THE INDIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK Tata Institute of Volume 73,...
Tata Institute
Volume 73, Issue 1
Social Sciences
January 2012
BooK rEviEW
Adoption: Global Perspectives and Ethical Issues, edited by J. Pati, 2007,
New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, Pages 314, Price: Rupees 650.
This book is a collection of work by noteworthy scholars and practitioners
in the adoption field and edited by one who has been officially connected
with the process of adoption for many years. It gives a clear picture of the
scenario of transnational adoption. The pertinent ethical concerns raised,
makes it relevant and useful for both—those who are working in the field
and those who have adopted a child. The book steers clear of the emotive
and focuses on the issues as objectively as possible.
From the beginning, the book locates adoption within the broad
framework of child rights. One of the major global trends in the field
of adoption is inter-country or transnational adoption. Along with the
increase in inter-country adoption; there has also been more recognition
and discussion of child rights violation that might happen during the
adoption process. A book, therefore, that talks about adoption as a
global phenomena and ethical concerns at each step of this process, is
The book is divided into three parts: Part I is titled ‘Childhood,
Attachment Issues and Child Rights’; Part II is titled ‘Adoption: Some
Global Issues’ and Part III as ‘Ethical Issues’. The reader thus journeys
from the discussion on the concepts of childhood and attachment within
the framework of institutional and non-institutional services to adoption
procedures and transnational adoption to salient ethical dilemmas and
practices in adoption placement.
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146 Book Review
The ten constructions of childhood given in the first chapter are ten ways
in which childhood is conceptualised from the past to present. It offers
different perspectives of understanding childhood, and therefore, service
provision for child care. The second chapter titled ‘Strengthening Family
Efforts for Helpless Children’ is about the importance and responsibility of
the family towards children. However, the conceptualisation of children as
‘helpless innocents’ and judgmental language without proper referencing
diminishes the professional and academic credibility of the chapter. The
third chapter has discussed the concept of attachment and the influence
of institutionalisation on attachment. The last chapter of the section again
highlights the rights of children in the context of United Kingdom. The first
part, thus, succeeds in creating a conceptual background to the remaining
sections of the book.
Part II on global issues related to adoption opens with a debate on
whether the adoption should include disclosure and contact with the birth
parents of the adopted child. Different types of ‘openness’ in adoption have
been discussed and studies on open adoption have been considered for
reaching a stand on the issue. While giving pros and cons on each option
related to open adoption, the authors have highlighted the need to weigh
the benefits of open adoption against the risks or negative possibilities of
open adoption in case of children with pre-adoptive risks such as poor
parenting, parental abuse, previous foster placements, older children and
adoptions made as a result of involuntary termination of parental rights.
The authors note that in open adoptions, the agency’s role will continue
long after the adoption procedure is completed. Ultimately, the authors
conclude that the thumb rule of ‘best interests of the child’ needs to prevail.
A country-wise profiling of adoptees to United States has been done in
the second chapter of Part II. While talking about the traditional adoptions
and modern adoptions in US, the authors provide data about the trends in
the adoption scenario in terms of Asian and European sending countries,
age and gender of adoptees. The discussion on both within and inter-
country adoption revolves around three issues: socio-cultural context in
relation to family formation or expansion with adoption, the availability
of potential adoptees in the country, and the ease of adopting available
children in a particular country in the eco-political context at a particular
Chapter 7, Negotiating Identity: Post-colonial Reflections on
Transnational Adoption, starts with a solemn experience of the author
related to his visit to Goree Island, which was a centre of the transatlantic
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Book Review 147
slave trade, and his account of the African American tourists visiting
the island with the wish to “come to terms with the past, a search for an
Africa and an identity that only existed in the imagination” (p. 138). The
comparison of their search and the search of the transnational adoptees for
identity is thought provoking and challenges the comforting notion that a
child adopted from another country is “reborn and lives happily ever after
in his/her new family”. The chapter succinctly points out complexities
while dealing with the issue of identity of the adopted child in transnational
adoption in the structurally unequal world.
Part III titled ‘Ethical Issues’ opens with the first chapter on the ethical
concerns related to reproductive technology related to privacy of the
donor, identity development of the child, desire to keep infertility a secret,
and risks involved in controlling and manipulating nature not only for the
family, but also for the human species in the long run.
Chapter 9 ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Adoption Counselling’ succinctly
outlines the ethical dilemmas while counselling birth parents, adoptive
parents and adoptees.
A very relevant and child-centric discussion takes place in chapter 10
on the issue of escorting children in inter-country adoption by persons
other than the adoptive parents. While it is recognised that in certain cases,
especially, when there is political unrest in the birth country there might
not be any other option, a strong case is made for adoptive parents to
escort the child. Very useful and practical suggestions are offered that
would enhance the emotional wellbeing as well as cultural/contextual
knowledge regarding the child’s birth country during this process. In
cases where escorting will have to happen, the authors have given a well-
framed comprehensive protocol that highlights the principle of ‘in the best
interests of the child’.
The next chapter takes the point of the cultural heritage of the adoptee
and gives information about heritage camps and tours for Indian children
and their adoptive parents. The author, herself, is also one of the persons
who takes such groups on heritage camps in India through an organisation
called SPICE – Supportive Parents and Indian Children Everywhere.
The last chapter, titled ‘Ethical Practices and Safeguards in Adoption
Placement’, concludes the discussion on ethics in adoption by linking the
international tools to ensure child rights, like the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child (1989) and the Hague Convention on Protection of
Children and Cooperation in Inter-country Adoption (1993) to various
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148 Book Review
aspects of adoption. The chapter is very comprehensive and gives ethical
guidelines on costing by the adoption agencies, pre-adoptive counselling—
not only to the adoptive parents, but also to the birth parents as well as
adoptees, and post adoptive counselling. It also effectively builds the
case for various safeguards put in place by the concerned authorities like
the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) to protect rights of the
children. The chapter successfully upholds the principle behind adoption—
that it is a means to provide families for children, rather than children for
Ms. Kalyani Talvelkar
Centre for Disability Studies and Action
School of Social Work
Tata Institute of Social Sciences
IJSW, 73(1), 145–148, January 2012