There is a myth that during our era that unilaterally our parents were told “not to tell” us we were adopted and things were done so different back in our day. Did some agencies (private or public) tell their clients “not to tell”? Perhaps. Yet it was by no means a universal decree “not to tell”, nor that the process to be approved to adopt was so very different. I do think there was a great number of adoptions facilitated by doctors and lawyers where parents were not scrutinized, but rather the willingness to pay a lot of money was the main qualification, but hey, lets not kid ourselves – that still happens today.
What was common was the myth that if we were adopted early, and brought up in a good home, we would never want to search or even be curious. That myth was pervasive and created a lot of issues for adoptees and still does to this day.
Adoption through the state was common, mothers surrendered their parental rights to the state – completely different from today’s involuntary surrenders or apprehensions at birth. Night and day different scenario.
This morning I found this film broken into 5 short videos called “The Chosen Child – An Adoption Study” filmed circa early 1960’s and follows the process of adoption primarily through the New York State Adoption Unit. The film follows a couple through the doctor’s appointment about infertility about looking into adoption and who he recommended in Part 1. Part 2 is the first interview of the Home Study and talks what they are looking for, and of course it is the healthy white baby. It then talks about waiting children that most likely will not be adopted because of physical or mental disabilities or the social issue of race. Parts 3, 4, are more on the Home Study Process, the separate interviews, the reference letters, financials, and the home visit, and the sad reality for the older children and babies not adoptable. Part 5 is the matching process and getting the baby.
What it does not cover is the loss aspect for the adoptee and really excludes the mothers giving up their babies. It does talk about the pain of infertility, I did not expect otherwise. But what is interesting in relation to the “not to tell’ concept is that in Part 3, if I remember correctly, the case worker asks the prospective mother whether it would be easier to tell the child the story of a young unwed mother, or a family that surrenders. So even in this film meant to encourage people to adopt, the concept of telling was discussed briefly. There is also a discussion on adoptions through lawyers and the consequences when things go wrong.
I think people may be surprised that the Home Studies for state adoptions happened somewhat similar to todays Home Studies. You can listen to the series without needing to actually watch it, if you have other things to do. I found it interesting and not as bad as I feared it would be.