The phenomenon of Intercountry Adoption was established in the 1970s, and gave way to an increase in the practice of newborn children from third-world countries being made available to couples in first-world countries. Brazil became an important country of origin for Intercountry Adoption.

Predominantly childless couples from prosperous “receiving” countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA were interested in adopting a baby from Brazil. In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, large numbers of foreign couples came from their home countries to Brazil in search of babies to adopt (illegally). Peaking in the mid 1980s, many Israeli couples also acquired Brazilian babies.

Until 1985 Brazil was ruled by military dictatorships. These regimes did not adequately address the problems of pregnant women who did not have the support of the father of their child. In some cases, this meant that Brazilian mothers were forced to abandon their child after birth. Unfortunately, this did not always happen with the mother’s consent. Until the mid 1980s, the number of official Intercountry Adoptions from Brazil was very limited; the official procedures were bound to strict rules and regulations, which made it virtually impossible for most foreign couples to officially adopt a baby or a child from Brazil.

Nonetheless, in these days, Intercountry Adoption was regarded as a solution both for the Brazilian mothers and their children, as well as for the foreign couples, whose desire was to raise a Brazilian newborn. The parties involved in the Intercountry Adoption processes at this time used public opinion to justify their activities. Whereas, Intercountry Adoption should indeed have been complying with the applicable international human rights declarations. The future consequences and difficulties the Brazilian adoptees might face in their adult life as a result of their adoption were not being taken into consideration by most parties involved in the decision-making processes leading to Intercountry Adoption from Brazil.

Overall, currently available evidence suggests the prevailing belief in those days to have the right to a child, together with the limited international human rights instruments in place to protect the rights of both the mother and their child, led in many cases to the practice of illegal adoption from Brazil.

Note that, in many cases, the Brazilian mothers were insufficiently or even falsely informed about the fate of their child. Moreover, they were essentially left without any option; due to circumstances giving up their child for Intercountry Adoption was their last resort.

There are cases in which the mother was told her baby died during childbirth, while in reality her baby was sold for illegal adoption.

These circumstances led to numerous Brazilian newborns being trafficked for illegal adoption. These cases, known as the Brazil Baby Affair, are characterized by the fact that the newborns were intentionally deprived of their right to identity, in the same way, from the same country, during the same period of time.

The deprivation of the right to identity occurred through false registration of a Brazilian baby as the biological child of a foreign couple. By registering a Brazilian baby as their own, they erased any reference to the baby’s original identity.

The foreign couples were also, to a certain extent, left in the dark about the true origins of their adoptive child.

In some cases were the foreign couples not upfront and, or, fully aware about how their future adoptive child would eventually become legally theirs. In all of these cases the foreign couples eventually turned a blind eye to the details of these practices.