Elizabeth Bartholet: Long Biographical Narrative


Elizabeth Bartholet, an expert on civil rights and family law, is the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where she has taught since 1977. She served from 1968-1972 as staff counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and then founded the Legal Action Center, a public interest firm in New York City focused on criminal justice and substance abuse issues. At Harvard she teaches employment and family law specializing in child welfare, adoption and reproductive technology. She also writes, lectures, and consults on these issues.

In the Fall of 2004 she launched Harvard's Child Advocacy Program (CAP). She has since served as CAP's Faculty Director.

Bartholet has won several awards for her writing and related advocacy work in the area of adoption and child welfare. Other awards include a Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute “Angel in Adoption Award” in 2014, the Radcliffe College Humane Recognition Award in 1997, and a “Media Achievement Award” in 1994.

Bartholet's work has triggered significant media attention. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Maury Povitch Show, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, ABC Sunday Night News, and Nightline, among other shows, and has done many dozens of interviews with National Public Radio, and other radio and TV programs. Her views on child welfare and reproductive issues have been regularly quoted in the national media, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, The Nation, The New Republic, Vogue, and American Prospect. She has been featured in several TV film documentaries, and has given many dozens of speeches throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Bartholet earned a B.A. degree from Radcliffe College and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Legal Action Center, and is a member of the IVF Ethics Advisory Committees at two Boston-area hospitals, and of the Harvard Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight (ESCRO) Committee.


NOBODY'S CHILDREN is an intense look at how we treat children in crisis. Bartholet challenges the accepted orthodoxy that views children as belonging exclusively to their kinship and their racial groups, and locks them into inadequate biological and foster homes. She asks us to apply the lessons learned from the battered women's movement as we consider battered children, and to question why family preservation ideology still reigns supreme when children rather than adult women are involved. Bartholet assesses promising new developments in the policy world, and warns of the pitfalls that threaten real progress. She asks us to take seriously for the first time in our history the adoption option, arguing that if we would only break down irrational barriers to adoption, we could give children the nurturing homes they need. She calls on the entire community to take responsibility for its children, to think of the children at risk of abuse and neglect as belonging to all of us.

Professor Bartholet's FAMILY BONDS book, first published in 1993, brought infertility and adoption to the national forefront, combining her personal experience with an indictment of policy governing these issues.

Professor Bartholet's other publications include: The International Adoption Cliff: Do Child Human Rights Matter?, Ballard et al., eds., THE INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION DEBATE: DIALOGUES ACROSS DISCIPLINES (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2015); The Hague Convention: Pros, Cons, and Potential, Ballard et al., eds.,THE INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION DEBATE: DIALOGUES ACROSS DISCIPLINES (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2015); Differential Response: A Dangerous Experiment in Child Welfare (2014); Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: The Use and Misuse of Research, 13 Whittier J. Child & Fam Advocacy 1 (2014); Intergenerational Justice for Children: Restructuring Adoption, Reproduction & Child Welfare Policy 8(1) J. Law & Ethics of Hum. Rights 103 (2014); Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: Effective Early Intervention to Prevent Maltreatment and Protect Victimized Children, 60 Buffalo L. Rev 1323 (2012); Ratification by the United States of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Pros and Cons from a Child's Rights Perspective, 633 The ANNALS of Amer. Acad. Political and Social Science 80 (2011); International Adoption: The Human Rights Position, 1 Global Policy 91 (2010); The Racial Disproportionality Movement in Child Welfare: False Facts and Dangerous Directions, 51 Ariz. L. Rev. 871 (2009); International Adoption: The Child’s Story, 24 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 333 (2008); International Adoption: Thoughts on the Human Rights Issues, 13 Buff. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 151 (2007); Commentary: Cultural Stereotypes Can and Do Die: It's Time to Move on With Transracial Adoption, 34 J.Am.Acad. Psychiatry Law 315 (2006); Guiding Principles for Picking Parents, 27 Harv. Women's L.J. 323 (2004); Reply, Whose Children? A Response to Professor Guggenheim, 113 Harv. L. Rev. 1999 (2000); Taking Adoption Seriously: Radical Revolution or Modest Revisionism?, 28 Cap.U.L. Rev 77 (1999); Where Do Black Children Belong? The Politics of Race Matching in Adoption, 139 Penn L. Rev. 1163 (1991); Beyond Biology: The Politics of Adoption & Reproduction, 2 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol'y 5 (1995); Private Race Preferences in Family Formation, 107 Yale L.J. 2351 (1998); and Application of Title VII to Jobs in High Places, 95 Harv. L. Rev. 945 (1982).