Support for International Adoption principles is growing, says HLS Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, citing endorsements for Policy Statement and the recent Malawi ruling in the Madonna case.

Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program (CAP) and the Center for Adoption Policy have won key endorsements promoting International Adoption to help meet the needs of homeless children worldwide.

Working with some of the nation’s leading child and human rights experts, CAP recently led a campaign to disseminate their International Adoption Policy Statement, and has now won backing from more than 130 legal scholars in the fields of human rights, child rights, civil rights, and family law, and from six children’s rights and adoption policy organizations.

CAP helped develop the Policy Statement to address the crisis in international adoption, as UNICEF and other organizations have increased the pressure to shut down adoption in favor of keeping children in their countries of origin at all costs. The Policy Statement takes the position that International Adoption should be part of a comprehensive strategy to address the needs of unparented children, and that it generally serves children’s needs far better than available in-country options like orphanages and foster care.

HLS Professor Elizabeth Bartholet ’65 said that “these endorsements demonstrate that organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children should not be seen as having a lock on the child human rights position.  Many of the nation’s leading experts on child and human rights have joined in this campaign to endorse the principle that children’s most basic rights are to grow up in the true family that is often available only in International Adoption.”

Bartholet announced the Policy Statement endorsements in the same week the Supreme Court of Appeal in the Republic of Malawi released a decision granting Madonna’s application to adopt Chifundo “Mercy” James. “The Malawi court’s ruling is consistent with the core principles in our Policy Statement,” said Bartholet. “I applaud the court for making the child’s best interests primary, and approving the adoption so that Mercy can be released from the orphanage to grow up in a family.”

The Malawi court found adoption required under basic human rights principles contained in Malawi law and applicable international treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its key conclusions were: (1) the best interests of the child must be determinative in decisions related to adoption; (2) children’s most fundamental interests lie in being raised in a true family; and (3) technical “residence” requirements for adoption must be read in light of the new international order characterized by “globalization and the global village.”

Bartholet said that the ruling in the Madonna case is consistent with other recent court rulings in South Africa and India. “It is all evidence of a growing understanding that basic human rights principles point to making use of International Adoption as a source of homes for children in need,” said Bartholet.

View the policy statement (PDF) and list of endorsing organizations and individuals.