Article re Black Market Babies – 1976

02 Oct


I found the article below from 1976, babies from that time period are just now reaching middle age.  While the article does not state that these black market adoptions were processed through the courts – it implies that is the case – because as the article states it was hard to prosecute without evidence.

While you are reading the article below – keep in mind that $1 US with inflation factored in is equal to $4.03 in 2012 (source).

Ask yourself if societal mores have changed so much, that what people thought was wrong then – is now considered acceptable and the norm.  Family law does and should evolve over time.  Without doubt great strides have been made in our era, women can get divorced for spousal abuse – imagine that… we can get contraceptives without permission from our husbands… Yet not all the changes are good and at the risk of becoming the fuddy-duddy I always disliked, and swore I would never become – adoption law is where I think society took a distinctive wrong turn.  What I read in the article that was considered black market then – yet now seem to be fairly common practices today, in one form or another, and I am assuming within the letter of the law.  I think the discussion is worth having about societal changes which are driven by society that are for the worse.  It also makes me ask whether that is the reason todays prospective and some [adoptive] parents can’t seem to understand why some/many of us think these practices are wrong.

Please read the entire article because it will give you a greater sense of why I ask the question, and there is a lot you will miss that can’t all be put into this post.  I have only included selected quotes from the article with my comments below each quote, but without the context of the entire article it may not be entirely balanced.  All text below in italics and indentation are from the source linked.

Black Market Babies – Legal Adoptions Nearly Impossible for White, Healthy, Newborns – Kentucky New Era – Apr 16, 1976 – By Holger Jensen – Los Angeles (AP) (source)

Babies are being sold in a fast growing black market that charges anywhere from $5,000 for an illegal adoption to $50,000 for a custom-made child.

Which would be  today $20,000 to $200,000 using the 4 to 1 ratio – $20,000 is cheap for an adoption today and while $200,000 might be pushing it for a surrogate costs, but by the time you pay for eggs, sperm, lawyer, and everything else?  Who knows, it might be close.  Profit should never have been allowed into this arena.

Healthy white infants have become such a profitable commodity in the United States that law enforcement officials fear the Mafia will soon become involved.

Only speaking to the healthy white infants being profitable –  today some agencies do have pricing based race with caucasian at the top, bi-racial less than caucasian, and African-American the least which to me is wrong.

But right now, baby brokers are taking advantage of too many gray areas and loopholes in state adoption laws. They are profiting because the demand for a certain type of baby exceeds the supply.

“We’re going through an incredible, nationwide baby hunger at a time when adoptable infants are becoming scarce,” said Charlotte DeArmond of the California Children’s Home Society.

Gray areas then – may be similar to todays accepted practices of moving the expectant mother out-of-state to one with adoptive parent friendly adoption laws, away from her familial support system and into a controlled setting of birth mother housing, dependent on the PAPs and agency which puts her at risk of feeling beholden to place.  If she doesn’t want to place where would she go leaving the hospital?  So many other areas that could be included here but the post would be too long.

“The waiting list for white babies is now three to five years, while you can get a black baby in nine months,” said Mrs. DeArmond. “That’s the real tragedy. There would be no black market if parents were less selective.”

Joseph Reid of the Child Welfare League of America added that legitimate adoption agencies simply cannot compete with unscrupulous profiteers who offer pregnant girls large sums of money and pay all the medical bills for healthy white babies.

Children’s agency officials estimate that one baby is sold on the black market for every 20 who find a home through legal adoption procedures. Moss* suspects it is higher in California because the population density provides more buyers and merchandise.

So the laws were changed to allow for PAPs to pay expenses (pre and post birth expenses including rent, utilities, medical, clothes, transportation, cell phones, food, travel expenses, etc).  Then we have those “scholarship grants” that are offered by some agencies to mothers who go through with placementThe scholarship grants really bother me…

Another childless couple paid $50,000 for a baby “made to order,” selecting the parents from photographs of attractive, young, single men and women in an album compiled by their attorney.

Some attorneys have actually placed classified ads in California newspapers “Young people wish to adopt baby at birth. Will pay doctor and hospital bills. Replies confidential.”

Others are paying finders fees to college students for every pregnant coed they locate on campus.

The first paragraph can be seen in both the ART and Surrogate avenues and is seen today as perfectly fine.  Advertising by both agencies and PAPs on college campuses across the states is a daily occurrence, online advertising, schools, homeless shelters, churches, doctors, pass-along cards, facebook, just about everywhere they are looking for mothers – so how is what they are doing today any different from in 1976?

“The mother who sells her child won’t talk because she’s been paid off,” he [Moss]said. “The foster parents won’t talk because they want to keep the child. The intermediary won’t talk because he made most of the profit. And the child is too young to talk.”


“That’s the trouble, there are no specific statutes against baby selling,” says Moss. “We definitely need some federal legislation.”

California law sets a maximum $500 fee for adoptions and requires state licensing of home-finding agencies and other intermediaries in the adoption process. But is also allows “independent adoptions,” where a mother can select foster parents for her child and handle the deal through her attorney.

This is the gray area that permits the black market to flourish. Did the mother really find the foster parents? Did she sell her baby or give it away? Was the attorney simply a legal assistant in the transaction or did he become a unlicensed home-finder?

“It’s very easy to tell,” said Betsy Cole of the Child Welfare League’s North American Center for Adoption in New York. “Legal fees in any adoption should run no higher than $200. When lawyers start charging $10,000 and $15,000, you know they’re doing something more.

Do I even need to say anything here – obviously the laws have been changed.

At Mondale’s sub-committee hearings in 1975, several lawyers testified that they were actually performing a public service in finding homes for unwanted babies, paying hospital bills for destitute mothers and satisfying parental cravings of childless couples.

One Florida attorney even admitted setting up “houses for unwed mothers” that guaranteed superior medical care – all free – and wealthy foster parents for their babies.

Moss* concedes there are some cases where it might be a victimless crime, “but in others everyone is the victim.

“The adopting parents are being exploited by paying exorbitant fees, and they’re vulnerable to blackmail at a later date. The natural mothers are reduced to baby-making machines, and thus robbed of human dignity.

“The child is the main victim because the only determination in selecting parents is who can pay the most. And then there are all those other victims – adoptable children who might have found homes if the black market didn’t provide so many health white babies.”


(*elsewhere in the article Moss is listed as Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Moss of Los Angeles)

Reading the article comparing 1976 to today, I can’t see a lot that isn’t still happening, just that the laws were amended.  And society let it happen instead of putting paid maternity leave into unemployment for starters like Canada has –  because financial limitations are one of the reasons for placing in the US.  I don’t think societal perceptions of adoption will never get past the glossy surface, the celebrities adopt (way back to Georgia Tann era), people see it as saving a child and it will always been seen as the solution.  Sometimes it is a solution, sometimes it isn’t needed at all, but when it is a profit driven industry the lines get blurred, and what is best for the child is not part of that equation.

So, what do you think?  Do you think adoption laws are better or worse today than before?  Do you think because it was wrong in our adoption era, and now isn’t, is a source of the disconnect?


Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Adoption, adoptive parents, Ethics


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2 responses to “Article re Black Market Babies – 1976

  1. eagoodlife

    October 2, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Not just about laws and practice it’s about the weird disconnect people now have about feelings, consequences and responsibilities, about property and money.


    • TAO

      October 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      I do agree with you completely – regarding money it is very obvious – and I can also see how relaxing/changing the laws also changes societies moral compass where what was taboo is now good. Of course some changes are indeed good.



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