal Dilemma in Child Welfare Reform, 24 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 725 (2016).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
This article presents a critique of the self-styled liberal group that has dominated child welfare policy in recent decades, arguing that the group’s policy goals unduly favor parent over child interests, and that its self-serving research fails to provide policy-makers with an understanding of how the group’s favored policies put children at risk. The article analyzes the dominant group’s problematic approach in the three most significant movements of recent decades -- intensive family preservation services, racial disproportionality, and differential response. It calls on true liberals to reject this group’s leadership, to recognize children as one of the ultimate powerless constituencies needing representation, and to fight for policies that will better serve child interests. Finally it calls for a new research culture, enabling truly independent social science to flourish so that it can guide policy makers about the pros and cons of different policy choices in terms that include child interests.
Elizabeth Bartholet, The Hague Convention: Pros, Cons, and Potential, in The Intercountry Adoption Debate: Dialogues Across Disciplines (Robert L. Ballard et al., eds., 2015).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Elizabeth Bartholet, The International Adoption Cliff: Do Child Human Rights Matter?, in The Intercountry Adoption Debate: Dialogues Across Disciplines (Robert L. Ballard et al., eds., 2015).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Elizabeth Bartholet, Intergenerational Justice for Children: Restructuring Adoption, Reproduction & Child Welfare Policy, 8 L. & Ethics Hum. Rts. 103 (2014).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: The Use and Misuse of Research, 13 Whittier J. Child & Fam. Advoc. 1 (2014).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
This article, a revised speech, contends that what we call the child welfare system is skewed in an adult-rights direction, and is often quite hostile to child interests. The field is characterized by an unusual amount of social science research, which should be helpful in guiding policy. However that research is similarly skewed in an adult-rights direction. This is largely because the same entities fund the research as fund policy advocacy, and they have promoted research designed to validate the kinds of family preservation policies they favor, policies that are often inconsistent with child best interests. We need to develop new mechanisms to fund the kind of truly independent research that would illuminate the child-best-interest issues, and enable policy-makers to design a truly child-friendly child welfare system.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: Effective Early Intervention to Prevent Maltreatment and Protect Victimized Children, 60 Buffalo L. Rev. 1323 (2012).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet & David Smolin, The Debate, in Intercountry Adoption: Policies, Practices, and Outcomes 233 (Judith L. Gibbons & Karen Smith Rotabi, eds., 2012).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
Type: Book
Elizabeth Bartholet, Ratification by the United States of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Pros and Cons from a Child's Rights Perspective, 633 Annals Am. Acad. Pol. & Soc. Sci. 80 (2011).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Fred Wulczyn, Richard P. Barth & Cindy Lederman, Race and Child Welfare, Chaplin Hall Issue Brief, June 2011.
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: The Human Rights Issues, in Baby Markets: Money and the New Politics of Creating Families (Michelle Goodwin, ed., 2010).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
Human Rights Law
,
International Law
Type: Book
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: A Way Forward, 55 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 687 (2010).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
Type: Article
Abstract
This is the introduction to a special issue of articles on international adoption, summing up their relevance to the debate in the field. International adoption is in turmoil, with a dramatic reduction in recent years in the number of children placed in adoptive homes. These articles provide important new support for international adoption as an appropriate way to advance children’s rights and interests. And they provide information about ways to address any problems of corruption and abuse, without penalizing unparented children by denying them the homes they need.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Permanency Is Not Enough: Children Need the Nurturing Parents Found in International Adoption, 55 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 781 (2010).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
Type: Article
Abstract
Permanency in the form that truly serves children’s best interests will often be found only in international adoption. Permanency in dysfunctional birth families, or in institutions or typical foster care, does not provide the nurturing parenting children require. This article focuses on the strategic thinking needed to advance international adoption as a solution for more of the world’s unparented children. It urges that we who believe in such adoption recognize the crisis today, but at the same time maintain belief in the future. International adoption is consistent with many important globalization trends – international trade and commerce, emigration and immigration, intermarriage between people from different racial, ethnic, and national groups. The article urges further that the relatively small and fragile group of adoption advocates work together, and reach out to new groups, including church organizations committed to the importance of providing true families for children. But at the same time it urges that they not compromise on principles key to child well-being, but fight for children’s right to international adoptive homes and their related right to early, permanent, and nurturing parenting, and reject the false romanticism surrounding birth and national heritage.
Elizabeth Bartholet, The Racial Disproportionality Movement in Child Welfare: False Facts and Dangerous Directions, 51 Ariz. L. Rev. 871 (2009).
