Families by Law: An Adoption Reader

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Since the mid-19th century, American law has recognized adoption as a way to create parent-child relationships. As the product of law, rather than blood, adoptive families have become a focal point for debates about the meaning of family, the rights and responsibilities of parents, and the best interests of children.

Families by Law brings together diverse perspectives on contemporary aspects of adoption law and practice. Following a historical overview of adoption in American law and society, the reader presents different responses to concerns about who may place children for adoption, the status of birth parents, who may adopt, and the legal and psychosocial consequences of adoption. The new frontiers of adoption are explored: from transracial and intercountry adoption, adoption by same sex couples, and the adoption of children with special needs, to the movements for opening records and maintaining post-adoption contact between adoptive and birth families. The relationship between adoption and assisted reproductive technologies is discussed, as are feminist, economic, and philosophical perspectives on adoption and procreation. The volume includes statutes and cases, advocacy organization statements, and pieces from legal scholars, social scientists, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists in order to provide a wealth of information about the contemporary dimensions of adoption.

Families by Law provides undergraduates, as well as law, social welfare, and public policy graduate students and others interested in family relationships with a multifaceted context for understanding the complexities of contemporary family life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The essays encompass the main controversies in the field, placing them in their historical and social contexts. The book will be very useful for courses focusing on this issue, and will serve researchers in welfare history, public policy, legal history, family history, and history of childhood."


"A collection that will interest and assist psychologists who work with the wide range of children included in this book. I learned a good deal in my reading of these articles and find it easy to recommend the book to any psychologist whose clinical practice, research, or teaching includes consideration of parent-child relationships, adoption, foster care, child custody, and the significance of family for individual development and social cohesion. . . . Wide-ranging and provocative in its approach to the issue addressed."

-The American Psychological Association

"This source book expresses Cahn and Hollinger's keen understanding of adoption law, combining classic articles, new material, and penetrating commentary on every critical and controversial dimension of adoption. Those fortunate enough to read this book from cover to cover will vastly expand their appreciation for adoption issues."

-Richard P. Barth,Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814715895
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2004
  • Pages: 349
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Naomi Cahn is John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School. Her previous books include Red Families v. Blue Families, Test Tube Families (NYU Press 2009), Families By Law: An Adoption Reader (NYU Press 2004), and Confinements: Fertility and Infertility in Contemporary Culture.

