Solomon’s Decree: Conflicts in Adoption and Child Placement Policy

Conference
July 19, 2018
2:30PM to 6:00PM EDT
Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute

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.

2:30–2:35PM Welcoming Remarks

  • Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies
2:35–3:50PM Panel 1: Anti-Discrimination Wars

  • Stephanie Barclay, Assistant Professor, J. Reuben Clarke School of Law, Brigham Young University
  • Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director, Human Rights Campaign
  • Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies
  • Robin Fretwell Wilson, Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Moderator: Rabbi David Saperstein, Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy, The Union for Reform Judaism; Director Emeritus, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
3:50–4:00PM Break
4:00–4:40PM Keynote Address

  • Elizabeth Bartholet, Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Faculty Director, Child Advocacy Program
4:40–4:45PM Break
4:45–6:00PM Panel 2: When Policy Stands in the Way of Adoption

  • Margaret Brinig, Fritz Duda Family Chair in Law, Notre Dame School of Law
  • Mark Montgomery, Professor of Enterprise and Leadership, Grinnell College; coauthor, Saving International Adoption: An Argument from Economics and Personal Experience
  • Irene Powell, Professor of Economics, Grinnell College; coauthor, Saving International Adoption: An Argument from Economics and Personal Experience
  • Ryan Hanlon, Vice President of Education, Research, and Constituent Services, National Council for Adoption
6:00-7:00PM Reception