the Executive Director of the Child
Welfare League of America, wrote the following letter of protest
to the editor of the Woman’s Home Companion after
Pearl Buck’s “The Children Waiting:
The Shocking Scandal of Adoption” appeared in the September
1955 issue of that magazine.
Dear Mr. Smith:
Miss Buck’s article contains many statements which are inaccurate
and grossly misleading. We request, therefore, that this letter
be printed in a forthcoming issue [of the Woman’s Home
Companion] to correct certain misstatements which, if accepted
by your readers, would result in harm to the welfare of children. . . .
The article as at best not factual and at worst verges on the
slanderous. The general impression is that child welfare agencies
for a variety of unsupported reasons are refusing to make available
children who are clamoring for adoption. This is not true.
The following are paraphrases of some of the assertions made by
Miss Buck which we believe to be in serious error, together with
our presentation of the facts as we know them.
1) “Most children in institutions could be made available
for adoption. Their parents have abandoned them.”
REPLY: There are about 100,000 children in institutions. Less than
3 per cent are full orphans. Others have at least one living parent.
Over half of all children in institutions are returned to their
own homes after an average stay of 1.7 years away. . . .
Research studies have indicated that from 12 to 18 per cent of older
children in foster care can be made available for adoption if adoption
agencies were able to untangle the legal barriers which now hold
them and could find homes for them. These children constitute a
real and tragic problem, but the article seriously distorts the
facts by leading readers to believe that all of the children could
be placed and that institutions are not needed. . . .
2) ”Orphanages are maintained to supply jobs for staff. Institutions
keep children for selfish motives.”
REPLY: . . . A nation-wide study reveals 15 jobs
for every trained social worker in the country. It is nonsense to
state that children are being retained in institutions merely to
supply jobs for staff. Social workers can have their pick of a variety
of positions in their field.
3) “Religion is the strongest force in keeping children
from being adopted.”
REPLY: Many states have legislation requiring that children be
placed in homes of their own religious faith. Regardless of the
merit of such laws, they do not prevent children from being adopted.
Our estimates show that at least six Catholic families apply for
each Catholic child available for adoption; ten Protestant families
seek each Protestant child; and there are even more Jewish families
for every adoptable Jewish child. . . . The only
exception to this statement applies to non-white children. There
is an extreme shortages of adoptive homes for non-white children
of all faiths. . . .
The basic problem in present child welfare practices is not venality
or selfishness. It is public apathy, lack of funds, and lack of
public understanding. . . . The nation’s child
care programs reflect what the public is willing to pay for. It
is misleading to talk about this problem without discussing costs.
Good child care is not cheap. Those who know the nature of the problem
must be determined and outspoken about it. . . .
Name calling is not the answer.
Joseph H. Reid
Executive Director, Child Welfare League of America