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HISTORY OF ADOPTION IN THE UNITED STATES


MINIMUM STANDARDS

For most of the twentieth century, "standards" and "safeguards" were interchangeable terms for adoption reformers. They believed that adoption was an urgent social problem in need of greatly expanded public regulation. The state's responsibility to protect child welfare was the animating principle behind minimum standards. Once legislated and enforced, these basic legal rules and social procedures would limit risk by constraining adoptions based purely on money or sentiment. Standards would require that placements be approved (if not actually arranged) by social work professionals operating in agencies rather than by baby farmers or other amateurs who specialized in independent (or private) adoptions. The most vigorous advocates of minimum standards were concentrated in the U.S. Children's Bureau and the Child Welfare League of America.

The standards they had in mind involved certification of child-placers, investigation of the child and adult parties to adoption, and supervision of new families after placement and before finalization. In 1917, Minnesota passed the first state law mandating that children's adoptability and prospective parents' suitability be investigated before adoption decrees were granted. Two decades later, more than twenty states had translated similar standards into law. By midcentury, virtually all states in the country required individual and organizational child-placers to be licensed and the vast majority had new or revised adoption statutes on the books echoing reformers' constant refrain: investigate and supervise. New record-keeping protocols included comprehensiveness, consistency, and confidentiality and sealed records. When Minnesota legislated adoption investigations, it was also the first state to seal adoption records.

 

From: The Adoption History Project website www.uoregon.edu/~adoption/index.html Used With Permission.

 

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