Emory Report
January 23, 2006
Volume 58, Number 16


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January 23, 2006
CSLR's Jackson takes on The Morality of Adoption

by Elaine justice

Some of the most troubling questions surrounding adoption in this country—same-sex couple adoption, or adoption across racial and ethnic lines—should be addressed “by looking carefully at the sanctity rights of needy children,” says Emory ethicist Timothy Jackson in The Morality of Adoption, a new volume published through Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR).

Jackson, who serves as editor and contributor to the book, said vulnerable children have a fundamental right to be adopted, which he called “analogous to the right to basic health care or to social security.”

When viewed from this perspective, he said, “adoption isn’t so much a matter of legal policy as of lived charity.”

More than 5 million children in the United States are adopted, a statistic that points to “an ongoing revolution in how families are formed today,” said Jackson, professor of Christian ethics in the Candler School of Theology.

In The Morality of Adoption, Jackson explores that revolution in a way he hopes will help both adoptive parents and lawmakers. In addition to his own research, the book includes Jewish, Catholic and Protestant contributors and examines issues such as the changing societal attitudes toward adoption, the ethics of cross-cultural and cross-racial adoption, the psychology of family ties, and the morality of single parent and gay and lesbian adoption.

“My goal was not only to help clarify thinking on these very complex issues, but to move people to act,” Jackson said. For that reason, he included two very personal pieces of writing, the first a short, loving reflection by his niece, Marcie Jackson, about a foster child who lived with her family for several months.

“My brother and his wife have three biological children of their own and have cared for 28 foster children over the years,” Jackson said. “It clearly had an impact on their own children; Marcie grew up in the midst of foster siblings.”

Also included is a series of letters by Christian ethicist Gilbert Meilaender to his adoptive son that is both touching and instructive.

“I want to engage people on these issues emotionally as well as intellectually,” said Jackson, who recounts in the book recent newspaper stories of “serendipitous, successful” adoptions, as well as tragic failures.

Among the book’s contributors are family law attorney John Mayoue on embryonic adoption; American studies scholar Sandra Patton-Imani on adoption and race; psychologists Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen and Gretchen Miller Wrobel on the moral psychology of adoption; and legal historian Stephen Presser on adoption and the law.

The book is an outgrowth of Jackson’s work as a senior fellow at CSLR and a product of the center’s latest research projects on sex, marriage and the family, as well as on the child in law, religion and society.