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Preserving and restoring a child’s identity in intercountry adoption

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Intercountry adoption (ICA) brings about a substantial modification of the child’s identity, since it involves changes of name, nationality and family relations (Arts. 7- 8 CRC).

ICA results not only in a definitive separation of children from their biological family – including biological parents, siblings and grandparents - but also causes a break with their social and cultural environment. All these elements, which constitute the child’s identity, will undergo profound transformations.

In light of this, the question then arises as to what dual justifications could reach the benchmark of the child’s best interests as the paramount consideration, as well as the child’s right to have his or her identity preserved.

Once and only if these dual goals are achieved, would intercountry adoption be considered “sustainable” as suggested by the Conference title. Sustainable for the purpose of this presentation, is an adoption, that fully respects all rights, especially that of the child/adoptee.

It is also important to ensure the “sustainability” of past adoptions, and this will necessarily involve States taking up their responsibilities to speedily re-establish any missing/falsified elements of a child’s identity (Art. 8(2)).


About Mia Dambach

Mia Dambach is an Australian trained lawyer with 20 years experience of working on children’s rights. Starting her career as a children’s lawyer in Sydney, she moved to Switzerland, where she has had the opportunity to provide technical support through evaluation missions; mostly on behalf of UNICEF, in Cambodia, Denmark, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Sudan, Ukraine and Viet Nam, legislative reviews; and training in over 20 countries focusing on alternative care, adoption and surrogacy.

She has contributed to reforms in international standards through this technical assistance as well as comparative research on illegal adoptions, search for origins, risks of financial contributions, kafalah and was an expert to the HCCH WG on illicit adoption practices and WG on parentage/surrogacy.

She has successfully led multiple international inter-agency initiatives including three massive open online courses (MOOCs) that have reached over 50,000 participants.

Recently she co-founded Child Identity Protection as its Executive Director, an international NGO who focuses on ensuring that children’s identity rights are protected worldwide. 

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