Session: Orphaned & Vulnerable Children: What Is the Role of Intercountry Adoption in the 21st Century? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

75 Orphaned & Vulnerable Children: What Is the Role of Intercountry Adoption in the 21st Century?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 5:15 PM-6:15 PM
Cluster: International Social Work & Global Issues
Sarah Neville, MA, Boston College, Camie Tomlinson, MSW, Virginia Commonwealth University, Charles Currie, MSW, Union University, Amanda Stafford McRell, MPA, University of South Carolina and Hollee A. McGinnis, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University
Intercountry adoptions (ICAs) to the United States have been steadily declining in recent years, decreasing 82% from a peak of 23,000 in 2004 to 4,000 in 2018. Many of the top sending countries for intercountry adoption have restricted or prohibited ICA to the United States, including Russia, Ethiopia, and Guatemala. Other top sending countries have slowed their rates of adoption significantly, such as China and South Korea. Many international adoption agencies have closed, merged, or turned to other revenue streams. However, orphaned and vulnerable children around the globe still require care and protection. With the rate of ICA steadily declining and the push to deinstitutionalize alternative care, it is critical for child welfare practitioners and researchers to consider what appropriate care for orphans and vulnerable children should look like moving forward.

Adoptee activists and critical adoption scholars have called for an end to the "status quo" of ICA for many years, particularly the dominant narrative that ICA is a simple form of "child rescue" beyond reproach or ethical critique. What is the ongoing role of ICA and what options should fill its void?

To address the question of how global child welfare systems and actors care for orphans and vulnerable children in an era of minimal ICA, this roundtable brings together a diverse panel of social work researchers who hold various positionalities vis-a-vis ICA, including perspectives as international adoptees, an adoptive parent, and adoptive sibling; professionally as international and domestic child welfare researchers and practitioners; and as people with diverse racial and cultural identities with ICA experience in Sierra Leone, South Korea, China, and Honduras.

Inviting active participation and conversation with attendees, the panelists will discuss the following questions:

• Why have rates of ICA fallen and what are the subsequent implications for vulnerable children around the globe?

• What are the persistent ethical challenges of ICA? (i.e., wealth, race, nationality, and religion as types of privilege and power)

• What have we learned about the appropriate use of ICA as an option for children? (i.e., ICA as a preferential option, last resort, or abolished practice; looking to the US as a model "sending country" system)

• What child welfare alternatives (i.e., in-country services) are still needed to fill the void of ICA for orphaned and vulnerable children? (i.e., family preservation, orphanage reintegration, and "aging out" programs in low- and middle-income countries; child welfare policy and practice parallels abroad and domestically)

• How do issues raised by ICA vary across cultures and continents?

• What are the roles and responsibilities of social work researchers and practitioners in shaping the agenda of alternative care for orphaned and vulnerable children globally?

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