The shortage of desirable adoptable babies in the United States has led many who wish to adopt to seek children in other countries. The first international adoptions generally involved Amerasian children, that is, those fathered by GIs in Japan during and after World War II, in Korea during and after the Korean War, and in Vietnam during the U.S. involvement there. These adoptions were first sponsored by church groups and then by licensed adoption agencies (Lifton, 1994).
Since the middle of the 1980s, international adoption has shifted from the rescue of war orphans to the legal or (in some cases) illegal trafficking of children. Most of the children are drawn from Korea, China, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America because these countries have made the emigration of children more accessible. Human-rights organizations report that many children are taken away from their families without formal relinquishments (Mantaphon). Studies of intercountry adoptions suggest that children cut off from their own culture and transplanted into a totally foreign environment may be more vulnerable to emotional problems (Verhulst et al., 1990a, 1990b).
Many have difficulty in attaching to their new family or feeling part of the community, where they may not find full acceptance because of racial differences.
The 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child addressed the rights of the adopted child along with the rights of all children. According to the convention, each child has a right to receive a name, to acquire a nationality, and, as far as possible, to know and be cared for by his or her parents. A child placed outside of his or her family of origin has the right to maintain contact with his or her birth parents.
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