Karen Smith Rotabi
Karen Smith Rotabi (1968-) was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize (1991-1993), serving as a youth development volunteer. She assisted the founding director of the Belize National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse (NOPCA--now NOPCAN due to adding 'neglect' onto the title). As the first program coordinator for the organization, Rotabi was involved in a number of start-up projects to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ultimately prevent child abuse. Her work included a nation-wide effort to bring parenting skills education to Belize. One of the activities that Rotabi enjoyed the most was working with adolescent girls at the Youth Enhancement Services program as a secondary project. Also, she helped teen mothers form a group to enhance parenting skills, encourage child spacing, and focus on self esteem in this girls' education group. After Peace Corps, Rotabi went to Guatemala in the summer of 1993 where she studied Spanish and Guatemalan history and culture, taking particular interest in the civil war and prospects for peace. Rotabi then returned to the USA and completed both an MSW and MPH at the University of South Carolina in 1994 and 1995, respectively. Shortly thereafter, Rotabi went to work as a civilian employee for the United States Air Force in England (1996-1999). Managing outreach services for the Family Advocacy Program, Rotabi's activities included parenting skills education and marriage enrichment retreats in an effort to prevent family violence. Then at the end of 1999, Rotabi changed jobs and went to work for Peace Corps Guatemala as a technical trainer for the Healthy Students Program (also known as Escuelas Saludables). This particular program focused on health promotion and education of children in rural primary schools, mainly in the highlands of Guatemala. While working in Guatemala, Rotabi began to observe the intercountry adoption trend in the nation--as the intercountry adoption boom was just beginning in 1999-2000. In the subsequent years, while pursuing a PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2000-2004), Rotabi began to study the intercountry adoption industry in Guatemala and implications for human rights abuses. Over time,she has published widely on the phenomena with an emphasis on both human rights and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (see ). Known for policy and case study analysis, Rotabi's research has expanded to a historical review of child abduction for adoption during El Salvador's civil war, problems in Ethiopian adoptions, and analysis of Russian adoptions and that nation's interactions with the USA adoption system. In 2010, she expanded her intercountry adoption research to include the Haiti earthquake disaster and emergency 'rescue' of children . Also, she has analyzed intercountry adoption practices at the adoption agency level in the USA making recommendations to improve systems in the context of reform related to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. A radio interview on the subject can be found on "With Good Reason"/NPR at . Today she holds a PhD and her first full-time academic position was at Virginia Commonwealth University and now she is an Associate Professor at the United Arab Emirates University. Rotabi remains involved in various voluntary activities and in 2009 participated in the Guatemala Human Rights Commission delegation on violence against women/femicide for the "Woman's Right to Live" campaign. As a result, Rotabi and colleagues briefed White House executive staff on violence against women in Guatemala in 2009. Also, a number of her intercountry adoption publications can be found at . She regularly blogs about issues related to intercountry adoption, global surrogacy, and human rights with a goal of writing for a wide audience with a straight forward style. For example, see . Rotabi has an edited text (2012) with Judith Gibbons entitled: Intercountry Adoption: Policies, Practices, and Outcomes. Most recently, in 2014, Rotabi has served as co-chair of the Forum on Intercountry Adoption and Global Surrogacy in The Hague, Netherlands and where she will oversee a track focused on both intercountry adoption and global surrogacy emphasizing exploitation and women's rights.
Rotabi's dissertation research was on the history of ecological theory, one of the resulting papers is . Rotabi grew up in Aiken, South Carolina.