The Role of Adoption in Winning Public Recognition for Adult Partnerships
58 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2008
Date Written: December 5, 2008
Adoption stands beside marriage as the most public of family institutions. It confers the imprimatur of the state on the transfer of parenthood from one legal parent to another. It does so in the name of protecting children's interests. Because adoption confers state approval, publicly with the full force of the law, it carries societal symbolism that extends well beyond its impact on any individual family.
This article places adoption within the framework of our understanding of public and private spheres. It examines how assisted reproductive practices have developed from experimental treatment for infertility to the construction of families of choice, and how the changing role of assisted reproduction produces new challenges for the determination of parenthood. It describes the circumstances in which the state has historically intervened to supervise and sanction adoption. The role of adoption operates in tandem with the background law of parentage. Adoption succeeds in transferring recognition from one legal parent to another; it is less well designed to resolve uncertainty about who is a parent in the first place.
This article concludes that adoption is most likely to be employed in the context of assisted reproduction, not to protect the interests of the child, but to secure recognition of otherwise unsanctioned adult relationships. In a polarized era of family values, the seemingly neutral arena of adoption may offer the best prospects for legal recognition of controversial relationships. The irony is that the most public of practices is most likely to be employed where its principal purpose is to advance the autonomy of adults, and to secure an otherwise unavailable zone of privacy.
Keywords: Adoption, Marriage, Family, Parenthood, Reproductive practices, Assisted reproduction, Family values, Privacy
JEL Classification: J10, J11, J12, J13, J16, J18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation