In contrast to the historical ‘blank slate’ approach to adoption, current policy places significant emphasis on providing children with knowledge; family history; biological connections; stories, a genealogy upon which to establish an authentic identity. The imperative for this complex, and often incomplete, genealogy is also explicit within the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption established in 1993 to ensure that intercountry adopted children will be provided with a genealogical ‘heritage’. Yet, despite the recurring dominance of this approach, ‘heritage’ remains an ambiguous dictum which holds the expectation that adopted children should have access to any available birth/first family information and acquire cultural competence about an often distant and removed birth country. Providing such heritage becomes the responsibility of intercountry adoptive parents. It is therefore unsurprising that this role has become part of how intercountry adoptive parents perform and display their parenting and family practices before and after adoption (Richards 2014a; 2018). Such family work is explicit in the stories that parents and children coconstruct about birth family, abandonment, China, and the rights of adopted children to belong first and foremost to a birth country. Using qualitative data provided by a social worker, eleven girls aged between five and twelve, and their parents, this article explores the role and changing significance of narratives as familial strategies for delivering such heritage obligations. Outlined in this discussion is the compulsion to provide a genealogical heritage by adoptive parents which can ultimately be resisted by their daughters as they seek alternative and changing narratives through which to construct their belongings and identities.
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