Learning through Adoption: The intercountry adoption experiences of Canadian and Dutch Adopters of Children from the United States

Open Access
Naughton, Dana Marie
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 12, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Esther Susana Prins, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Fred Michael Schied, Committee Member
  • Margaret Ann Lorah, Committee Member
  • Joseph M Valente, Committee Member
  • international adoption
  • outgoing adoptions
  • U.S. adoptions
  • lifelong learning
  • narrative inquiry
ABSTRACT Renowned as a receiving country of intercountry adoptees, the United States is, paradoxically, sought out by foreign families as a source of adoptable children. Over the last decade, approximately 1500 children were placed in Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Austria, and other nations (Selman, 2012a). Known as “outgoing cases” these adoptions pivot on the birthparents’ choice of a foreign family, and placement usually occurs within hours or days after birth. Birthparents may request ongoing contact with the adoptive family, a practice differing radically from the dominant paradigm of international adoption (ICA). In contrast to the formidable volume of psychological, legal, educational, and policy-focused research related to ICA, there exists almost no empirical literature on the experience of outgoing U.S. adoptions, even as the practice continues. This study’s purpose was to explore and describe (a) the historical, legal, and socio-cultural context of U.S. outgoing adoptions to Canada and the Netherlands, (b) the pre-and post-adoption education, preparation, and informal learning activities Canadian and Dutch adopters engaged in when adopting U.S. infants, and (c) how adopting children from the United States affected meanings of self, family, community, culture, country, and worldview for Canadian and Dutch adoptive parents. A narrative inquiry approach, and cross-national case study design was used to explore the ICA experience of 12 Canadian and eight Dutch families that had adopted U.S. infants over the last 15 years. Participants’ narratives revealed several key findings: (a) The ICA experience of Canadian and Dutch adopters’ of children from the U.S. differs substantially from that found in the contemporary paradigm of intercountry adoption; (b) Canadian and Dutch families substantially adapted and expanded their adoption-related learning beyond mandated or sponsored adoption agency, organization or state-based trainings; (c), the presence or possibility of a level of open adoption in an intercountry adoption process was a mediating agent in parent learning, experience and meaning; and, (d) U.S. outgoing intercountry adoptions reveal a new model of intercountry adoption practice. This research indicates that outgoing U.S. adoptions reflect a new, hybrid form of intercountry adoption, which calls for new content in training and preparation for prospective parents, new levels of pre-and post-adoption support for all members of the adoption triad, and provocative new considerations for intercountry adoption stakeholders