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Adoption

Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents. Unlike guardianship or other systems designed for the care of the young, adoption is intended to effect a permanent change in status and as such requiressocietal recognition, either through legal or religious sanction. Historically some societies have enacted specific laws governing adoption whereas others have endeavored to achieve adoption through less formal means, notably via contracts that specified inheritance rights and parental responsibilities. Modern systems of adoption, arising in the 20th century, tend to be governed by comprehensive statutesand regulations.

Adoption has a long history in the Western world, closely tied with the legacy of theRoman Empire and the Catholic Church. Its use has changed considerably over the centuries with its focus shifting from adult adoption and inheritance issues toward children and family creation and its structure moving from a recognition of continuity between the adopted and kin toward allowing relationships of lessened intensity.

]History

Antiquity

Adoption for the well-born
Trajan became emperor of Rome through adoption, a customary practice of the empire that enabled peaceful transitions of power.

While the modern form of adoption emerged in the United States, forms of the practice appeared throughout history.[1] The Code of Hammurabi, for example, details the rights of adopters and the responsibilities of adopted individuals at length and the practice of adoption in ancient Rome is well documented in the Codex Justinianus.[2][3]

Markedly different from the modern period, ancient adoption practices put emphasis on the political and economic interests of the adopter,[4] providing a legal tool that strengthened political ties between wealthy families and creating male heirs to manage estates.[5][6] The use of adoption by the aristocracy is well documented; many of Rome's emperors were adopted sons.[6]

Infant adoption during Antiquity appears rare.[4][7] Abandoned children were often picked up for slavery[8]and composed a significant percentage of the Empire’s slave supply.[9][10] Roman legal records indicate that foundlings were occasionally taken in by families and raised as a son or daughter. Although not normally adopted under Roman Law, the children, called alumni, were reared in an arrangement similar to guardianship, being considered the property of the father who abandoned them.[11]

Other ancient civilizations, notably India and China, utilized some form of adoption as well. Evidence suggests their practices aimed to ensure the continuity of cultural and religious practices, in contrast to the Western idea of extending family lines. In ancient India, secondary sonship, clearly denounced by theRigveda,[12] continued, in a limited and highly ritualistic form, so that an adopter might have the necessaryfunerary rites performed by a son.[13] China had a similar conception of adoption with males adopted solely to perform the duties of ancestor worship.

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