Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



Child adoption involves the permanent transfer of parental rights from a child’s biological or legal parents to another party. Parties in the Unites States (US) have engaged in this process in various forms for centuries. Today, over one hundred thousand children are adopted by American families each year. Many of these adoptions take place privately through agencies. An agency assists in the process of matching prospective adoptive parents with birth parents from whom they will adopt a child. In exchange for this assistance, the prospective adoptive parents pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees and expenses to the agency and, in many circumstances, to the birth parents as well. Despite the inherent risks associated with a business model built upon brokering the exchange of children for money, private adoption agencies go largely unchecked by the US government. This relative freedom to contract for children perpetuates exploitation and corruption by allowing adoption agencies to prioritize profit at the expense of vulnerable populations. By contract, European countries like France, Germany, and Italy maintain stringent regulations and guidelines over the child adoption process. The countries offer more flexibility in structuring the adoption, stricter government oversight throughout the process, and greater transparency from all parties involved. This Note argues that the reason for these differences between the domestic adoption processes is that the US prioritizes profits over people while these Europe countries focus principally on the child’s best interests. The US has turned domestic adoption into a privatized business where the focus of the process is money rather than the child. Europe does not allow potential revenue to eclipse the intended purpose of adoption to give a child in need a suitable home and life. This Note argues that the US would benefit from engaging in greater oversight and enacting broader guidelines, and that the government should look to these European countries for a better model.