Book Review: The Globalization of Adoption: Individuals, States, and Agencies Across Borders

Several times each month, we are pleased to republish a recent book review from the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR). CLLR is the official journal of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD), and its reviews cover both practice-oriented and academic publications related to the law.

The Globalization of Adoption: Individuals, States, and Agencies Across Borders. By Becca McBride. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xiii, 203 p. Includes graphs and tables. ISBN 978-1316604182 (paperback) $37.95.

Reviewed by Allison Harrison
Team Leader, Systems
Defence Research and Development Canada Library
In CLLR 43:4

The Globalization of Adoption: Individuals, States, and Agencies Across Borders is the first full-length monograph by Becca McBride. This book is a work of political science with extensive statistical modeling and integrates real stories of intercountry adoptions to enhance its accessibility. McBride wrote this book to fill a gap in the study of intercountry adoption by analyzing it from a political perspective.

McBride is an assistant professor of political science and international relations at Calvin College in Michigan. She teaches international relations and comparative politics. She earned her PhD in international relations from Vanderbilt University (2013) after completing a Master of Arts in Russian and east European affairs at Georgetown University (2004). Her research focusses on diffusion, human rights, children in the international system, and intercountry adoption.

The Globalization of Adoption begins without preamble with chapter one, in which McBride sets out her purpose to “address the gap in our knowledge of the political processes that drive the diffusion of intercountry adoption” (p 3). This chapter also includes a roadmap to the rest of the book. Finally, McBride introduces the story of Jim Smith and his wife, Americans interested in adopting a child from the Congo to whom she refers throughout the book.

The second chapter explores how nation states differ in their participation in intercountry adoption and how they coordinate adoptions across borders. In this chapter, McBride uses the Smith family’s situation to illustrate common policies and procedures. She does not limit her analysis to the particularities of the Smith family story, but also explains other intercountry adoption policies, often listing a few countries for each policy.

In chapter three, McBride describes her explanation for the increase of intercountry adoptions. According to the author, states learn about the accessibility and effectiveness of intercountry adoptions, as well as about potential partners, through observing other states’ experiences and interacting with adoption agencies to learn about different policy options.

Chapter four contains the data generated from McBride’s study and provides the methodology used in its generation. She analyzes the data in a focussed manner in chapters five (“Why do States Allow Foreign Adoption?”) and six (“How do States Choose Partners for Intercountry Adoption?”). The narrative component of The Globalization of Adoption ends with McBride discussing the future of intercountry adoption in chapter seven and finds her returning to the Smith family to wrap up the intercountry adoption process. In the final few pages, McBride sums up her arguments, explains the book’s importance, and issues a call for further study on intercountry adoption from various perspectives, including international law and domestic social welfare. When McBride’s narrative ends, 80 pages remain for appendices, a bibliography, and an index.

The Globalization of Adoption is an in-depth introduction to the politics of intercountry adoption. Positive aspects of this work include its structure, citations, definitions, data, anecdotes, and opportunities. For instance, one of the main concepts explored in this book is learning theory. As McBride has a particular definition of learning, she uses chapter three to de ne her term. The book is consistently well structured. There is a subsection in chapter one entitled “Roadmap” (p 11) wherein McBride lays out the organization of the entire book and adheres to it. Finally, McBride uses her conclusion to present the reader with a number of opportunities for further study in the field of intercountry adoption.

While The Globalization of Adoption is a well-structured book with many positive aspects, at times it was difficult to comprehend without a background in statistics. For example, McBride uses the discrete-time hazard model and the stochastic actor-oriented network model to analyze her data. She provides definitions and explanations for what these models are and why she is using them; however, those aspects were still challenging to understand. Another drawback of this book is that some of the charts and tables of data in chapter four are too small to easily analyze.

The Globalization of Adoption is an excellent political analysis of intercountry adoption. This book does many things well, including its structure, citations, definitions, data, and anecdotes. McBride is thorough in her data and analysis while still providing interesting stories. Without a background in statistics and social science modelling, however, some of the data and analysis might be difficult to fully understand. The Globalization of Adoption would be of interest primarily to academics and political science researchers.

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