Adoption involves becoming a parent through a legal and social process rather than through a biological process. For the child, adoption involves a permanent change in family affiliation. It is an ancient process of providing children for childless parents and parents for parentless children. Adoption provides permanent substitute care for the child when his natural parents are unable or unwilling to care for him and have been legally freed of any ties to the child. The effect of adoption is to create a new parent-child unit. According to the old Roman legal code, "Adoption imitates nature." According to the Greeks, "Adoption is a method of demanding from religion and law that which nature had denied" ( Hastings, 1908, p. 107). A more formal definition of adoption suggests that "It entails the extinction of all present or future rights and obligations of the natural parents of the child and the transfer, by administrative or legal authority, of all these rights and obligations to a married couple who have no blood relationship with the child" ( Toussieng, 1960, p. 63).
Biological parenthood cannot be shared. Psychosocial parenthood, however, is a complex of rights and obligations that can be "shared, acceded to, delegated, surrendered, or otherwise circulated among [different people] according to specific rules" ( Carroll, 1970, p. 8).
All of the ancient peoples--the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans--sanctioned adoption. The Bible speaks of it. Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses and Mordecai adopted Esther. The Code of Hammurabi mentions adoption and the protection that should be given the adoptive parent. Sargon, King of Babylonia, circa 2800 B.C., was adopted. The inscription that tells his story reads:
Sargon, the mighty king, King of Akkad, am I. My mother was a vestal, my father I knew not. . . . In my city, Azupirani, which is situated on the bank of the Euphrates, my mother, the vestal, bore me. In a hidden place she brought me forth. She laid me in a vessel made of reeds, closed my door with pitch, and dropped me down into the river, which did not drown me. The river carried me to Akki, the water carrier. Akki the water carrier lifted me up in the kindness of