Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Bartholet ’65 will testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on November 6 regarding the “Human Rights of Unparented Children and International Adoption Policies” in the Americas. The hearing comes after a request made by the HLS Child Advocacy Program (CAP) and the Center for Adoption Policy.

International adoption is the subject of a heated debate among those in the human rights field, and the hearing comes in the wake of policies that have virtually shut down international adoption in Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.

“Much of the world…focuses on the bad things that happen when kids get placed in international adoption,” said Bartholet, faculty director of CAP. “When you shut down international adoptions in order to address bad things which occasionally happen, what you do is commit monumental human rights violations. We hope to change the debate.”

The hearing represents a major development in the human rights debate surrounding these issues, as the Commission will address human rights violations that to-date have been largely ignored, says Bartholet.

In her testimony, Bartholet argues that restrictions on ethical international adoption violate children’s basic human rights by condemning them to damaging institutions or to the streets. She adds that every child has a right to be placed in a nurturing permanent home, whether that home is in the country of birth or abroad. Adoption abuses should, Bartholet says, be addressed through enforcement and strengthening of laws prohibiting such abuses, not through closing down international adoption and thus denying homes to children.

Bartholet will testify alongside a delegation including: Paulo Barrozo S.J.D. ’09, assistant professor of law at Boston College Law School; and Karen Bos and Charles Nelson, child development experts affiliated with Children’s Hospital in Boston, the Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The delegation will urge the Commission to initiate an investigation to examine what effect closing international adoption opportunities in Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru has had on unparented children.

A recording of the testimony will be available after the hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.