Ethics in American Adoption

By Courtney, Mark E. | Journal of Marriage and Family, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Ethics in American Adoption


Courtney, Mark E., Journal of Marriage and Family


Ethics in American Adoption. L. Anne Babb. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey. 1999. 235 pp. ISBN 0-89789-538-X. $35.00 paper.

In Ethics in American Adoption, L. Anne Babb provides a historical and philosophical analysis of adoption policy and practice, presents the results of a study of the attitudes of adoption professionals, and recommends the professionalization of adoption through certification. The book's strengths lie in the author's use of her intimate knowledge of the field to identify a wide range of ethical issues that arise in adoption practice. Its weaknesses come largely from trying to do too much in one book and, as a result, resorting too often to sketchy treatments of important topics.

The book begins in chapter 1 with a fascinating set of stories that illustrate some of the ethical problems posed by current adoption practice. This introduction is compelling reading and gets at many of the most troubling ethical dilemmas faced by adoption professionals. Unfortunately, chapter 2 is less compelling. In it, Babb attempts to describe the origins of values in adoption in the context of a review of the historical development of adoption practice. This is much ground to cover, and the history becomes disjointed and confusing in places. Similarly, the treatment of various ethical systems in chapter 3 is too brief to do justice to any of them, though the presentation of ethical issues in adoption practice covers most of the bases.

Chapters 4 and 5 present the results of the author's study of ethics in contemporary adoption practice. The study consisted of a survey of state licensors of adoption agencies and a variety of adoption and child welfare organizations regarding their attitudes about practices involving adoption ethics. …

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