Clarence Fischer, “Homes For Black Children,” 1970

Source: Andrew Billingsley and Jeanne M. Giovannoni, Children of the Storm: Black Children and American Child Welfare (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), 138.

Members of the Child Placing and Adoption Committee of the New York State Charities Aid Association in the 1950s. The agency's Interracial Committee on Adoptive Homefinding was founded by Sophie van Senden Theis in 1939, making it one of the first programs in the country to systematically locate black homes for black children.

May 27, 1970, was an historic date for social work in Detroit. On this date the 100th child was placed by Homes for Black Children. This was over three months prior to the date set to achieve the goal and was less than one year from the time the first staff member joined the program. Following are some reflections on why we believe it has been successful.

The staffing consists of a program director, five social workers, and two secretaries. We have two white caseworkers and the rest of the staff are black. The publicity had to be built around a black program director for a positive response from the black community. Having a black receptionist to answer the phone and welcome families into the office also seems to have a major impact. While it seems to be essential for the majority of staff to be black, and particularly the program director and receptionist, we are aware of no particular problems in having some white staff members.

We have done no recruitment of applicants, beyond utilizing the excellent cooperation offered by the mass media. We have actually found it necessary to low-key our publicity, to avoid becoming overwhelmed with applicants. Long waiting lists must be avoided as a quick response is essential. We believe we could recruit enough black families in the Detroit area to keep 20 social workers busy.

Only one of the 100 placements has been with a white family. We quickly found we could recruit more white applicants than we could utilize so we started referring all white families to other agencies. It was believed that white families could more easily accept referral and be comfortable with the adoption process in other agencies, which in most cases were designed for white families. It was also possible to refer most black Catholic families to Catholic social services. This referral of applicants corresponds with a desire to assist all agencies in expanding services for black children.

Recruitment aimed at eliciting sympathy is completely ineffectual in the black community. Some adoption publicity is highly insulting and derogatory to the black community, particularly the publicity which in effect says black families aren’t interested in adoption and white families are. We try to build our newspaper articles and news releases around the concept that black families have always adopted at a much higher rate than white families, although the arrangements have usually been informal. Recruiting, based on demonstrated concern and love for children by the black community, obtains the best results.

 

Source: Clarence D. Fischer, “Homes for Black Children, Part II,” Lutheran Social Welfare 10 (Fall 1970).

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
(541) 346-3118
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
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