Adopt-A-Child, Confidential Report, December 19, 1955

 

Source: Child Welfare League of America Papers, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota

From an Adopt-A-Child brochure designed to recruit African-American adoptive parents

Source: National Urban League Papers, Library of Congress

PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY ADOPT-A-CHILD IN ITS RELATIONSHIPS WITH AFFILIATED ADOPTION AGENCIES

I. Difference in definition of “Negro.”

There is a sharp dichotomy between what a Negro considers to be a “Negro” and what a white person considers as “Negro.”

In general, the former defines “Negro” in broad terms, not so much on physical likeness, but what the individual and his family, and the general community conceives him to be. Thus, an individual may be a biological or sociological Negro. The biological Negro possesses the general physical characteristics which are considered to be negroid, while the sociological Negro may have the physical characteristics of a Caucasian, but—because of a Negro foreparent—he/or the community identify him with the Negro race.

On the other hand, the white community initially identifies a Negro by the generally accepted physical characteristics of high color visibility, texture of hair, and features.

In most cases, when a Negro asks the question, “Will an adoption agency place a Negro child with a white family?”, he is really referring to the placement of a child who is a sociological Negro. When the agency is confronted with this question, its mind-picture of a Negro child is one who is considered a “Negro” according to the general interpretation of our society.

There is another dimension to this paradox—the racial designation given to the Puerto Rican. Officially the Puerto Rican child is considered white despite recent or past acknowledgement of Negro parents or grandparents. Again, when a Negro asks, “Will an agency place a Puerto Rican or white child with a Negro family?”, he generally has in mind the Negro who is physically white or predominantly physically white.

It is common knowledge that the only legal barrier to adoption in New York State is religion. In spite of the agencies’ policy of “Blending” a child physically and emotionally with the adoptive parents, there is feeling in the Negro community that agencies apply extra-legal barriers when there is a difference in race. Therefore, a very fair Negro child, or family’s opportunities would be limited because of the agencies’ lack of awareness and understanding of the facts and the meaning of the varying attitudes toward “race” and culture.

Another aspect of the problem of “race” is related to the Negro’s dissatisfaction with his second-class status. Very often he will raise the foregoing questions to test the adoption agencies’ practice of democratic principles of fair play and equality of opportunity. Discussions in the Executive Committee meeting concerning the adoption agencies’ policy relating to the placement of Negro children with white families (and vice-versa) produced significant reactions. Some of the agency executives had strong objections to the encouragement of this practice. In their opinion, adoption was being used to foster integration. The adoption process was a very personal relationship and the personality of the child so important, that their involvement in the fight for integration was unfair to the family and to the child.

It is highly probable that these persons have confused the meaning of integration with their fear of racial amalgamation.

Although integration does not exclude amalgamation, this is a minor factor in the general concept of integration based on the Supreme Court decision. In this frame of reference, integration is conceived as the embodiment of our democratic ideals and practices.

Significantly, the fear of using “adoption to foster integration” is generally raised by a white member of the Executive Committee. A similar reaction is prevalent in the present struggle for unsegregated housing and schools. The question is asked by whites, “Would you want your daughter to marry a Negro?”

Finally, the interracial and white couples who wish to adopt racially mixed children are considered as “problems” by some of the agencies and are discouraged from pursuing adoptions. They are “encouraged to withdraw”; a devious tactic used by the adoption agencies to eliminate a family gracefully. This will be discussed at another point.

II. Need for greater flexibility in standards.

Although many of our adoption agencies have become more flexible in considering applicants for the adoptions of “hard to place” children, there is need for even greater flexibility of standards in light of the adverse socioeconomic circumstances faced by Negroes and Puerto Ricans. Low incomes, poor housing, overcrowding due to discrimination and segregation imposed by our society are but a few of the problems.

Thus, the working wife, families living in concentrated and congested areas, advanced age of couples applying for adoption are some of the realities which the adoption agencies must accept when considering Negro and Puerto Rican families for adoption. This does not refer to the lowering of necessary standards which relate to the health and emotional tone of the couple. It refers to the acceptance of the socio-economic realities in which people must live, and where we find them.

 

Source: Adopt-A-Child, Confidential Report, “Problems Encountered by Adopt-A-Child in Its Relationships With the Affiliated Adoption Agencies,” December 19, 1955, National Urban League Papers, Box 1, Folder: “Adopt-A-Child, Reports,” 1-3, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.

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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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