In this excerpt,
the General Secretary of the Michigan Children’s Aid Society
expressed views that predominated among early twentieth-century
child welfare professionals and reformers. Adoption was extremely
risky and should therefore be safeguarded and held to a set of minimum
standards in law and social practice. The assertion that illegitimacy
mental defect—were closely related was also a common theme
among eugenicists. In contrast
to commercial baby farmers,
sentimental child-placers, and other amateurs who “disposed”
of babies on the basis of personal whim or religious bias, Stoneman
suggested that science offered the only safe approach to adoption.
He envisioned family-making as an operation characterized by thorough
fact-gathering, keen observation, close supervision, and careful
attention to the individual factors at play in each and every case.
By far the greatest problems and dangers connected with adoptions
center around illegitimacy. The large proportion of adopted children
always has been and still is of illegitimate birth. Ignorance of
essential facts is the great peril in most adoptions of illegitimate
children. The children are born in mystery and disposed of permanently
while still too young to show signs of future capacity. . . .
The placers of these babies are optimists, do you say? But their
optimism is based on wishes rather than facts, and therefore is
counterfeit. . . . Heretofore too much of the policy
for dealing with such social cases has been based on sentiment,
prejudice, and convention. Too often the plan for the child grows
out of the personal opinion of the social or religious worker as
to what ought to be done with “such” children. There
is usually a favorite and customary method of solving this type
of human problem, peculiar to the particular person or institution.
Social workers must adopt a saner policy. Call it a more scientific
method. It means greater reliance on the facts and knowledge of
circumstances in each particular case as the only dependable basis
for making a plan for the child.
It means learning the truth about the mother and the father and
their families; the physical and mental calibre of each; the attitude
of each toward the child and its future; the material and personal
resources available for the child’s care; and all the information
possible in regard to the personal condition and capacities of the
child. . . . No two cases are quite alike. How unwise
and unethical then it is for social workers to allow themselves
to be predetermined in their policies. How dare one decide on a
plan to dispose of a child when the case is still undeveloped and
the truth of the situation yet undiscovered?
With our present knowledge of biology and heredity we seem justified
in general not to offer for adoption the child of feebleminded parentage. . . .
The one thing we must do is to ban ignorance as disgraceful; and
to exalt accuracy and integrity.