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