- Baby scoop era
The term Baby Scoop Era refers to the period of time starting after the end of
World War IIand ending in 1972[ [http://www.babyscoopera.com The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative] ] , characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of newborn adoption. From approximately 1940to 1970, it is estimated that up to four million mothers in the United Statessurrendered newborn babies to adoption; two million during the 1960s alone. Annual numbers for non-relative adoptions increased from an estimated 33,800 in 1951 to a peak of 89,200 in 1970, then quickly declined to an estimated 47,700 in 1975. [Pelton, L. (1988). "The Institution of Adoption: Its Sources and Perpetuation" in "Infertility and Adoption, A Guide for Social Work Practice", Deborah Valentine, Editor. (pp. 88-89)] [ [http://www.uoregon.edu/~adoption/archive/MazaAT.htm Maza, P.L. (1984). Adoption trends: 1944-1975.] Child Welfare Research Notes #9. Washington, DC: Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, 1984.] This does not include the number of infants adopted and raised by relatives. [ibid] In contrast, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that only 14,000 infants were "voluntarily" surrendered in 2003. [ [http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/s_place.cfmU.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway (2005). Voluntary Relinquishment for Adoption: Numbers and Trends] ] .
This period of history has been documented in scholarly books such as "Wake Up Little Suzie" and "Beggars And Choosers", both by historian Rickie Sollinger; and social histories such as "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler, a professor of photography at the [http://www.risd.edu/pdf/facts/photography.pdf Rhode Island School of Design] who also exhibited an art installation by the same title. It is also the theme of the documentary "Gone To A Good Home" by
Beginning in the 1940s and
1950s, illegitimacybegan to be defined in terms of psychological deficits on the part of the mother. [Solinger, R. (2000). "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade." (p. 88)] At the same time, an liberalization of sexual mores combined with restrictions on access to birth control led to an increase in premarital pregnancies [Petrie, A. (1998). "Gone to an Aunt's: Remembering Canada's Homes for Unwed Mothers." (pp. 7-8)] . The dominant psychological and social work view was that the large majority of unmarried mothers were better off being separated by adoptionfrom their newbornbabies. [O'Shaughnassy, T. (1994). "Adoption, Social Work, and Social Theory" (p. 115)] . According to Mandell (2007), "In most cases, adoption was presented to the mothers as the only option and little or no effort was made to help the mothers keep and raise the children." [ [http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue42/Mandell42.htm Mandell, B. (2007). "Adoption. "] New Politics, Vol. 11, No. 2, Winter 2007, Whole No. 42]
Solinger (2000) defines the change that occurred during this period that differentiated it from preceding times:
" ... 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, R. (2000). "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade." (p. 149)]
Solinger also describes the social pressures that led to this unusual trend:
"For white girls and women illegitimately pregnant in the pre-Roe era, the main chance for attaining home and marriage... rested on the aspect of their rehabilitation that required relinquishment... More than 80 percent of white unwed mothers in maternity homes came to this decision... acting in effect as breeders for white, adoptive parents, for whom they supplied up to nearly 90 percent of all nonrelative infants by the mid-1960s... Unwed mothers were defined by psychological theory as not-mothers... As long as these females had no control over their reproductive lives, they were subject to the will and the ideology of those who watched over them. And the will, veiled though it often was, called for unwed mothers to acknowledge their shame and guilt, repent, and rededicate themselves." [Solinger, R. (2000). "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade." (p. 95)]
According to Ellison:
From 1960-70, 27 percent of all births to married women between the ages of 15 and 29 were conceived premaritally. Yet the etiology of single, white, middle-class women's conceptions had shifted again and were now perceived as symptoms of female neurosis ... the majority (85-95 percent) of single, white, middle-class women, who either could not or would not procure an illegal or therapeutic abortion, were encouraged, and at times coerced, to adopt-away their child (Edwards, 1993; McAdoo, 1992; Pannor et al, 1979; Solinger, 1992, 1993). [Ellison, M. (2003). "Authoritative Knowledge and Single Women's Unintentional Pregnancies, Abortions, Adoption and Single Motherhood: Social Stigma and Structural Violence," in "Medical Anthropology Quarterly", Vol 17(3), 2003, page 326. ]
In popular usage, Singer Celeste Billhartz uses the term on her website to refer to the era covered by her work [http://www.themothersproject.com/about/aboutTMP.html "The Mothers Project."] [http://www.billfinch.org/blog/archive/2006_04_09_archive.html A letter] on Senator Bill Finch's website uses the term as well. Writer Betty Mandell references the term in her article [http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue42/Mandell42.htm#n27 "Adoption"] . The term was also used in a 2004 edition of the "
" ... She and many others opposed to adoption gave birth to children who were lateradopted in what some call the "baby scoop era" - a period generally after WorldWar II and before Roe versus Wade in 1973 - when unmarried mothers were shunnedby society and maternity homes were in vogue ..." [Lohmann, B. "World of Adoption; Forced to Give Up Her Baby, She Now Opposes Adoption," "
Richmond Times-Dispatch", November 21, 2004, p. G-1.]
Similar Social Developments in Other Countries
The Baby Scoop Era was not limited to the
United States. A similar social development took place simultaneously in the United Kingdom[ [http://www.uktrackers.co.uk/ti_survey.htm Trackers International, "Survey 1000"] ] , New Zealand[Shawyer, J. (1979). "Death by Adoption"] , Australia [Moor, M. (2007). " [http://www4.gu.edu.au:8080/adt-root/public/adt-QGU20070111.172012/index.html Silent Violence: Australia's White Stolen Children] ". A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the Doctorate of Philosophy in Arts, Media and Culture at Griffith University, Nathan, Qld.] , and Canada[Petrie, A. (1998). "Gone to an Aunt's: Remembering Canada's Homes for Unwed Mothers".] .
