Child Adoption

June 27, 1973

Report Outline
Impact of Social Change on Adoptions
Societal Views and U.S. Adoption Laws
Moves to Overcome Adoption Barriers
Special Focus

Impact of Social Change on Adoptions

Birth Control and New View of Unwed Mothers

A decade ago couples unable to have their own children could expect, provided they met certain requirements, to adopt healthy infants who might even resemble them physically and mentally. In the last few years, however, the number of adoptable infants has shrunk and the couples, if they are choosy, have found the search difficult and often fruitless. Healthy white and even black babies now have no trouble finding adoptive homes. One reason for the turnabout is the increased availability of contraceptive devices to unmarried women, particularly young girls who in the past provided a large proportion of the illegitimate, adoptable infants. Another factor is the relative ease in obtaining legal and illegal abortions. More important, many single women who have not taken advantage of birth-control or abortion services are choosing to keep their babies, often with the encouragement of social workers and agencies. The stigma attached to unwed motherhood is rapidly disappearing in an age in which premarital chastity has become the exception rather than the rule.

Ursula M. Gallagher, a specialist on adoptions at the U.S. Office of Child Development, told the National Conference on Social Welfare in Chicago on May 29, 1972: “At the same time that fewer white infants—and, recently, fewer black infants—are available for adoption, the number of potential adopters continues to rise. In the past, the majority of couples considering adoption were childless and turned to adoption only after they found it impossible to have their own children. Today, many couples are considering adoption for different reasons. Some believe they have a responsibility to provide a home for a child who needs one. Some who have several children feel competent to share their love with yet ‘one more’; still others who could have more biological children prefer to adopt a child rather than add to the total population. Many single persons, too, believe they can offer love and security to a child.”

Still another reason for the increase in adopters is the relaxation of social-agency requirements. Age, income, housing, neighborhood, marital status, fertility, employment of the potential mother and even race and religion are often looked at as less important than interest in and desire to care for a child. In fact, adoption agencies typically tell would-be parents who are willing to accept only a healthy infant that they can expect to wait several years without any guarantee that the baby they want will ever be available.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Adoption and Foster Care
Dec. 06, 2011  International Adoption
Apr. 22, 2005  Child Welfare Reform
Sep. 10, 1999  Adoption Controversies
Jan. 09, 1998  Foster Care Reform
Nov. 26, 1993  Adoption
Sep. 27, 1991  Foster Care Crisis
Dec. 11, 1987  Independent Adoptions
Nov. 16, 1984  Issues in Child Adoption
Jun. 27, 1973  Child Adoption
Nov. 09, 1951  Child Adoption Safeguards