Baby scoop era

Baby scoop era

The term Baby Scoop Era refers to the period of time starting after the end of World War II and ending in 1972 [ [ 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 1940 to 1970, it is estimated that up to four million mothers in the United States surrendered 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)] [ [ 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. [ [ 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 [ 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 Film Australia.

Beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, illegitimacy began 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 adoption from their newborn babies. [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." [ [ 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 [ "The Mothers Project."] [ A letter] on Senator Bill Finch's website uses the term as well. Writer Betty Mandell references the term in her article [ "Adoption"] . The term was also used in a 2004 edition of the "Richmond Times-Dispatch":

" ... 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 [ [ Trackers International, "Survey 1000"] ] , New Zealand [Shawyer, J. (1979). "Death by Adoption"] , Australia [Moor, M. (2007). " [ 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" [ [ 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. [ [ 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]

Australian Decline

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]


Further reading

* Buterbaugh, K. " [ Not by Choice] ," "Eclectica", August 2001.

* Buterbaugh, K. " [ Setting the Record Straight] ", "Moxie Magazine", April 2001.

* Fessler, A. (2006). " [ 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). [ "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). " [ 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.

* 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 Australia National 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

* " [ The Other Mother: A Moment of Truth Movie (1995) (TV)] " Director: Bethany Rooney. Writers (WGA): Carol Schaefer (book), Steven Loring.

* " [ The Magdalene Sisters (2002)] " Director: Peter Mullan, Writer: Peter Mullan
" [ Love, War, Adoption (2007)] " Directed by Suzie Kidnap.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Adoption — For other uses, see Adoption (disambiguation). Sister Irene of New York Foundling Hospital with children. Sister Irene is among the pioneers of modern adoption, establishing a system to board out children rather than institutionalize them.… …   Wikipedia

  • Closed adoption — (also called confidential adoption and sometimes secret adoption) is the process by where an infant is adopted by another family, and the record of the biological parent(s) is kept sealed. (Often, the biological father is not recorded even on the …   Wikipedia

  • Open adoption — is an adoption in which the biological mother or parents and adoptive family know the identity of each other. In open adoption, the parental rights of biological parents are terminated, as they are in closed adoptions and the adoptive parents… …   Wikipedia

  • Disruption (adoption) — Disruption is the term most commonly used for ending an adoption. While technically an adoption is disrupted only when it is abandoned by the adopting parent or parents before it is legally completed (an adoption that is reversed after that point …   Wikipedia

  • Child laundering — is the stealing and selling of children to adopting parents under false pretenses. Often the adoption agency or adoption facilitator hides or falsifies the child s origin to make the child appear to be a legitimate orphan by manipulating birth… …   Wikipedia

  • Adoption disclosure — refers to the official release of information relating to the legal adoption of a child. Throughout much of the 20th century, many Western countries had legislation intended to prevent adoptees and adoptive families from knowing the identities of …   Wikipedia

  • Cultural variations in adoption — Adoption is an arrangement by which a child whose biological parents are unable to care for it is adopted and given the same legal and social status as though he/she were the biological child of the adoptive parents. For example, under a system… …   Wikipedia

  • Christian law of adoption in India — Christians in India can adopt children by resort to section 41 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2006 read with the Guidelines and Rules issued by various State Governments. Apart from that there are customary laws… …   Wikipedia

  • Language of adoption — The language of adoption is changing and evolving, and it has become a controversial issue tied closely to adoption reform efforts. The controversy arises over the use of terms which, while designed to be more appealing or less offensive to some… …   Wikipedia

  • Home Children — Boy ploughing at Dr. Barnardo s Industrial Farm, Russell, Manitoba, Canada 1900 Home Children is a common term used to refer to the child migration scheme founded by Annie MacPherson in 1869, under which more than 100,000 children were sent to… …   Wikipedia