The term Baby Scoop Era is similar to the term "Sixties Scoop," which was coined by Patrick Johnston, author of "Native Children and the Child Welfare System" [ [http://research2.csci.educ.ubc.ca/indigenation/Indian_ReACTions/Indian_ReACTions/SixtiesScoop.htm Reder, D. (2007). "Indian re:ACT(ions)"] University of British Columbia] . "Sixties Scoop" refers to the Canadian practice, beginning in the 1960s and carrying on until the 1980s, of apprehending unusually high numbers of Native children from their families, and fostering or adopting them out, usually into white families. [ [http://www.eyeweekly.com/eye/issue/issue_01.13.00/news/nation.php Lyons, T. (2000). "Stolen Nation,"] in "Eye Weekly", January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited ] A similar event happened in Australia where Aboriginal children, sometimes referred to as the
Stolen Generation, were removed from their families and placed into internment camps, orphanages and other institutions.
End of the Baby Scoop Era
Infant adoptions began declining in the early 1970s, a decline often attributed to the court case
Roe v. Wade, but which also partially resulted from social changes that enabled white middle-class mothers to choose single motherhood as an option. Brozinsky (1994) speaks of the decline in newborn adoptions as reflecting a freedom of choice embraced by youth and the women's movement of the 1960's-1970s, resulting in an increase in the number of unmarried mothers who kept their babies as opposed to surrendering them. "In 1970, approximately 80% of the infants born to single mothers were placed for adoption, whereas by 1983 that figure had dropped to only 4%" [ Brozinsky, A. (1994). Surrendering an Infant for Adoption: The Birthmother Experience. In "The Psychology of Adoption", D. Brozinsky and M. Schechter (Eds.). New York: Oxford University Press. (p. 297)]
In contrast to numbers in the 1960s and 1970s, from 1989 to 1995 less than 1 percent of children born to never-married women were surrendered for adoption. [Chandra, A., Abma, J., Maza, P., & Bachrach, C. (1999). Adoption, adoption seeking, and relinquishment for adoption in the United States. Advance Data (No. 306) from Vital and Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved February 16, 2005, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad306.pdf]
It is generally understood that the decline in adoptions in Australia during the 1970s was linked to a 1973 law providing for financial assistance to single parents:
"As it is still historically understood that the sole parent's benefit did not come into existence until July 1973 and was understood to be a major factor in the decline of adoptable babies, we feel quite comfortable in our assertion that at least until 1973 no alternatives to adoption were being offered. Post-1973 those alternatives were still being hidden from many uninformed young women, but we are unable to ascertain how many mothers who lost their babies had actually been given this information during the 1970s" [Parliamentary Paper No. 366, Standing Committee on Social Issues, Report on Adoption Practices, Second Interim Report, Transcripts of Evidence, 16 June 1999 - 25 October 1999]
* Buterbaugh, K. " [http://www.eclectica.org/v6n1/buterbaugh.html Not by Choice] ," "Eclectica", August 2001.
* Buterbaugh, K. " [http://www.moxiemag.com/moxie/articles/perspectives2.html Setting the Record Straight] ", "Moxie Magazine", April 2001.
* Fessler, A. (2006). " [http://www.thegirlswhowentaway.com/ The Girls Who Went Away; The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade] ". New York: Penguin Press. ISBN: 1-59420-094-7
* Kunzel, R. (1995). "Fallen Women, Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890-1945" (Yale Historical Publications Series) (Paperback). Ann Arbor, MA: Yale University Press (August 30, 1995) ISBN: 0-30006-509-4
* Mandell, B. (2007). [http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue42/Mandell42.htm "Adoption."] "New Politics", 11(2), Winter 2007, Whole No. 42.
* Petrie, A. (1998). "Gone to an Aunt's: Remembering Canada's Homes for Unwed Mothers". Toronto: * McLelland and Stewart. ISBN: 0-7710-6971-5
* Moor, M. (2007). " [http://www4.gu.edu.au:8080/adt-root/public/adt-QGU20070111.172012/index.html Silent Violence: Australia's White Stolen Children] ". A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the Doctorate of Philosophy in Arts, Media and Culture at Griffith University, Nathan, Qld. http://www4.gu.edu.au:8080/adt-root/uploads/approved/adt-QGU20070111.172012/public/02Whole.pdf
* O'Shaughnassy, T. (1994). "Adoption, Social Work, and Social Theory". Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN: 1-85628-883-8
* Shawyer, J. (1979). " Death by Adoption." Cicada Press. ISBN: 0-90859-902-1
* Solinger, R. (2000). "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade". New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0-41592-676-9
* Solinger, R. (2001). "Beggars And Choosers: How The Politics Of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion And Welfare In The U.S." (Hill and Wang))
Portrayals in Film and Other Media
* "Gone To A Good Home (Film Australia 2006)". A
Film AustraliaNational Interest Program in association with Big Island Pictures. Produced in association with the Pacific Film and Television Commission and SBS Independent.
* "Everlasting: The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler. Described as "a multi-channel, surround-sound audio installation based on oral history interviews Ann Fessler conducted with women who surrendered a baby for adoption in the 1950s and 1960s (as described in the "Calendar," Duke University, retrieved October 22, 2007, from http://calendar.duke.edu/calendar.nsf/EventID/74T9A9)
* " [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114058/ The Other Mother: A Moment of Truth Movie (1995) (TV)] " Director: Bethany Rooney. Writers (WGA): Carol Schaefer (book), Steven Loring.
* " [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318411/ The Magdalene Sisters (2002)] " Director: Peter Mullan, Writer: Peter Mullan
" [http://www.suziekidnap.com/law/ Love, War, Adoption (2007)] " Directed by Suzie Kidnap.
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