Intercountry Adoption: A comparative analysis of its effect on domestic adoption rates

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sunderland
Department Name: Arts and Design


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Hayes P (2008) Special Adoption in Japan: Its Problems and Prospects in Adoption Quarterly

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Peter Hayes (author) (2007) The role of international adoption in Japan's childcare system in East Asian review : an annual journal

Description (1) The research asked: are rates of intercountry adoption (ICA) inversely related to rates of domestic adoption at the level of the state? The investigation has not found evidence of an inverse correlation in the GB, the USA, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

(2) Health status and age are two factors that make a child easier or harder to place. If international placements are in accordance with the principle that ICA is suitable for a child who cannot be placed domestically, this suggests that on average children placed in an ICA will be more likely to be older and/or have health problems than children placed domestically in a state of origin. Japan and Korea, the two sending states under consideration, conform to this pattern. Conversely, there is some evidence that in GB and in the USA internationally adopted children may be somewhat younger and healthier than those available in a domestic adoption.

(3) Methods of attempting to improve adoption rates include reducing the number of children in need of adoption, and increasing the range of children acceptable to adoptive parents. In Japan some agencies take advantage of early personal contact between child and potential parents so that children who (say by being older) are in a hard to place category for adoptive parents have the chance to be adopted when viewed as individuals. The same idea underpins adoption 'parties' in the USA, with some experiments in a like direction in the UK. Reducing the number of children in need, particularly in states of origin, involves creating better choices for birth mothers. One agency in Korea has created space for birth mothers to explore their feelings towards their children before relinquishment, so potentially decreasing the number of children in need of adoption. The challenge facing policy makers, however, is not just to reform the context of short term decision making, but also to help create the conditions that allow for the long term economic and social viability of raising a child as a single parent.

(4) Official figures in the USA, Japan and GB figures are insufficiently reliable to form the basis of statistical investigation into the relationship between domestic and international adoption. In Britain, for example, the rounding error of 100 in the domestic figures for England and Wales is an order of magnitude higher than the typical fluctuations in the international adoption application figures. In the USA, for example, figures for international adoption rely wholly on two 'orphan' visa categories labelled IR3 and IR4 (until 2008 when Hague Convention visa categories were added). However, an unknown number of children entering the USA on other visas (eg. IR2) are also adoptees.

(5) When dealing with processes defined in accordance with national rules or international agreements on adoption, one might assume uniformity in the way the regulations are imposed. In fact there is considerable localism, and scope for discretion by individuals. Qualitative research into localism and idiosyncratic decision making is important to understanding how adoption operates on the ground. This qualitative analysis can often also be a vital preliminary to quantitative analysis, as without it one is apt to be misled by partial and unreliable figures.

(6) The question of the relationship between ICA and domestic adoption requires a continuing qualitative analysis of the values involved and recognition that these values are contested. One of the most significant and controversial concepts is what constitutes a child in need of adoption.
Exploitation Route Two aspects of the research in particular help to take forward the question of how to best help children in need of adoption

(1) The lack of an inverse relationship between domestic and international adoption suggests that the metaphor of a 'pool' of potential parents is limiting or misleading. One may rather want to talk about a culture that is more or less receptive to adoption, with fluid boundaries of parents who might consider adopting either domestically or internationally.

(2) Comparative research into adoption practices illustrates ways of helping potential adoptive parents view a child in need of adoption as an individual rather than a more or less desirable category.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Description In Japan and The Republic of Korea there is historical evidence of a gradual shift in attitudes towards adoption that place less emphasis on traditional concerns with lineage and more on the intrinsic value of family life. This shift is congruent with the policy recommendation in the research that there should be a greater emphasis on a child's right to a family life. In Korea, the research helps to inform the preparation of prospective adopters applying to SWS Adoption Service in Busan. In Japan the research was disseminated at meetings of adoption practitioners and adoptive parents at Waseda University in March 2007 and April 2008.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services