Categories:
Family Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: The Child's Story, 24 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 333 (2008).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
Type: Article
Abstract
Millions of infants and young children worldwide are desperately in need of nurturing homes. Many are living in institutions, and many on the streets, and almost all these children will either die in these situations, or if they survive, will emerge into adulthood so damaged by their childhood experience, and so deprived of parenting, educational and other essential childhood opportunities, that they will be unable to function in the worlds of family and work. International adoption could provide significant numbers of nurturing homes for these children. However current policy restricts international adoption, limiting its ability to provide such homes. Moreover most of the powerful organizations of the world that claim to represent children's rights and interests have joined with other forces opposing international adoption. This article argues that effective child advocacy is a challenge, given the fact that infants and young children are unable to voice their views or promote their interests, and the related risks that adults will use children to further various adult agendas. True empathy is required to imagine what children would want were they able to think rationally and make informed decisions. But if we were to imagine homeless children capable of making such decisions, then it seems obvious that they would choose international adoption given the horrors of institutional and street life, and the limited options for any kind of adequate home care in their countries of birth. Opposition to international adoption cannot be justified based on any best interest of the child principle, despite the claims of many children's rights organizations. Instead it is grounded in a group of commonly shared but deeply flawed ideas about children and the role of the state, and driven by adult agendas that are not truly informed by children's interests.
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: Thoughts on the Human Rights Issues, 13 Buff. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 151 (2007).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Article
Abstract
This article discusses the human rights debate at the core of current controversy over international adoption. Many powerful children's human rights organizations, including UNICEF, take the position that such adoption should be restricted if not eliminated, based on ideas about heritage rights and the related significance of keeping children within their country of origin. They have had a major impact on policy in recent years, resulting in the closing down of international adoption from many countries. This article takes the position that children's most important human rights include the right to grow up in a nurturing family, and that international adoption is able to offer significant numbers of children the permanent homes they need and will not find in their countries of origin. It discusses the history and current trends in such adoption, recent legal developments, the politics and policy pros and cons, and reform directions for the future.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Commentary: Cultural Stereotypes Can and Do Die: It's Time to Move on With Transracial Adoption, 34 J. Am. Acad. Psychiatry L. 315 (2006).
Categories:
Family Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption, in Children and Youth in Adoption, Orphanages, and Foster Care 63 (Lori Askeland ed., 2005).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
Type: Book
Abstract
Written by experts in the field, this authoritative and accessible volume is the first comprehensive introductory history of adoption and foster care in the U.S. from the colonial period to the present, giving particular attention to the ...
Elizabeth Bartholet, Guiding Principles for Picking Parents, in Genetic Ties and the Family: The Impact of Paternity Testing on Parents and Children 132 (Mark A. Rothstein et al., eds., 2005).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Book
Elizabeth Bartholet, Guiding Principles for Picking Parents, 27 Harv. Women's L.J. 323 (2004).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
This paper looks at our new technological ability to determine genetic paternity, in the context of legal and social developments related to the family, and tries to come up with some guidelines for figuring out how to decide parentage in the modern era. Many claim that since DNA tests mean we can now easily tell who the genetic father is, we should make that man the legal father and release any other who might be playing that role from parental responsibility. However the trend in law over recent decades has been in the direction of reducing the role that biology plays in determining parentage, with the law giving increasing deference to existing social parenting relationships and to the intent to create such relationships as factors to take into account when parentage is contested. This paper assesses the importance of the genetic link to parenting, considers it in comparison to a variety of other factors relevant to parenting, and sets out some guiding principles for choosing among possible parents, principles designed to serve children's interests in stable, nurturing, parenting relationships.
Elizabeth Bartholet, The Challenge of Children's Rights Advocacy: Problems and Progress in the Area of Child Abuse and Neglect, 3 Whittier J. Child & Fam. Advoc. 3 (2004).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
This article, originally delivered as a speech, sums up problems and progress in four key areas of central importance to dealing with child abuse and neglect. The article focuses on law and policy in the United States, noting that the U.S. seems to be joining the rest of the world in moving, however haltingly, in a more child-friendly direction. We have developed some early home visitation programs, designed to help fragile families at risk for abuse and neglect - programs which have demonstrated impressive success in preventing maltreatment, and are receiving increasing public and private support throughout the nation. We have passed national legislation - the Multiethnic Placement Act or MEPA - designed to eliminate the race matching of children in need of homes with prospective parents, which served to delay and deny adoptive placement for many minority race children. We have passed other national legislation - the Adoption and Safe Families Act or ASFA - designed to facilitate the adoptive placement of children previously held for extended periods in foster care, and to balance the prior emphasis on family preservation with a new emphasis on children's interests in growing up in a nurturing home. We have begun to confront the problem of parental substance abuse, creating family drug courts and initiating other reforms designed to ensure that either parents engage successfully in substance abuse treatment so that they can adequately parent their children, or otherwise the children move on to adoptive placement. The article emphasizes that controversy surrounds all these reform moves, and that progress in a child-friendly direction depends on the energy and commitment of child advocates.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Book Review: Rachel F. Moran, Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance (2001), 33 J. Interdisc. Hist. 320 (2002).
