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The legal management of (social) parenthood: adoption and Dutch family policy

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The Dutch adoption law of 1956 enabled Dutch family policy to re-locate some children from an 'immoral' life with their unmarried mother to a 'normal' family life. However, since the normalization and social acceptance of 'families with a difference' in the 1980s, the supply of the children of Dutch nationals for adoption has fallen. Alongside this, there has remained a consistent demand from childless couples to adopt. This helps to explain a rise in the numbers of international adoptions and an increased focus on the interests of adoptive parents. This is reflected in an increased acceptance of the 'right of parenthood'- as is the growth of reproductive technology. Since parenthood has increasingly come to be seen as a social construct, traditional criteria for allowing adults to adopt a child have been increasingly questioned. Dutch legislators have moved in the direction of 'social parenthood', taking 'care' as the decisive factor in defining legalized parenthood.

Keywords: adoption; child welfare; family law; family policy; reproduction; social parenthood

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of General Social Sciences, University of Utrecht

Publication date: August 1, 2002

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