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No 37 - 2021

Reflecting on “Origins” in Contemporary Families: International Perspectives
Directed by Agnès Martial, Isabel Côté, Kévin Lavoie

From adoption to assisted reproduction: frameworks, practices and issues surrounding the question of origins and its narratives
Agnès Martial, Isabel Côté, Kévin Lavoie

Research Framework: In a context characterized by new possibilities for parenthood within societies where family structures are becoming increasingly diverse, the issue of knowing one’s origins is currently provoking intense political, social and scientific debates. These debates are emblematic of a more general movement that reflects a growing interest in the question of origins within contemporary patterns of family configuration, whether created by adoption or assisted reproduction. The concept of origins is thus a particularly relevant window shedding light on current social and political issues surrounding the future of adoption, the conditions for assisted reproduction through donation, the legislative framework of surrogacy and the application of biogenetic knowledge, as well as an opportunity to analyze contemporary reconfigurations of kinship and family links.

Objectives: To identify the primary issues underlying the discourse on personal origins by outlining the context from which it emerged, and by bringing together the various disciplinary approaches to define its parameters.

Methodology: This article is based on the various authors’ contributions in this issue, as well as on theoretical and empirical studies that show how the concept of origins is used by those involved in adoption and assisted reproduction. The comparative perspective is chosen for this article.

Results: The focus on origins reveals a profound evolution linked to the growing dissociation of procreation from kinship, which appear to be leading to the emergence of « new » relationships and actors. The rapid advancement of reproductive technologies is broadening the circumstances, already present in adoption, in which people have children but do not become parents in the legal sense, remaining « at the edges » of kinship.

Conclusions: The concept of origins provides a particularly rich field for examining current representations and interpretations of the individuals associated with it (birth « parents » in adoption, egg and sperm donors, women who have carried a child for others), the narratives that shape them, and the place they occupy (or their absence) in the accounts of those who are adopted or are born through surrogacy.

Contribution: This article brings a theoretical and heuristic approach to the concept of origins and demonstrates its relevance for examining the multiple relational realities created by current family arrangements. The articles in this issue all contribute to this examination by reflecting in complementary ways on the question of parentage.

Keywords: origins, filiation, parenting, adoption, reproductive technologies

The adopted child’s right to know one’s origins in France and in Quebec
Laurence Brunet, Michelle Giroux

Research Framework: The study focuses on the right to know one’s origins of the adopted child from a comparative law perspective.

Objectives: The objective of the research is to provide an analysis of the French law, dating from January 22, 2002, and the 2017 law in Quebec, both of which provide adopted people access to the identity of their parents of origin.

Methodology: This study mainly uses a positivist methodology of legal research analyzing legislation, case law and legal literature, as well as comparative law (France/Quebec).

Results: Research shows that both France and Québec have sought to reconsider the place in history of the adopted child by substituting the principle of secrecy of their origins for a logic favouring transparency. Yet the balance between children and their birth parents often tilts in favour of the latter who can prevent the secret from being released, sometimes even until after death.

Conclusions: The relaxation of the law towards more transparency is a step in the right direction. The exercise seems however unfinished as long as the question of the right to identity (including the origins), recognized in particular by the UN Convention in regards to the rights of the Child, of adoptees and those conceived through medically assisted reproduction will not be discussed as part of a comprehensive law reform.

Contribution: Through an analysis of the positive law in force in France and Quebec on the accessibility of adopted people to their origins, this text will help to understand the issues relating to this question and the difficult arbitration between the interests of adopted children and their birth parents. It also opens up a reflection on the accessibility of children born by medically assisted procreation to their origins.

Keywords: origins, identity, access, child rights, civil rights, adoption, anonymity in childbirth, medically assisted reproduction, France, Quebec

(Re)defining the Relationship to Origins in International Adoption: the Implementation of The Hague Convention (THC) in Benin
Simonella Domingos Tanguy

Research Framework: Benin, a country of origin with little investment in adoption so far, ratified in 2018 The Hague Convention (THC) on international adoption, which leads to changes in its child protection system and in the local perception of adoption.

