Charles E. Brown, “Agency Seeks Homes for Negro Kids, Single Persons May Adopt,” 1966

Source: Viola W. Bernard Papers,  Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University

Walter A. Heath, Director of the Los Angeles County Bureau of Adoptions, talking to a potential single adoptive parent.

This excerpt illustrates the direct links between the origins of single parent adoptions, African-American adoptions, and transracial adoptions.

Adoption officials in Los Angeles County, for the first time, are seeking single persons—specifically Negroes—who wish to adopt a child.

Since the program was approved last year, three one-parent adoptions—two Negroes and one Caucasian—have been approved.

According to Walter A. Heath, director of adoptions for the county, no other agency in the country has undertaken such a program. However, there have been “unique” instances where single persons—usually relatives—have been permitted to adopt, he said.

The “single parent” program is intended to provide a home for “hard-to-place children.” Negro children are hardest to place. Heath said there are 275 Negro children “growing up in foster homes” while virtually no white children are available for adoption.

“We want to find permanent, secure homes for all our children,” Heath said. He added that the agency prefers placing children where there are two parents “but one parent is better than none.”

The Child Welfare League of America, which sets national adoption standards does “not now contemplate adoptions by unmarried persons,” but the subject is under study, it was reported. League approval could cause the idea to spread to other areas of the country, thereby sharply reducing the number of unadopted Negro children.

“The most important qualifications to adopt,” Heath said, “are love of children, a happy home, reasonably good health, a good outlook and the ability to love a child not born into the family.”

The important thing for the children, as Heath sees it, is that they have a family of their own. He feels “it’s devastating” to watch youngsters grow up moving in a succession of foster homes and institutions. “We don’t want that to happen to our kids,” he said.

Under Heath’s direction, the Los Angeles agency has placed more Negro children than any in U.S. history. After he joined the agency in 1952, 52 Negroes were adopted; last year 199 were given homes. In 1965, too, 14 “part-Negro” children were adopted by white families.

The county, said Heath, has no racial policy. “But,” he added, “we try to give parents the kind of children they want.”

“Most families want children who are like them.” Heath said, to his knowledge, two children classified as white have been adopted by Negroes.

Although he is attempting to place older children in “single parent” homes, Heath stated that some infants will go to them.

There are 25 applicants awaiting the agency’s approval to become parents. Most of the anxious, would-be parents are single, Heath said.

 

Source: Charles E. Brown, “Agency Seeks Homes for Negro Kids, Single Persons May Adopt,” 1966, newspaper clipping, probably the New York Times, Viola Bernard Papers, Box 64, Folder 7, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University.

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
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