I appreciate the privilege of talking
before this assembly of judges on the important problem of child
adoption, a problem over which you have such fundamental and far-reaching
control. I am especially glad that under the circumstances of your
invitation, I can speak to you as a citizen of Connecticut rather
than as an official of any organization. As director of a clinic
for children I have had unusual opportunities to see the social
significance of the whole problem of dependent, neglected, uncared
for and illegitimate children. In the past ten years our clinic
at Yale University has made careful and repeated mental examinations
of over 1,500 such children prior to their placement in foster homes
or institutions. The cases are referred by social agencies seeking
diagnosis and advice. (Incidentally I should say that this work
has been done as a public service by the University, without any
cost to the taxpayers of the State.) . . .
For public and social reasons it seem especially important at this
time to emphasize the solemn responsibilities of the court in this
matter of child adoption. Abuses are unnecessary because the demand
for adoptive children far exceeds the supply. It so far exceeds
that the state is now in an excellent position to insist on high
standards of adoption procedure.
I think that we are all agreed that the restrictions upon adoption
should not be too severe, too stiff, too clumsy. We do not believe
in undue red tape or undue publicity. We should think of adoption
as a social resource which needs conservation. There are too many
poor adoptions; not enough good ones. There are too many tardy adoptions,
unnecessarily delayed because the foster children have been kept
for years in boarding homes, or in the county “temporary”
homes. The Bureau of Child Welfare of our State has in the last
six years placed only 31 children in adoption. Many people think
that social agencies have often been too strict, too inflexible
in their well intentioned methods. Practical people point out that
every good adoption of a young dependent child saves the state many
thousands of dollars in sheer maintenance expense.
The human values are beyond computation. Every good adoption makes
a very rich addition to the sum of happiness. On the other hand,
few things in life can cause more intense suffering than a botched
adoption—heartaches for the adult; injustice and emotional
distortion for the child. . . .
The state legislature created the institution of child adoption
and created the court to put that institution into effect. Adoption
is not merely a legal proceeding. It is an act of social adjustment.
In last analysis the court is the most responsible participant in
that act of adjustment. Social agents, public and private, through
investigation and supervision must lend their assistance to make
the adoptions safe and sound. But these agents are in essence servants
of the court, aiding it to judge the merits of the issue. It is
a court of petition, of examination, of decree. The child himself
is mute and without defense. Only after he is fourteen years old
is his signature demanded. His natural parents, his relative, the
petitioning foster parents, their advisors, and their lawyers are
adults. They speak for themselves and for their own interests. The
child cannot speak except through an investigation of the court,
delegated or otherwise. Complete justice to the child demands such
investigation prior to the final decree.
Connecticut needs a simple law which will make investigation and
probation mandatory and a matter of course. The public will support
such a law. They will regard it as a strengthening of the authority
of the court, not a limitation of its power.
Illegitimate births are on the increase, broken homes are on the
increase, childless homes and child-rejection are on the increase.
So is child adoption. Child adoption concerns the fundamentals of
family life. For civic, as well as humane reasons, we need additional
safe-guards under vigilant court control, here in Connecticut.