Adoption: Getting more babies to market

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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)

Copyright 2009


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13 thoughts on “Adoption: Getting more babies to market

    Margie said:
    January 17, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    This is exactly what I have thought, but have never had any proof of. And it sure explains why it’s nearly impossible to disconnect adoption policy from abortion policy. I’d be really interested in your thoughts on where we are on this right now, and where you think we’re headed.


    Cassi said:
    January 19, 2009 at 5:00 am

    As a mom who lost her son to adoption, it is, honestly, so hard to read these facts.
    To read this makes me angry and hurt. How could anyone do this to another human being? How could they take advantage of them? Use them and mislead them? And of all things, call and claim it okay, and necessary, in the end?
    And I don’t understand why a majority still supports adoption, even after many of them learn such facts. What is in our make-up that we can look past this and still find justification to cause such harm and grief to mother and child and call it something that must be done to “cure” or “heal” some mislead and misguided need in our culture?
    Oh, the answers and undestanding I wish I had.

    PJ said:
    January 19, 2009 at 5:04 am

    I hope in the future that more emphasis will be placed on education so that both young women and men become better at parenting. Then if we can make more financial support, prenatal care and childcare available to all parents who need those services, we will reduce adoptions.

    Of course, I dream that agencies would be monitored more closely and that the money they make from bullying young girls into relinquishing would be publicized in full so that people not versed in the ways of the adopters could understand what’s happening behind the scenes of the happy adoptive family, but I don’t really think that’s going to happen.

    This story that just happened in WA State gives evidence that young children are still being taken from their families and given to others. It’s a mindset that’s hard to overcome. TG this one had a happy ending; so many don’t.

    The Improper Adoptee said:
    January 19, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    The more I learn about the Adoption System, the sicker I feel….

    Myst said:
    January 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Its sick to know and see evidence that this was planned… that they actively sought to part babies from their mothers. So inhumane. This is what needs to be out there so it never happens again… people need to understand the brain washing that has occurred across society to lead them to believe adoption is best.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    Carol said:
    January 21, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Yes, it is sick and sad that women here are around the world are preyed upon. Would you email me? I am considering returning to school in a year or two and would like to have your opinion on something.

    yourstruely said:
    February 2, 2009 at 1:08 am


    They do it because they can women preying on vulnerable women. It disgusting, but most adoptrers don’t think one minute about what they do just as long as they get a baby any baby.

    Mine was taken in 66 along with millions of other young women who were led to slaughter for the
    loving act of adoption.

    Jade said:
    February 9, 2009 at 1:01 am

    I just want to post a comment about the statement about black mothers. Slavery, was legal and flourishing in north america for well over 400 years. people were taken and bought and sold all the time. I spent a great deal of time researching black history and it has given me a greater understanding of adoption over the last 100 years.during slave times, some negroes were forced to breed, depending on their physical sizes and iq’s, in order to give ‘good stock’ to slave owners. as soon as the babies were old enough, they too were sold. black women were breeders to slave traders for years. by the time the civil rights movement started, and because of the slavery, black families and communities were tight nit, partly cultural and partly because of slavery and by that time, if mom couldnt parent an aunty or extended family would step in.
    adoption IS modern day slavery inflicted on white women and in recent years is now affecting women of all colors all over the world. it is the buying, selling and owning of babies and children as property and not much has changed in that respect. we simply accept the myths and lies we are sold and also north american white families do not have the roots, social communities and plus white babies catch a heavy price.

    Von said:
    November 17, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Adoption in some parts of the world is dying because it isn’t commercial and a thriving industry as it is in America.Buying and selling has always been part of what America excels at and it applies to the adoption industry where the same techniques are used as in other commerce.Agency workers are trained in selling techniques tailored for the industry.Adoption has steadily become normalised, witness the TV programs and movies which indicate it is now accepted by the public.When that happens it will be very difficult to change and will take a long time.
    Great post, very illuminating quotes!

    Melynda said:
    January 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I needed to re-read this post this morning. I have been struggling with defining my responsibility in the loss of my daughter to adoption in 1993. Was it really my choice? Did I really have all the information? If, not why? Who controlled it and why didn’t they share it with me?

    So many questions but I am beginning to see much more clearly: I didn’t stand a chance against the LDS church and LDSFS in 1993.

    teddy1975 said:
    January 25, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I would guess not, not a free, well informed , well thought out choice.
    No, you did not.
    Would you tell a pig what is happening in the slaughterhouse?

    I guess you would have stood a perfect chance, if you had been aware that you had to choose between your daughter’s interests and your religion’s.

    […] [34] Adoption Critique, (2008), ‘Open Adoption: They knew it would work’, Retrieved 3 December, 2011 from  Adoption Critique, ‘Adoption: Getting more babies to market’ (2009). Retrieved 3 December, 2011 from […]

    […] [34] Adoption Critique, (2008), ‘Open Adoption: They knew it would work’, Retrieved 3 December, 2011 from  Adoption Critique, ‘Adoption: Getting more babies to market’ (2009). Retrieved 3 December, 2011 from […]

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