Institutions informally adopted out children as well, a mechanism treated as a way to obtain cheap labor, demonstrated by the fact that when the adopted died, their bodies were returned by the family to the institution for burial.
This system of apprenticeship and informal adoption extended into the 19th century, today seen as a transitional phase for adoption history.
This created the first system in European history in which abandoned children did not have legal, social, or moral disadvantages.
As a result, many of Europe's abandoned and orphaned children became alumni of the Church, which in turn took the role of adopter.
English Common Law, for instance, did not permit adoption since it contradicted the customary rules of inheritance.
In the same vein, France's Napoleonic Code made adoption difficult, requiring adopters to be over the age of 50, sterile, older than the adopted person by at least 15 years, and to have fostered the adoptee for at least six years.
Modern systems of adoption, arising in the 20th century, tend to be governed by comprehensive statutes and regulations.
Evidence suggests the goal of this practice was to ensure the continuity of cultural and religious practices; in contrast to the Western idea of extending family lines.Adoption was a customary practice of the Roman empire that enabled peaceful transitions of power The Code of Hammurabi, for example, details the rights of adopters and the responsibilities of adopted individuals at length.The practice of adoption in ancient Rome is well documented in the Codex Justinianus.Under the direction of social welfare activists, orphan asylums began to promote adoptions based on sentiment rather than work; children were placed out under agreements to provide care for them as family members instead of under contracts for apprenticeship.The growth of this model is believed to have contributed to the enactment of the first modern adoption law in 1851 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, unique in that it codified the ideal of the "best interests of the child." Despite its intent, though, in practice, the system operated much the same as earlier incarnations.