After the Second World War many children throughout Europe found themselves without parents and without homes. With a continent in flux, adoption across borders became common, bringing with it potential problems of legal status and nationality, not to mention leaving children vulnerable to abuse or neglect. This historical footage gives a taste of the times.
The 1967 Convention on the Adoption of Children was the first treaty to tackle the issue, setting out measures to make adoption fair and compassionate. Inter-state adoptions had to go through a proper court or legal administration, they must be accepted by the natural parents and above all be in the interests of the child. An adopted child was guaranteed the same rights as a natural child and could obtain the nationality of the adoptive parents.
Over the years, there was a growth in international adoptions, often with children coming from countries such as China, South America and, in the 80s, Communist Eastern Europe. Police were often forced to tackle criminal behaviour such as trafficking and selling children. At the same time, the Human Rights Court adjudicated many cases that touched on adoption, both in a national and an inter-state context. Profound shifts were happening in our understanding of family dynamics and the importance of children’s rights. The Convention was due for an update and in 2008 a revised version improved procedures for adoption, making them more transparent, more efficient and more resistant to abuse.