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HISTORY OF ADOPTION IN THE UNITED STATES


THE HISTORY OF SINGLE PARENT ADOPTIONS

Every state in the country currently allows single adults to adopt children. This may be less surprising than the fact that singles have been legally eligible to adopt since the first adoption laws were passed in the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, the "spinster" who took in children was a staple of Victorian moral fiction and a recurrent figure in adoption narratives. A fair number of unmarried women adopted children in the early decades of the twentieth century. They often raised children in pairs as well as alone, illustrating that the vast majority of adoptions by lesbians and gay men have been arranged as single parent adoptions, whether they actually were or not. But formal legal eligibility did not imply tolerance, let alone acceptance. Singles were viewed as less desirable parents than married couples. Men were considered far less desirable than women, if they were considered at all.

The number of families headed by single parents increased in the United States throughout the twentieth century, due mainly to rising rates of divorce and nonmarital childbearing, but their increasing prevalence did little to dispel fears that growing up in such families would harm children, both emotionally and economically. Many state welfare officials enacted regulations making it difficult or impossible for agencies to place children in the care of single individuals. By midcentury, encouraged by the popularization of Freudian ideas and therapeutic approaches to child welfare, agency workers were determined to find "normal" families for parentless children. To be normal, households had to be headed by heterosexual, married, couples who were comfortable with a division of labor between non-working wives and bread-winning husbands.

 

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

 

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