Social Transactions or Christian Ministry?: International and Customary Adoption in Vanuatu


orphan crisis


The recent surge of Western interest in international adoption has arrived in the South Pacific. Yet the Christian faith, despite disparate views about adoption, has required both expatriate and Melanesian families to consider, or sometimes reconsider, their own parameters for the adoption or placement of children.   Orphan care has become a top social issue especially for Christians in recent decades. However, international adoptions are costly in terms of time and money, and are often at the nexus of these diverging values and conceptualizations. All parties involved can find the process frustrating and disillusioning, even if the end goal is noble and satisfying. In fact, adoption “as a norm” in Vanuatu can positively shape western understandings of adoption. In some ways, ni-Vanuatu conventions regarding jural inclusivity and exchange are closer to biblical ideas of family, kinning, and adoption. This article should familiarize people from “receiving countries” with customary adoption in the Pacific, and should help Melanesians understand the hurdles involved in international adoption. Hopefully, a path can be forged for international adoptions to be arranged such that the best interest of all parties is served.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2020 Kenneth Nehrbass, Daniel Nehrbass