Categories:
Family Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Domestic Relations
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Reply: Whose Children? A Response to Professor Guggenheim, 113 Harv. L. Rev. 1999 (2000).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Family Bonds: Adoption, Infertility, and the New World of Child Production (Beacon Press 1999).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Reproduction
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Book
Abstract
In the only book to make sense of the worlds of adoption and fertility treatment, Bartholet combines moving personal narrative with compelling policy analysis.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Reporting on Child Welfare and Adoption Policies, 53 Nieman Rep. 74 (1999).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Taking Adoption Seriously: Radical Revolution or Modest Revisionism?, 28 Cap. U.L. Rev. 77 (1999).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
This article is adapted from the introduction to the author's recent book Nobody's Children: Abuse and Neglect, Foster Drift and the Adoption Alternative. It challenges the accepted orthodoxy in the child welfare world that views children as "belonging" in an essential sense to their kinship and their racial groups, and that locks them into inadequate biological and foster homes. It calls for application to abuse and neglect issues, lessons learned from the battered women's movement, and questions why family preservation ideology still reigns supreme when children rather than adult women are involved. It assesses promising new developments in the policy world, and warns of the pitfalls that threaten real progress. It argues that the entire community should take responsibility for all its children, and advocates that we take seriously for the first time in our nation's history the adoption option.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Correspondence: Private Race Preferences in Family Formation, 107 Yale L.J. 2351 (1998).
Categories:
Family Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, What's Wrong with Adoption Law?, 4 Int’l J. Child. Rts. 263 (1996).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: Propriety, Prospects, and Pragmatics, 13 J. Am. Acad. Matrimonial Law. 181 (1996).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Beyond Biology: The Politics of Adoption & Reproduction, 2 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol'y 5 (1995).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Reproduction
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
It is exciting simply to be having this conference focused on adoption law and policy. I remember some nine years ago starting to plan a course dealing with adoption issues and wondering whether I would be able to justify its place in the Harvard Law School curriculum. It is also exciting to look around the room at the wonderfully diverse and knowledgeable group of people the Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy gathered here to participate in these discussions of important issues involving adoption and the meaning of family. My topic today has to do with adoption and, more particularly, adoption in relation to reproduction. By reproduction I mean three different things: (1) traditional reproduction, or the production of a child through normal intercourse between one man and one woman; (2) infertility treatment, or the use of medical technology to assist a man and a woman to produce a child using his sperm and her egg and womb; and (3) a variety of child producing and parenting arrangements that I have collectively termed "technologic adoption." By the latter, I mean arrangements that result in the social equivalent of either step-parent adoptions or full adoptions, where the child is produced in order to be raised by one or more parents who will not be genetically or biologically related. I am referring to such practices as donor insemination, surrogacy, both in its "traditional" and gestational form, egg donation or sale, and embryo donation or sale.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Race Separatism in the Family: More on the Transracial Adoption Debate, 2 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol'y 99 (1995).
Categories:
Family Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Abstract
Some twenty-five years ago a trial court in Virginia upheld the state ban on interracial marriage, reasoning that God created different races and, accordingly, that it was natural to maintain racial purity, and unnatural to engage in racial mixing. 1 At that time, many other state laws banned both interracial marriage and transracial adoption. In Loving v. Virginia, 2 the United States Supreme Court struck down the Virginia antimiscegenation law, reversing the trial court's decision and holding that it was unconstitutional for states to mandate racial separatism in the family. Later, in Palmore v. Sidoti, 3 the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to transfer custody of a white child from mother to father solely because the mother was living with a black man. While the Court acknowledged that it might not be in the child's best interests to live in a transracial family, it held that the equal protection doctrine prevented consideration of the race of a potential parent in making custody decisions. In the 1960s and 1970s, the courts in this country outlawed formal state bans on transracial adoption, finding them similarly inconsistent with the equal protection doctrine. There has been a similar development in South Africa today, where the ban on transracial adoption has just recently been lifted as part of the move to abolish apartheid. But in the United States a strange thing happened in 1972. The National Black Social Workers Association (NABSW) issued a statement calling for a new ban on transracial adoption.
Elizabeth Bartholet, Elaine Draper, Judith Resnik & Laura Geller, Rethinking the Choice to Have Children: When, How, and Whether or Not to Bear Children, 37 Am. Behav. Sci. 1058 (1994).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Reproduction
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Family Bonds: Adoption and the Politics of Parenting (Houghton Mifflin 1993, paperback ed. 1994).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Book
Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: Current Status and Future Prospects, 3 Future Child. 89 (1993).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
International Law
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Book Review: Cheri Register, “Are Those Kids Yours?” American Families With Children Adopted From Other Countries (1990), 33 Harv. Int’l L.J. 649 (1992).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Where Do Black Children Belong? The Politics of Race Matching in Adoption, 139 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1163 (1991).
Categories:
Family Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Application of Title VII to Jobs in High Places, 95 Harv. L. Rev. 945 (1982).
Categories:
Civil Practice & Procedure
,
Labor & Employment
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Labor Law
,
Employment Discrimination
Type: Article
Elizabeth Bartholet, Proof of Discriminatory Intent Under Title VII: United States Postal Service Board of Governors v. Aikens, 70 Calif. L. Rev. 1201 (1982).
Categories:
Labor & Employment
Sub-Categories:
Labor Law
,
Employment Discrimination
Type: Article

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