We all know about the horrors of the Baby Scoop Era, where if you were a white woman (not a black woman, because there was no market for black babies) with no family support, you were often herded into surrendering your baby for adoption.
” … Black single mothers were expected to keep their babies as most unwed mothers, black and white, had done throughout American history. Unmarried white mothers, for the first time in American history, were expected to put their babies up for adoption. …” (Solinger, p. 149)
But what is little known is that at the end of the BSE, the dropping number of babies being surrendered led to a panic in the adoption industry. The growing number of abortions post Roe-v-Wade led to conservative governments reacting with alarm. These forces together led to a well-funded campaign to get more babies to market. Yes, literally. Much federal funding went into research on how to accomplish this (and still does). I discussed some of the resulting research on open adoption in an earlier post, “Open Adoption: They Knew it Would Work,” but there was a second prong to this pro-adoption initiative as well: curing the “social ill” of single and young parenting.
Natural mothers from the BSE never stood a chance. But the adoption industry during the BSE relied on overt coercion to get the product to market. As the supply of “product” dried up, the industry became more sophisticated. They researched how to get more mothers to surrender. Mothers who were forced to surrender during the BSE have solid claims to injustice. But mothers who surrendered after the BSE often did so because of research on how to get them to surrrender. Like the mothers of the BSE, most of these mothers also did not stand a chance.
These quotes are from some articles published by those researchers, explaining *why* they were doing the research on how to obtain more babies for adoption:
“It is the intent of the current administration to promote adoption among adolescent mothers. This intent comes at a time when many adolescent mothers are choosing to raise their babies born out of wedlock, a trend that has increased during the last decade.” (Resnick, 1984)
“It maybe that open adoption policies … can result in greater consideration of adoption by some adolescents who currently keep and raise their babies.” (Kallen, Griffore, Popovich, & Powell, 1990)
“… it is important to continue to achieve higher adoption rates among teenage parents …” (Hanson, 1990, pp. 639-40)
“For many reasons, there is an urgency in convincing pregnant adolescents to place their babies for adoption.” (Hanson, 1990, p. 640)
“By being able to point out strengths and weaknesses, and applying grounded intervention strategies, we may be able to effect higher adoption rates for adolescents who give birth” (Hanson, 1990, p. 641)
“The multifaceted problems associated with teenage pregnancy and parenting have become an agenda item for federal, state, and community action, resulting in a growing number of research and service initiatives …One recent federal strategy has been to advocate adoption as an alterative to either abortion or child rearing for young adolescents.” (Resnick, Blum, Bose, Smith & Toogood, 1990)
“It is reasonable to expect that a number of the difficulties associated with adolescent childbearing would be ameliorated if a child were released for adoption.” (Donnelly and Voydanoff, 1991, p. 414)
“The decision to release is one way of reducing the many social and economic problems associated with adolescent parenthood” (Donnelly and Voydanoff, 1991, p. 410)
“The Omnibus Budge Reconcilation Act (1981) and supporting research grants (Federal Register, 1982, 1983) have been directed toward furthering adoption as an alternative to abortion.” – (Sobol & Daly, 1992)
“Both private organizations and the federal government have promoted adoption as an alternative to abortion. When an unwanted or mistimed pregnancy occurs, adoption may serve the interests of the child, the biological mother, and the adoptive family” (Bachrach, Stolley, & London, 1992, p. 27)
“There is a strong interest in programs that encourage adoption as a preferred resolution for both mother and infant. …Because placement for adoption is typically an unusual choice for a pregnant adolescent, the development of efficacious programs to promote the adoption choice necessarily depends on expanded knowledge of the predictors of placement and the processes involved in the decision to place or parent.” (Dworkin, Harding & Schreiber, 1993, p. 76)
“… pregnant young women with no prior exposure may be less likely to choose adoption because they never consider the option for themselves, rather than because they consider and reject it based on their attitudes. This line of reasoning suggests that some form of adoption socialization may be necessary … Considering that most young women will not receive the prior personal exposure in their childhood families, a suitable alternative may be pregnancy-resolution counseling. Providing young women access to peers who have chosen adoption may be one way of achieving this goal.” (Namerow, Kalmuss, Cushman, 1993)
“Our results indicate that it would be in the best interests of these women for pregnancy counsellors to fully and fairly discuss the adoption option.”(Namerow, Kalmuss, & Cushman, 1997)
” … the results will assist helping professionals increase the frequency with which they encourage thoughtful consideration of adoption” [by unmarried mothers] (Custer, 1993)
“… a fair consideration of adoption is often overlooked in pregnancy counselling” (Leon, 1999)
“Since adoption can solve both personal and societal problems, it is important to identify salient variables related to the perceptions of pregnant adolescents while in the process of deciding to keep or place their baby (Moore and Davidson, 2002, p. 29)
“… In promoting research-based, empirically-validated adoption education as a priority in the lives of young female and male adolescents, professionals have the potential to effect change in the social, economic, and intellectual fabric of our time. (Ibid, p. 39)
Given this research and the momentum behind it, does anyone really, truly, still believe that there is a level playing field for any young expectant mother who is considering adoption? Does anyone really believe that she is making a totally informed decision with complete freedom of choice?
Bachrach, C., Stolley, K., & London, K. (1992). Relinquishment of premarital births: Evidence from national survey data. Family Planning Perspectives, 24, 27-48.
Custer, M. (1993). Adoption as an option for unmarried pregnant teens. Adolescence, 28, 891-902.
Donnelly, B., & Voydanoff, P. (1991). Factors associated with releasing for adoption among adolescent mothers. Family Relations, 40(4), 404-410.
Dworkin, R., Harding, J., & Schreiber, N. (1993). Parenting or placing: Decision making by pregnant teens. Youth and Society, 25, 75-92.
Hanson, R. (1990). Initial parenting attitudes of pregnant adolescents and a comparison decision about adoption. Adolescence, 25, 629-43.
Kallen, D. J., Griffore, R. J., Popovich, S., & Powell, V. (1990). Adolescent mothers and their mothers view adoption. Family Relations, 30, 331-316.
Leon. I. G. (1999). The role of the obstetric caregiver in adoption. Primary Care Update for Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 6(4), 125-131.
Moore, N., & Davidson, J. K. (2002). A profile of adoption placers: Perceptions of pregnant teens during the decision-making process. Adoption Quarterly, 6(2), 29-41.
Namerow, P. B., Kalmuss, D., & Cushman, L. F. (1993). The determinants of young women’s pregnancy-resolution choices. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 3(2), 193-215.
Resnick, M. (1984). Studying adolescent mothers’ decision making about adoption and parenting. Social Work, 29, 5-10.
Resnick, M., Blum, R., Bose, J., Smith, M., & Toogood, R. (1990). Characteristics of unmarried adolescent mothers: Determinants of child rearing versus adoption. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 60(4), 577-584.
Sobol, M., & Daly, K. (1992). The adoption alternative for pregnant adolescents: Decision making, consequences, and policy implications. Journal of Social Issues, 48(3), 143-161.
Solinger, R. (2000). Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade. (p. 149)
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