Joan Heifetz Hollinger is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches courses in child welfare law and policy and sex, reproduction, and family law at the Boalt Hall Law School and in the Legal Studies Program.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
I History of Adoption in the United States 7
1 An act to Provide for the Adoption of Children (1851) 9
2 Society's Children: The Care of Indigent Youngsters in New York City, 1875-1903 11
3 Perfect Substitutes or the Real Thing? 19
4 Like Our Very Own: Adoption and the Changing Culture of Motherhood, 1851-1950 25
5 Fallen Women, Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890-1945 29
II Creating Adoptive Families: Legal and Psychological Requirements and Consequences 33
6 State and Federal Adoption Laws 37
7 Code of Ethics 43
8 Adoption as a Child Welfare Service: CWLA 2000 Standards 45
9 Analysis of the Proposed Uniform Adoption Act (UAA) of 1994 47
10 Family Ties: Solving the Constitutional Dilemma of the Faultless Father 52
11 Proposed Uniform Adoption Act (UAA) of 1994 63
12 Adoption Agencies and the Search for the Ideal Family, 1918-1965 64
13 Adoption and the Parental Screening System 72
14 Proposed Uniform Adoption Act (UAA) of 1994 77
15 Adoptees' Inheritance Rights 78
16 Is Adoption a Risk Factor for the Development of Adjustment Problems? 80
17 Coming to Terms with Adoption: The Construction of Identity from Adolescence into Adulthood 84
18 Nature and Nurture: A New Look at How Families Work 85
19 Nature in Adoptive Parenthood 88
III Foster Care and Informal Adoption 91
20 Smith v. Organization of Foster Families for Equality and Reform (O.F.F.E.R.) (U.S. 1977) 95
21 In re G.C. (Pa. 1999) 100
22 Rodriguez v. McLoughlin (S.D.N.Y. 1999), reversed (2d Cir. N.Y. 2000) 102
23 In re Jasmon O. (Cal. 1994) 106
24 Parents' Rights vs. Children's Interests: The Case of the Foster Child 108
25 When Children Cannot Remain Home: Foster Family Care and Kinship Care 111
26 Taking Adoption Seriously: Radical Revolution or Modest Revisionism? 115
27 The Extended Family System in the Black Community: A Child-Centered Model for Adoption Policy 119
IV Adoption and Confidentiality 123
28 Adoption and Change of Name: General Statutes of Minnesota (1917) 125
29 The Sealed Adoption Records Controversy in Historical Perspective: The Case of the Children's Home Society of Washington, 1895-1988 126
30 We Have a Long Way to Go: Attitudes toward Adoption 134
31 The Idea of Adoption: An Inquiry into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records 136
32 Doe v. Sundquist (6th Cir. Tenn. 1997) 142
33 State Legislation and Mutual Consent Registries 145
34 The Basic Bastard 146
35 CWLA Standards: Policy Changes, 1973-2000 149
36 Adoption, Identity, and the Constitution: The Case for Opening Closed Records 153
V Adoption with Continuing Contact: "Open Adoption" 157
37 Overview of Legal Status of Post-Adoption Contact Agreements 159
38 Perspectives on Open Adoption 163
39 In re Adoption of Vito (Mass. 2000) 167
40 Guidelines for Public Policy and State Legislation Governing Permanence for Children 172
41 Post-Adoption Contact: CWLA 2000 Standards 174
42 Increasing Options to Improve Permanency: Considerations in Drafting an Adoption with Contact Statute 175
43 Kinship with Strangers: Adoption and Interpretations of Kinship in American Culture 177
VI The Frontiers of Adoption 185
44 The What and Why of the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) 189
45 "Are You My Mother?": Conceptualizing Children's Identity Rights in Transracial Adoptions 194
46 The Color of Desire: Fulfilling Adoptive Parents' Racial Preferences through Discriminatory State Action 200
47 Private Race Preferences in Family Formation 205
48 Racial Geographies 208
49 Does a Child Have a Right to a Certain Identity? 211
50 Intercountry Adoption: A Frontier without Boundaries 215
51 Who Are Indian Children within the Scope of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)? 221
52 Pigs in Heaven: A Parable of Native American Adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act 228
53 Second Parent Adoptions Protect Children with Two Mothers or Two Fathers 235
54 State Appeals Court Rulings That Deny or Approve Second Parent Adoptions by Same-Sex Couples 239
55 (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? 248
56 Single Parent Adoptions 252
VII Feminism 257
57 Re-expressing Parenthood 259
58 Transracial and International Adoption: Mothers, Hierarchy, Race, and Feminist Legal Theory 265
59 Family Issue(s) 270
60 "O Wind, Remind Him That I Have No Child": Infertility and Feminist Jurisprudence 273
61 Adoption, Biological Essentialism, and Feminist Theory 280
VIII Other Perspectives on Adoption 283
62 Johnson v. Calvert (Cal. 1993) 287
63 In re Nicholas H. (Cal. 2002) 291
64 Note on the Revised Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) of 2002 294
65 Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution 297
66 From Coitus to Commerce: Legal and Social Consequences of Noncoital Reproduction 299
67 Law Making for Baby Making: An Interpretive Approach to the Determination of Legal Parentage 306
68 Considerations against Donor Anonymity in Collaborative Procreation 310
69 The Jurisprudence of Genetics 313
70 Market-Inalienability 319
71 The Effect of Transactions Costs on the Market for Babies 324
Sources 329
Index 337
About the Editors 349
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