Baby Scoop Era

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The Baby Scoop Era was a period in history starting after the end of World War II and ending in the 1970s and 1980s,[1] characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of newborn adoption.

History[edit]

In the United States[edit]

From approximately 1940 to 1970, it is estimated that up to 4 million mothers in the United States had newborns stolen from them in the hospital for adoption purposes; 2 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.[2][3] (This does not include the number of infants adopted and raised by relatives.[3]) In contrast, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that only 14,000 infants were "voluntarily" surrendered in 2003.[4]

This period of history has been documented in scholarly books such as Wake Up Little Susie and Beggars and Choosers, both by historian Rickie Solinger, and social histories such as the book The Girls Who Went Away and the documentary, "A Girl Like Her", based on the book by Ann Fessler. Fessler is a professor of photography at the Rhode Island School of Design who exhibited an art installation titled The Girls Who Went Away. 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.[5] At the same time, a liberalization of sexual mores combined with restrictions on access to birth control led to an increase in premarital pregnancies.[6] 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.[7] 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".[8]

Solinger describes the social pressures that led to this unusual trend, explaining that women who had no control over their reproductive lives were defined by psychological theory as "not-mothers", and that because they had no control over their reproductive lives, they were subject to the ideology of those who watched over them. As such, for unmarried pregnant white girls and women in the pre-Roe era, the main chance for attaining home and marriage rested on their acknowledging their shame and guilt, and this required relinquishing their children, with more than 80% of white unwed mothers in maternity homes acting in essence as "breeders" for white, adoptive parents.[9] According to Ellison, from 1960 to 1970, 27 percent of all births to married women between the ages of 15 and 29 were conceived premaritally. This problem was thought to be caused by female neurosis, and those who could not procure an abortion, legally or otherwise, were encouraged to put up their children for adoption.[10]

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.[11]

Infant adoptions began declining in the early 1970s, a decline often attributed to the decreasing birth rate, but which also partially resulted from social and legal changes that enabled white middle-class mothers to have an alternative single motherhood.

The decline in the fertility rate is associated with the introduction of the pill in 1960, the completion of legalization of artificial birth control methods, the introduction of federal funding to make family planning services more available to the young and low income, and the legalization of abortion.

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 1960s and 1970s, resulting in an increase in the number of unmarried mothers who parented their babies as opposed to having them taken for adoption purposes. "In 1970, approximately 80% of the infants born to single mothers were [...] [taken for adoption purposes], whereas by 1983 that figure had dropped to only 4%."[12]

In contrast to numbers in the 1960s and 1970s, from 1989 to 1995 fewer than 1% of children born to never-married women were surrendered for adoption.[13]

In the Commonwealth[edit]

A similar social development took place in the United Kingdom,[14] New Zealand,[15] Australia,[16] and Canada.[17]

In Canada[edit]

Canada's "Baby Scoop Era" refers to the WWII postwar period from 1945 to the 1990s, when over 400,000 unmarried pregnant persons, mostly aged 15–19 (usually Caucasian), were targeted for their yet-to-be-born infants, simply because they were unmarried with a commodity. A large number of these young women were confined as inmates in maternity (group)"homes," which were managed by religious orders, such as the Salvation Army, The Catholic Church, The United Church and The Anglican Church etc. These maternity "homes" were heavily funded by the state. There were over 70 maternity homes in Canada which housed between 20 and 200 pregnant women at a time. In Canadian maternity "homes" and hospitals, up to 100% of newborns were stolen from their legal mothers during the birthing process and trafficked for adoption purposes. These newborns were stolen under an illegal secret Health and Welfare protocol. In addition to being exploited for their reproduction, these young women were subjected to multiple abuses, including sex abuse, forced unpaid labour, and physical and mental torture. [18]

The babies born to these mothers were abducted in unprecedented numbers in Canadian hospitals under a system that barred these new mothers from accessing their own infants and claiming their legal right to their motherhood. In a system that viewed women as breeders for the state, the girls' reproduction and the resultant product of their reproduction: i.e. their newborns, were exploited in order to replace the pregnancy and baby that the white infertile couples were unable to produce.

These crimes were committed with the intent to deprive these young women of their motherhood and babies:

”The father plays absolutely no part in this. That is part of her rehabilitation. When she renounces her child for its own good, the unwed mother has learned a lot. She has learned an important human value. She has learned to pay the price of her misdemeanor, and this alone, if punishment is needed, is punishment enough."[19]

"Dr Hillard echoes the beliefs of the social workers and the agencies dealing with unwed mothers, though hers have come to her privately. And she, like the other authorities, though refusing to blame the girl’s home, lays the remedy right on its doorstep… ‘We must go back to a primary set of values and the discipline that starts with the very small child,’ says Dr. Hilliard.”

This from the article “Mothers not all unhappy” by Dorothy Howarth, Toronto Telegram, November 22, 1956.

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.[20] "Sixties Scoop" refers to the Canadian practice, beginning in the 1960s and continuing until the late 1980s, of apprehending unusually high numbers of Native children over the age of 5 years old from their families and fostering or adopting them out, usually into white families.[21] 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.

In Australia[edit]

A similar period of forced adoption, also known as the "White Stolen Generations," also occurred in Australia. It is generally understood that a decline of adoption during the 1970s was linked to a 1973 law providing for financial assistance to single parents.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ a b Maza, P.L. (1984). Adoption trends: 1944–1975. Child Welfare Research Notes #9. Washington, D.C.: Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, 1984.
  4. ^ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway (2005). Voluntary Relinquishment for Adoption: Numbers and Trends
  5. ^ Solinger, R. (2000). Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade. (p. 88)
  6. ^ Petrie, A. (1998). Gone to an Aunt's: Remembering Canada's Homes for Unwed Mothers. (pp. 7–8)
  7. ^ O'Shaughnassy, T. (1994). Adoption, Social Work, and Social Theory (p. 115)
  8. ^ Mandell, B. (2007). "Adoption." New Politics, Vol. 11, No. 2, Winter 2007, Whole No. 42
  9. ^ Solinger, R. (2000). Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade. (p. 95)
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Lohmann, B. "World of Adoption; Forced to Give Up Her Baby, She Now Opposes Adoption," Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 21, 2004, p. G-1.
  12. ^ 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)
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Trackers International, "Survey 1000"
  15. ^ Shawyer, J. (1979). Death by Adoption
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Petrie, A. (1998). Gone to an Aunt's: Remembering Canada's Homes for Unwed Mothers.
  18. ^ Williams, Leigh Ann (May 13, 2014). "Taken". Anglican Journal. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  19. ^ Page, Shelley (June 10, 2012). "Victims of the 'Baby Scoop Era' speak out.". The Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  20. ^ Reder, D. (2007). Indian re:ACT(ions) University of British Columbia
  21. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). "Stolen Nation," in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
  22. ^ 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[edit]

Portrayals in media[edit]

  • A girl like her documentary film (2011)
  • 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)
  • 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.