Needs of value. On ethics and tactics in international adoption. The role of medical conditions in intercountry adoption

By Sébastien Roux


The levels of intercountry adoption (ICA) have fallen by almost 80 percent since 2005. This decrease correlates with a shift in the kinds of children who are adopted. Today, the majority of children adopted belong to the category of “children with special needs.” While the expression covers a wide range of circumstances, most of the children suffer from a pathology or a disorder—curable or not—that significantly impacts the way in which these families are matched and formed. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in both France and Vietnam, this article examines the emerging role of medicine in the making of adoptive families, as well as the importance of the clinic in the development of family planning. By analyzing the practices and arguments of the actors involved, this contribution highlights the ambiguous process that has progressively conferred unforeseen value to traditionally less-desired children, and it examines the ways in which family lives are shaped and transformed.


  • Adoption
  • Family
  • Medicine
  • Desire
  • Institutions
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