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(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.