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Nootbaar Institutes Annual Conference Focuses on Intercountry Adoption and Child Trafficking

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The Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics held their annual conference in February, tackling the topic of Intercountry Adoption: Orphan Rescue or Child Trafficking?

More than 130 guests attended the two-day event, which was sponsored by Pepperdine’s Global Justice Program. The conference featured 57 speakers and a host of topics related to intercountry adoption and child trafficking, including the role of religion in adoption law, citizenship rights, adoption trends, legal issues facing intercountry adoption, and abusive practices related to adoption. Several adoptive parents also spoke at the event, sharing their firsthand experiences. Additionally, six adoptees weighed in on the topic, sharing their perspectives of finding permanent homes in the United States.

“Many intercountry adoption conferences are either exclusively in favor of adoption or overwhelmingly against,” said Jay Milbrandt, director of Pepperdine’s Global Justice Program. “It’s rare that both ends of the spectrum come together for dialogue. The goal of the Nootbaar Institute conference was to bring both sides together for a conversation fostering mutual understanding and respect.”

The event incorporated the screening of two films, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, and Somewhere Between. The screenings were followed by a question-and-answer session with the cast and director of each film.

Among those in attendance at the conference was Isaac Obiro, an attorney from Uganda, who has worked on international adoption cases. Jim Gash, a professor of law at the Pepperdine School of Law, worked with Obiro in Uganda, assisting with a variety of cases involving juvenile justice issues and adoption.

“The topics of juvenile justice and intercountry adoption both touch on the same themes—finding ways to bring justice and stability to the powerless who lacked access to both justice and stability,” Gash said. “I spent some of my time in Uganda working with families and adoption lawyers, often behind the scenes, in looking for solutions to their individual challenges in the adoption process and for solutions to the systemic challenges presented by intercountry adoption.”