America has developed its own decentralized and pluralist approach to adoption, with a wide variety of both private and public actors helping match children with the families they need along several paths: adoption of older children in public care, including the foster-to-adopt path; adoption of newborns; and international adoption. But services for children in public care have been swept up in controversy over what if any role is appropriate for religious and other agencies that decline to work with gay parents or that give preference to cobelievers. The rate of international adoption, once hailed as a success, has plunged in recent years. Meanwhile, the domestic foster care system has long been beset by policy challenges.
How can government policy best avoid placing obstacles in the way of finding permanent homes for children? Are there ways to respond to legitimate concerns about international adoption, such as official corruption, that do not simply close down that process? What is the role of pluralism, and can groups with differing objectives and fundamental premises work side by side?
Cato’s half-day conference, featuring keynote speaker Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard law professor and noted adoption expert, will air a variety of informed views. Topics will include the conflict between LGBT advocates and some conservative religious agencies over the latter’s participation in state child placement systems; sources and possible solutions of the crisis in international adoption; and the proper role and practical effect of birth mother choice.