Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Baby Scoop Era .....

Most people who've been touched by adoption are aware of what's known as "The Baby Scoop Era," a period lasting from approximately 1940 to 1970 during which unmarried (white) women were encouraged to give up their babies for adoption.
Well, not so much "encouraged" as coerced.
Again, remember that life was different a half-century ago.  Birth control for women was almost non-existent and generally available only to married women.  While available -- for a price -- abortion was illegal, and often dangerous.

The predominant view came to be that single women were psychologically unable to care for their children and, of course, having a child out of wedlock was seen as shameful and a moral failure.
Some teenage girls who became pregnant would be sent to live with relatives in another town until their babies were delivered.  Others would be relegated to maternity homes where they stayed for the duration of their pregnancies.  Mothers would be told that adoption was best for the babies -- and them.  They should give birth, relinquish the child (often without even seeing or holding him/her first), then resume their lives as if nothing had happened.
Between 1940 and 1970, approximately 4,000,000 women relinquished their children; half of those were in the 1960's alone.  The adoptions peaked in 1970, when more than 89,000 children were relinquished.
Note that these numbers do not include children who were placed with relatives, so the number of adoptions during that time is actually higher.
For more information, check out The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative online, or the excellent book, The Girls Who Went Away.
A side note:  it was during this time that adoption records were sealed, ostensibly to "protect the identity" of the birth mother.  Read a quick history of that practice here.
BSE "children" now range in age from 40's to 70's and many of them still don't know their ethnic heritage, their familial medical history, or even the identities of the people who gave birth to them.  
Ponder that, if you will, as I get my own story back on track.