Excerpt from Catherine S. Amatruda and Joseph V. Baldwin, “Current Adoption Practices,” 1951

In the course of these investigations, the clinic was called upon to assist in the evaluation of the child. At first the idea of indiscriminate placement of children in adoption seemed primitive. As, however, most babies are pretty normal and most people pretty decent, it became apparent that many of these placements seemed perfectly good. And then an extremely bad placement would turn up and point out that adoption is a serious matter, profoundly affecting the lives of at least three people, and that it does not seem right that it be entrusted to the law of averages. To test this point of view a series of both agency and independent adoptions was reviewed. . . .


If agency placements are so much better, then why do independent placements occur? There are many and good reasons such as ignorance of the value of the agencies, and the naïve assumption that any person who wants to adopt a baby is fit to do so. . . .

Independent placements entail a far greater risk, both to the child and to the adopting parents. The advantages to the parent are that they can get babies this way, and they can get very young babies. The only advantage to the infant is that he is placed early and thus spared possible institutional placement for long periods, or the possible necessity of making adjustments to a series of foster homes. The advantages to the natural mother are that she is relieved of the responsibility of her child, quickly, cheaply, and easily. These are some of the reasons why independent placements are made, risk or no risk. . . .


1. The present study shows that the social agencies do better adoption placements than does the well-intentioned or expedient laity.

2. Agency adoption placements are well done, on the whole, but they do not place enough babies, they do not satisfy enough adopting parents, and they work too slowly. Independent placements will continue as long as the agencies operate as they do now, which will certainly be until they have much more money and many more workers.

3. The probationary period should be, among other things, an escape clause. It should be implemented not only by the power to remove the child from the home, but by the courage to do so when necessary in the child’s behalf, over the protests of the adopting parents if need be.

4. Our efforts must continue to educate the public, which will include potential adopting parents; lay persons who tend to become involved in arranging independent placements; the legislators who frame our laws; and the courts which render decisions on each adoption situation. Thus there will be a wider understanding of the great risks involved and of what constitutes good, safe, and decent practice.

5. The alternative to a bad adoption placement is not homelessness or the orphanage but a good placement.


Source: Catherine S. Amatruda and Joseph V. Baldwin, “Current Adoption Practices,”Journal of Pediatrics 38, no. 2 (February 1951):208-212.

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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) 346-3699
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
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