Prior to World War II, international adoption was virtually unknown, but in the twenty-first century, it has become a common practice, touching almost every American. How did the adoption of foreign children by U.S. families become an essential part of American culture in such a short period of time? Rachel Rains Winslow investigates this question, following the trail from Europe to South Korea and then to Vietnam. Drawing on a wide range of political and cultural sources, The Best Possible Immigrants shows how a combination of domestic trends, foreign policies, and international instabilities created an environment in which adoption flourished.
Winslow contends that international adoption succeeded as a long-term solution to child welfare not because it was in the interest of one group but because it was in the interest of many. Focusing on the three decades after World War II, she argues that the system came about through the work of governments, social welfare professionals, volunteers, national and local media, adoptive parents, and prospective adoptive parents. In her chronicle, Winslow not only reveals the diversity of interests at play but also shows the underlying character of the U.S. social welfare state and international humanitarianism. In so doing, she sheds light on the shifting ideologies of family in the postwar era, underscoring the important cultural work at the center of policy efforts and state projects. The Best Possible Immigrants is a fascinating story about the role private citizens and organizations played in adoption history as well as their impact on state-formation, lawmaking, and U.S. foreign policy.