When the County
of Los Angeles Department of Adoptions (then called the Bureau of
Adoptions) was established in June 1949, it was charged with the
special responsibility of finding adoptive homes for children who
are difficult to place—children of minority racial groups
or of mixed racial parentage and children with severe medical problems.
The agency services were also offered to all mothers or expectant
mothers who were considering relinquishing a child for adoption. . . .
The Department has supplanted its spotty and spasmodic recruitment
efforts with an aggressive, full-time publicity program. It has
also reconsidered a longtime policy of automatically rejecting lone
adults as potential adoptive parents. Late in 1965, it began placing
selected children for whom no other homes could be found with persons
who had no marital partner in their home.
This practice became possible because that year the California
State Department of Social Welfare revised its adoption regulations
to allow acceptance of single persons as adoptive parents. The new
policy clearly reiterated the established principle of adoption
practice that a two-parent family is the best of all possible
choices for an adoptable child, but it recognized the fact
that two-parent families could not be found for all children needing
the security of a permanent home.
In late 1965 the Los Angeles Department of Adoptions had registered
with it more than 300 children available for adoption for whom adoptive
couples were not readily available. This group included about 275
healthy Negro and part-Negro children of various ages, 60 Mexican-American
babies, 18 children of mixed racial background other than part-Negro,
and several Caucasian, Negro, and Mexican-American children who
had severe medical problems. When intensive efforts to find two-parent
adoptive homes for these children failed, the Department decided
to look into the possibility of finding them one-parent families.
The Department made its first one-parent placement in December
1965. . . . During the 2 years 1966 and 1967, the
Department placed 40 children for adoption in homes with only one
parent—approximately one-half of 1 percent of all the children
placed by the Department for adoption during that period. They were
placed with single women, divorcees, widows, and even a single man.
To learn what kind of parents these children acquired, the agency
in 1969 reviewed the records of 36 of these 40 placements. . . .
The need for children, especially boys, to have a father figure
to serve as a role model for sexual identification has been a major
reason adoption agencies have avoided placing children in one-parent
homes. . . .
The records show that the workers have paid special heed to the
availability of male companionship for both the adoptive mother
and the adopted child. Most of the 35 lone women with whom children
were placed had close male relatives interested in the adopted child—fathers,
brothers, sons, nephews, and, in a few instances, even former husbands.
Thus the children had grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, and
even adult male friends who could give them the kind of intimate
contacts needed for male identification. . . .
Two thirds of the women had been married. This prior experience
plus a yearning for the opposite sex, evident in all the mothers,
suggests that these single parents could compensate effectively
for not having a man in the home. Most of them dated regularly.
Many had interests and hobbies involving group activities that included
both sexes. Men, both in and outside their families, seemed interested
and willing to become father surrogates. . . .
Income and employment
Placing children for adoption with women who are employed full
time is another break with traditional adoption practice. But today
the working mother is commonplace. The agency has therefore not
regarded such employment as a sufficient reason for keeping a warm,
emotionally stable woman from becoming a parent of a child desperately
in need of a home of his own. It does, of course, look into the
adoptive applicant’s plan for providing child care while she
is at work. . . .
The Los Angeles County Department of Adoptions has shown that many
persons without marital partners do have a great deal to offer children
and that they will do so when given an opportunity. The review of
these 36 case records strongly suggests that the children involved
have found true “familiness.” It does not tell us, of
course, anything about how the children are responding to the experience.
Only time can tell—time for the children to grow up and for
the agency to make a careful evaluation of their adjustment at periodic
The Department is now planning such a longitudinal study. . . .
The one-parent home is just one resource for helping to close the
gap between available hard-to-place children and adoptive families.
Communities committed to the welfare of their children will explore
every feasible plan for providing children with adequate permanent
care. . . .