When the state must designate a child's legal parentage, should the goal be to protect the biological parents' "opportunity interests" to raise "their" child or to protect the child's established relationships with the individuals who have actually functioned as her parents? What characteristics render an adult an appropriate parent? These questions, long in the background of disputes over adoption, have been raised with new intensity in the early 1990s in two distinctive settings. The first is the debate about these questions waged in the courts and the media. The second is the effort of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) to create a Uniform Adoption Act. The fate of the child called Jessica by her would-be adopters in Michigan and Anna by her birth parents in Iowa was a matter of agitated public debate before, during, and after it was decided by a legal system slow to resolve the conflicting claims of the adoptive and birth parents and even slower to recognize the young child's interest in a quick decision. 1 Similarly, the law's inability to resolve the competing claims of entitlement with respect to other young children--Richard Doe in Illinois, Emily W. in Florida, Michael S. in California--generates yet more media attention to the questions of "where do children belong?" and "to whom do children belong?" 2 As American culture's internal conflicts over the ideal family are projected onto the various individuals, relationships, and households involved in each case, images of the conflicting ...

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