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
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.