By 1958, certain
adoption standards, taken for granted earlier in the century, were
beginning to generate considerable controversy. This selection illustrates
how the matching paradigm
had shifted and, in particular, how contested religious matching
had become. Unable to resolve deep conflicts about this issue within
the child welfare community, the Child Welfare League of America
chose to publish two statements: one endorsed by the Catholic Church,
the other by most nonsectarian, Jewish, and Protestant agencies.
Factors in Selection of Family
Consideration should be given to the following:
The parents selected for a child should be within the age range
usual for natural parents of a child of that age.
Racial background in itself should not determine the selection of
the home for a child.
It should not be assumed that difficulties will necessarily arise
if adoptive parents and children are of different racial origin.
At the present time, however, children placed in adoptive families
with similar racial characteristics, such as color, can become
more easily integrated into the average family group and community.
4.7 Interracial Background
Children of interracial background should be placed where they are
likely to adjust best. A child who appears to be predominantly white
will ordinarily adjust best in a white family, and should therefore
be placed with a family that can accept him, knowing his background.
In such situations it is desirable to have the participation
of the appropriate consultants, including a geneticist or anthropologist,
in arriving at a decision on how the child should be placed. (3.7)
In selecting a family it is necessary to consider not only the
attitude of the adoptive parents, but also that of the larger
community within which the child will be living. If a suitable
placement is not possible within a given community, the child
should be placed elsewhere. (6.10, 7.9)
4.8 National, cultural and social background
Nationality should not be a factor in the selection of an adoptive
home, except in the case of an older child who has lived with his
natural family where acquired characteristics related to nationality
may be of importance to the child.
National and cultural characteristics are not inherited but
must be learned. The adopted child acquires the cultural and social
attributes of his adoptive parents. (3.7)
The following statement is in accord with the beliefs underlying
practice in a high proportion of nonsectarian agencies, and of those
represented by the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds
and by the Department of Social Welfare, National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the USA.
In view of the differences among religious and denominational
bodies, it is difficult to suggest practices in adoption which would
completely satisfy the religious tenets of each group. It is recognized
that agencies under religious auspices may choose to establish rules
for adoption practice which satisfy their beliefs. However, inasmuch
as equality under the law is a democratic principle applying to
all religions, the beliefs of no one religious group can be rightly
imposed upon all adoption agencies, voluntary or tax-supported.
Opportunity for religious and spiritual development of the child
is essential in an adoptive home. A child should ordinarily be placed
in a home where the religion of adoptive parents is the same as
that of the child, unless the parents have specified that the child
should or may be placed with a family of another religion. Every
effort (including interagency and interstate referrals) should be
made to place the child within his own faith, or that designated
by his parents. If however such matching means that placement might
never be feasible or involves a substantial delay in placement or
placement in a less suitable home, a child’s need for a permanent
family of his own requires that consideration should then be given
to placing the child in a home of a different religion. For children
whose religion is not known, and whose parents are not accessible,
the most suitable home available should be selected.
Placement of children should not be restricted, in general, to
homes with formal church affiliations. It is recognized that a church-related
agency may need to require formal church affiliation of adoptive
parents for the children for whom it has undertaken to find homes.
Parents have the right to determine the religion in which they
wish their child to be reared. Because of this, it is presumed that
the religion of the child will be that of the parents, and in the
case of unmarried parents, that of the mother, unless the parents
specify otherwise or have given the agency permission to place the
child in a family that the agency considers best for him, although
it may be of another religion. The wishes and consent of the parents
or mother should be obtained in writing. (2.6)
The point of view of the Roman Catholic agencies differs in
certain respects from that given above and agreed upon by the other
denominational groups, and is expressed in this statement prepared
by the National Conference of Catholic Charities.
The consensus in Roman Catholic circles is that among the several
important factors that play a part in successful adoption, the weightiest,
although not the sole element, is the religious status of the couple
who wish to adopt a child. For Roman Catholics, the religious status
of the adoptive applicants is determined by the family’s acceptance
of and adherence to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,
and by the manner and degree to which the family puts such teachings
The consensus in Roman Catholic circles is that Roman Catholic
children who are to be adopted should be placed only in Roman Catholic
families. If a child is born out of wedlock, he should be placed
in a family of the same religion as his mother. Any person or agency
accepting custody or guardianship of a child who is a member, or
whose parent or parents are members of the Roman Catholic Church,
should place that child for foster care only in a family or setting
having the same religious affiliation as the child or his parents.