Objectives: As part of this issue about “origins” from different standpoints, this contribution explores the transformations brought on by this convention in a social context with strong traditional roots.

Methodology: The study is based on data collected in host countries and in Benin. It is part of my doctoral research which compares international adoption policies and practices in France and Germany.

Results: It appears that origins are a central notion in Beninese culture and that it is closely linked to the identity of the individual. Adoption is a little-known practice in Benin where the traditional practices of child fostering are perpetuated. International adoption and the resulting break that it brings with the child’s identity require a new conceptualization of origins, beyond the essentialist definition that prevails there. The proper implementation of THC demands changes at several levels and can lead to new institutional expectations that may prove too burdensome.

Conclusions: Origins are at the heart of adoption debates. To grasp origins in this context involve among other things questioning the representations associated with it locally and also taking into account the specific expectations of biological families, without penalizing adoptees.

Contribution: This article contributes to a better knowledge of countries of origins, which have not frequently been studied and are often locked into a “de facto uniformity”. It highlights the strength of traditional practices and the possible obstacles to an adequate implementation of THC in the Beninese context.

Mots-clés: adoption, Africa, origins, politics, placement, identity, child, tradition, Benin, diplomacy

Looking for their Origins on Facebook: How does Social Media Relate to Internationally Adopted Adults’ Search for their Origins?
Johanne Thomson-Sweeny

Research Framework: Internationally adopted people are gradually using more social media tools to search and find their biological family. Biological families are also using these tools to find children put up for adoption. This article aims to present the ways in which virtual contact with the biological family in international adoption influences adult adoptees’ search and reunion.

Objectives: This study aims to understand the experiences and perspectives of internationally adopted adults in regard to their digital contact with their biological families.

Methodology: The data presented in this article come from a qualitative study centered around eight Quebec internationally adopted adults. They participated in semi-directed interviews about their experience of a virtual contact with their biological family. Data collected were analyzed through an interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results: Through their discourse, the study reveals that participants award great importance to their origins. Interest in their origins motivated them to find their birth family through social media or to respond to contact initiated by their biological family. Participants wish to know more about who they are and where they come from. However, not all participants believe that searching for their origins is a mandatory step for adoptees.

Conclusions: The notion of origins is omnipresent throughout the lives of the participants.  Social media allows them to discover who they are and to learn about their history and their birth family.

Contribution: The results of the study show the impact of social media on the search for origins in a context where digital contact with the biological family is more and more frequent in the journey of international adoptees.

Mots-clés: international adoption, search for origins, virtual technologies, adult adoptee, birth family

Three generations of lesbian-headed families in Italy and Belgium: transmission and practices of the children’s origines
Alice Sophie Sarcinelli, Charlotte Simon

Research Framework: The present article analyses lesbian-headed families’ relation to the children’s origins in Italy and Belgium, two countries characterized by their completely different legislation in terms of recognition of biogenetic and intentional origins.

Objectives: The goal is to understand and articulate the relationships that families develop to children’s origins as a function of the country’s treatment of lesbian-headed households, of the generation the research participants belong to and of their reproductive path.

Methodology: The article is based upon two local studies realized between 2016 and 2020 with 16 families. The methodology adopted includes participant observation of family practices, biographical interviews, informal conversations, the charting of the construction of kinship in each family’s case and an analysis of the legal context.

Results: The trajectories of families from different countries and generations show that the relation to the children’s origins is built through time without necessarily breaking with either the past (and foreign) or the local culture of kinship. The context and the particular conditions it creates do, nevertheless, influence this relation.

Conclusions: The study reveals an increasingly plural and indeterminate boundary between kin and not-kin resulting from an often incomplete negotiation, a constant redefinition among different actors, and often leading to contradictory practices.

Contribution: The article argues that kinship assumes different forms according to the actors and to the dimensions at stake (juridical, social or experience), as well as to the generation the mother belongs to.


