Ouroboros—the circular symbol of the snake eating its tail; an endless cycle. As the U.S. recently withdrew from Afghanistan in chaos and Russia invaded Ukraine, the attention of Americans turned, as it frequently has in times of international conflict, to the plight of children in need of rescue. For many Americans, rescue is synonymous with adoption. The history of international adoption began with rescues following America’s wars in Europe and Asia and continues today through other violent upheavals. International adoption is an ouroboros, repeating the pattern of adoption as a response to humanitarian crises. But as human and charitable as the impulse to adopt children in crisis may be, it is often not in the best interests of children. They are separated from family, and perhaps never reunited. Their identities may be lost in the scramble to get them to safety. They may be trafficked rather than adopted through reputable means. In the midst of a highly disruptive crisis, their lives are further disrupted by being removed from their usual support networks—family and community. And once international adoption begins in a country in crisis, it continues long after the crisis ends, motivated by neocolonial impulses and financial motives. The often-destructive effects of international adoption in the midst of crises are furthered by the general lax regulation of international adoption. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, as interpreted in the U.S., does not offer sufficient protection, and the U.S. fails to utilize all its available resources to prevent children being trafficked into international adoption by refusing to categorize illegal adoption as human trafficking. As the temptation to rescue children increases, the U.S. needs to do more to prevent the ouroboros of international adoption as a response to humanitarian crises.
Malinda L. Seymore
Adoption Ouroboros: Repeating the Cycle of Adoption as Rescue,
50 Pepp. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/plr/vol50/iss2/1