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Reviewed by:
  • Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas
  • Farnad J. Darnell, Consultant
Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas. By Karen Dubinsky (New York, New York University Press, 2010) 199 pp. $20.00

Intensely researched and historically relevant to current trends, Dubinsky's book provides insight into both the social workers and political realms of adoption from a multinational perspective. Separated into three parts, from Cuba's Operation Peter Pan, to Canada and the United States' transracial/hybrid baby-adoption dilemmas, to the harrowing accounts of the adoption process in Guatemala, this book incorporates the [End Page 320] vast history of adoption as rarely seen or told from the peripheral perspective of a researcher. Of upmost importance is Dubinsky's firsthand account of adopting a child herself, which supplements the critical-historical perspective with a personal one that is too-often forgotten when talking about adoption and the adoption process.

The work that Dubinsky, her research assistants, and a myriad of unseen players and supporters conduct is fascinating to read. In her chapter "The National Baby," she discusses how she obtained archival information about Operation Peter Pan and the Elian Gonzales sociopolitical debacle in Cuba. Because of her uncanny ability to find social workers and advocates who were willing to discuss Operation Peter Pan, she was able uncover facts about political and social-welfare systems that are rarely delivered in even the most liberal of media sources.

In the chapter "The Hybrid Baby," Dubinsky sheds light on the transracial adoption issue and process from both a Canadian perspective and U.S. perspective. The two countries' respective systems and attitudes create different consequences for the advocates and groups that both promote and demote transracial adoption from both sides of the Canada/U.S. border. For one thing, Canada in the 1950s began to push for white families to adopt black children, which ran counter to the U.S. policy of only black families adopting black children (per the National Association of Black Social Workers in the 1960s).

The most riveting chapter, "The Missing Baby," Dubinsky's account about Guatemala, is a disturbing look at what it can mean to adopt from a third-world country. Dubinsky maintains objectivity both as a researcher and an adopting parent when sharing the harsh details, from the Guatemalan perspective, of what it means to relinquish a child, either by force, kidnapping, or one's own accord. This chapter stirs emotions of anger, hatred, fear, and sadness that are often missing in clinical discussions of adoption. This chapter could easily have sustained a book by itself.

Methodologically speaking, the research would hardly have been so strong were it not for the persistence and attention that Dubinsky and her colleagues pay to maximize accuracy and validity. One sobering moment that Dubinsky recounts speaks to the dark side of a system that too often remains hidden: "One afternoon, at another agency, two employees didn't notice me taking notes, tucked in a corner of a huge file storage room. As they searched for a particular file, one of them said to the other, 'God, think of all the history in this room. Think of all the people we've screwed over.' 'I don't want to know,' said the other" (59-60). The valuable archival accounts and narratives that constitute the research for this book undoubtedly opens doors to further work in this arena. [End Page 321]

Farnad J. Darnell, Consultant
Gibson Group


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pp. 320-321
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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