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HISTORY OF ADOPTION IN THE UNITED STATES


MINIMUM STANDARDS - continued

Because early field studies revealed that many courts handled adoption petitions casually and legal requirements, where they existed, were often ignored, minimum standards were considered the most feasible path toward improvement. Typical early statements argued that unregulated placing-out was full of error and catastrophe. "Unless carried out in accordance with approved standards," declared Edmond Butler, Executive Secretary of New York's Catholic Home Bureau, child placing would add to the "thousands of human wrecks" already seeking public charity and "be responsible for destroying the future welfare of very many if not most of those intended to be helped."

Minimum standards were formulated in positive as well as negative terms. Birth parents should be beyond rehabilitation, children should be "normal," and adopters should be "industrious and thrifty," of the same religion as the child, and not too "advanced in years." Adopters were presumed to be married couples-and many surely were-but no rigid codes excluded singles from consideration. Religion was the only factor singled out for matching by adoption laws passed or revised in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Minimum standards helped to modernize adoption by subjecting family-formation to new forms of bureaucratic control and professional oversight. By turning helping practices into calculable operations, for instance, they enhanced the role of scientific authority in the adoption process. Standardizing the way families came into being was both the premise and the purpose of outcome studies and other ambitious enterprises in adoption knowledge.

 

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

 

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