Naomi Cahn


This Article traces the development of adoption law using recent scholarship in history and sociology, as well as nineteenth century legal sources. The early history of American adoption provides a novel and useful context to analyze the complicated relationships between "traditional" and "alternative" family forms. The Article discusses how judicial interpretations of the meaning of adoption were cabined by the traditional significance of blood relationships, and examines the treatment of adopted and biological children in three contexts: parental consent to adoption, inheritance, and the civil and criminal laws governing incest. The Article argues that the challenge today, as was true more than a century ago, is how to expand the meaning of family without destabilizing families. The contemporary debates on adoptive, single parent, and gay and lesbian families, as well as on the rights within families formed by new reproductive technologies, are grounded in this history; but the history also provides critical insights for structuring the legal response to these newly forming families. The Article examines post-adoption grandparent visitation disputes, single parents by choice, and gay and lesbian second parents. Finally, the Article concludes that "like" relationships should be treated similarly while respecting and accommodating the differences.

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