Directed Egg Donation: How the Donation Narrative and the Conception Narrative Combine to Think about Origins
Raphaële Noël, Marie-Alexia Allard, Gabrielle Pelletier

Research Framework: The socio-legal context of Quebec allows access to different modalities of egg donation to conceive a child through assisted reproduction. The present qualitative empirical research focuses on directed egg donation in which the donor is known to the recipient couple (RC).

Objectives: This article aims to provide a better understanding of each person’s place in this new family reality and to study the impact of the use of egg donation regarding maternal identity and filiation.

Methodology: Semi-structured interviews accompanied by a free genogram (FG) were conducted with eight donors and eight RCs. An inductive and iterative logic guided the collection and analysis of data by conceptualizing categories.

Results: The analysis made it possible to highlight the development of an emotional and relational history between donors and RCs as a backdrop to the specific issues at stake for each of them. If there is indeed an encounter between both parties, the psychic work they go through, and which appears in the course of the FG reveals different universes.

Conclusions: Thus, it is an opportunity for the donor to develop a meaning to her donation in the light of her personal and family history, laying the foundations for a narrative of donation, allowing for a work of historicization and re-subjectivation. As the parents, they construct the story that enabled them to give birth to their child, questioning the place of the donor and the link with her, as well as the maternal identity.

Contribution: As a basis for the psychic birth of the parents and in particular of the mother, such a conception narrative is combined with the donation narrative to think about the origins of the child. This article contributes to the reflection on becoming a parent by means of directed egg donation. It raises the importance of offering support to both the RC and the donor to enable each to develop a narrative that is in continuity with their own story.

Mots-clés: egg donation, couple, recipient, genogram, narrative, origins, maternal identity, qualitative research

Same-Donor-Offspring: Sharing “Origins” in Sperm Donor Conception (United Kingdom, France)
Anaïs Martin

Research Framework: New figures are emerging within the connections created by donor conception: same-donor-offspring.

Objectives: Based on an anthropological study with sperm donor conceived adults in the United Kingdom and France, the article analyzes the distinctions that they establish between same-donor-offspring, siblings and the donor’s children in order to better understand what is involved in sharing “origins” when people have been conceived using the same donor.

Methodology: The article draws on an empirical study through in-depth semi-directive interviews conducted between October 2017 and December 2019 with 17 sperm donor conceived adults in the United Kingdom and in France.

Results: In the light of the relationships with siblings, the connections between same-donor offspring appear first as a paradoxical bodily bond that is materialized by a sharing of genes between strangers. The distinctions between children of the donor and donor conceived people then emphasize that, beyond genetics, it is the donation that specifies the links between same-donor-offspring. More than a progenitor, they share the circumstances of their conception, from which arise a shared narrative and common experiences that specify their bond. Finally, although the concrete relationships that are formed are characterized by their flexibility and their elective dimension, they nonetheless give rise to new norms and hierarchies.

Conclusions: The study of the connections between same-donor-offspring suggests the constitution of a new relational category at the edges of kinship.

Contribution: The article addresses donor conception through the collateral connections it produces. It contributes to the reflection on the content of the relations created by “origins”.

Mots-clés: donor conception, donor offspring, sperm donation, siblingship, origins, kinship, relatedness

The Dual Family Affiliation of the Child Placed in a Foster-to-Adopt Family: a Fragile Balance
Doris Chateauneuf, Béatrice Decaluwe, Geneviève Pagé

Research Framework: Foster-to-adopt families foster children intending to adopt them. Children placed in this type of resource are generally between the ages of 0-2 years and considered at high risk of abandonment, but they are not adoptable at the beginning of placement and most continue to see their birth parents through supervised visits.

Objectives: The purpose of this study is to shed light on the challenges that the child’s dual family affiliation poses for foster-to-adopt parents during placement. It aims to better understand how foster-to-adopt parents negotiate the child’s dual family connection during placement and throughout the adoption process.

