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HISTORY OF ADOPTION IN THE UNITED STATES


THE HISTORY OF SINGLE PARENT ADOPTIONS - continued

This ideal made single applicants for adoption abnormal by definition. If they wanted children so badly, why weren't they married? Who would take care of children whose single mother worked for a living? What would become of children, especially boys, who grew up without fathers? In 1958, the adoption standards issued by the Child Welfare League of America stated simply that adoptive families should include both a mother and a father. No mention was made of single parents at all.

In the popular imagination, unmarried adults figured as birth parents, not adopters. The stigma attached to illegitimacy could be reason enough for unwed mothers to surrender children to married couples who could, at least, legitimize their birth status. Why heap more shame on unlucky bastards by having them adopted by single parents?

Still, single parents did adopt prior to the 1960s, although there is no way of knowing how many. The number was probably small. We know very little about who these adopters were or what kind of children they took in, although it is certain that most were women and probable that they adopted more relatives (i.e., nieces and nephews) than unrelated children. Adoption statistics offer few clues.

Systematic efforts to recruit single parents began only in the 1960s, initiated by advocates of the special needs revolution in adoption. These advocates insisted that children who were hard to place should have equal opportunities to grow up in families in spite of their mental or physical disabilities, advanced ages, minority or mixed-race status, or a combination of these factors. Many potential adopters, however, were looking for healthy white infants, and these private preferences slowed the practical progress of special needs adoptions, as did agency policies that favored or limited placements to infertile couples.

 

From: The Adoption History Project website www.uoregon.edu/~adoption/index.html Used With Permission.

 

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