This chapter begins by identifying those human rights that would seem to have a particular relevance for adoption. It focuses on the social role of adoption and does so by tracing its genesis in the law, policy and practice of England. The chapter considers the concept and its culture-specific determinants and also considers values and taboos, the 'blood link' and boundaries. It examines the purposes served by adoption: dealing with inheritance, kinship, welfare, step-parents and the needs of childless couples. The chapter distinguishes adoption from other legally authorised forms of alternative parenting: giving particular attention to the concept of 'permanency' and the relative merits of adoption or long-term foster care. It explains and differentiates each of the three main types of modern adoption as experienced in England and elsewhere –family, childcare and intercountry. The chapter identifies the different permutations that constitute each type, assesses their relative strengths and weaknesses, taking into account the related governing principles.