Methodology: To meet these objectives, 31 semi-structured interviews were conducted with foster-to-adopt parents in three regions of Quebec. Parents were interviewed twice, once within a year of the start of the placement and again 18 months later.

Results: The results are based on four main themes: 1) foster-to-adopt parents’ perception of the child’s birth parents; 2) fears and apprehensions experienced about the child’s custody; 3) issues of naming and designating parents; and 4) the role of child welfare workers in the contact between the two families.

Conclusions: Family affiliation and relationships of children in foster-to-adopt placements are based on a fragile balance that can be explained in part by the distinct and sometimes opposing intentions of the foster-to-adopt parents and birth parents, but also by other factors such as the vulnerability of the birth parents, the profile of the children in care and variability of the child welfare workers’ practices.

Contribution: Foster-to-adopt placements remain little studied in Quebec. This study provides a better understanding of various issues underlying this type of placement in terms of family dynamics and relationships

Mots-clés: adoption, family affiliation, parent-child visits, foster family, family relationship, foster care placement, youth protection, child protection, qualitative research

Child Participation in Child Protection: Issues, Conditions and Barriers
Élodie Faisca

Research Framework: This article offers a review of international literature on the issues, conditions and barriers to children’s participation in child protection in order to identify issues that would be of interest for future studies.

Objectives: It aims to identify interesting questions to explore in future studies and to understand the gaps between the requirements of the legal framework, the discourses of institutions and professionals, and the practices of professionals. It provides new ideas on the conditions for children’s participation.

Methods: The paper is based on an analysis of some forty international works published over the past 20 years. The keywords mobilized in French and English databases are participation, children or young people, child protection, childcare, protection services, child welfare, home-based services, commitment, engagement and involvement.

Results: The article highlights the need to rethink the often-stated opposition between the principle of protection and the principle of participation. It shows the importance of thinking about the goals of participation, the spaces in which children are invited to express their opinions and the forms that this expression can take. We show that participation must be seen as a dynamic process that is active or limited in the intervention itself.

Conclusions: Qualitative, ethnographic and long-term research is needed to understand the processes of participation. 

Contribution: Based on a review of the literature, this article emphasizes some of the issues surrounding children’s participation in child protection services and identifies some areas for further research and exploration. It encourages readers to consider and study child participation in the perspective of its dynamic, relational and multidimensional nature. Analytical possibilities may emerge through a longitudinal and ecological approach to participation.

Keywords: participation, children, professional practices, coeducation, educational intervention, child welfare

Child Photography in Morocco: Photographic Construction of Gendered Identities and Marriage Ideology
Souad Azizi

Research Framework: This study has been realized in the context of intensification in the use of studio photography by Moroccan families during the main stages of their children’s growth, as well as during religious feasts.

Objectives: The aim is to understand the social and ritual functions of child photography.

Methodology: The data has been collected through two methods of investigation. The first part was conducted in two stages and realized with the help of sociology students. We first observed 50 studios in the Grand Casablanca and then did an observation of family albums. The second method was conducted by the author from 2010 to 2015 as a visual observation of the video photographic ritual in a public space of Mohammedia.

Results: Child photography is a social construct of some parts of the child’s image, which results from a community of thought and action between photographers and families. The album is a gendered practice and can be understood as a proof of the child’s good treatment as well as a symbolic and transmittable asset. Child photography is a way of passing on the traditional dress and it reflects the impregnation of family photography by the Makhzen culture and the marriage symbolism.

Conclusions: The video photographic ritual is a means in the construction of gendered identities and the inculcation of marriage ideology at an early age. Child photography reveals that marriage remains a highly valued institution and that children are prepared from a very early age to project themselves in their roles as husband and wife. The nuptial dress ritual in child photography is a way of transmitting the national identity and the royal symbols and values.

Contribution: This study offers a research contribution in family photography by drawing attention on the heuristic interest of child photography as a key to understanding the social logics at work beneath the family visual practices.

Mots-clés: child photography, family album, gendered identities, marriage ideology, Morocco