Told Not To Tell The Child They Are Adopted?

08 May

There seems to be a persistent myth that adoptive parents of my era (the BSE) were told by adoption professionals not to tell their child they were adopted. That just isn’t true and the sheer number of adoptees from my era who know they were adopted disprove it. Were there parents who didn’t tell their child? Yes. But that wasn’t because they were told by adoption agencies not to tell; they made a decision not to tell on their own, or they just kept putting off telling because it wasn’t the right time and the right time never came. Telling was the standard and widely practiced or there would be far more LDA’s (Late Discovery Adoptee) with the sheer number who do DNA tests now.

The above reasons are also the same reasons that some Adoptive Parents of today don’t tell either.

At least the agencies back then took adoption seriously, even if they made mistakes and didn’t have the knowledge readily available today because of studies. What passes as an adoption professional today often makes me shake my head and wonder how much education on raising an adoptee they actually require of their clients and how valid the information is.

Whatever the reason, I’m getting pretty tired of Adoptive Parents, Birth Parents and even some Adoption Agencies who trot out this misinformation that our folks were told not to tell. I don’t know why they do that, other than maybe to make people in adoption today look so advanced? Or maybe to explain away why some adult adoptees today struggle with being adopted other than the reality of the loss that happens with adoption?

If someone states that adoption professionals and agencies from before told adoptive parents not to tell the child they were adopted, ask them for historical documentation that was the case, call them out on it every single time.

I’m going to try to remember to do more posts like this from historical documentation to help dispel the pervasive myth and hopefully the adoption community and the adoption agencies that also seem to believe this, will change their ways. The report below also delves into the serious practice of home studies back then if you’re interested in that.

The report I have taken the clips below are from a book titled: “ADOPTION PRACTICES, PROCEEDURES AND PROBLEMS” A Report on the Second Workshop Held in New York City under the Auspices of The Child Welfare League of America  May 10-12, 1951

The Baby Scoop Era (1947-1973) and The Child Welfare League was one of the drivers in establishing adoption and child welfare practices as far as I can tell.

This clip here on page 59 of the scanned document shows the focus on making sure the adoptive parents would tell the child they were adopted and even recommended the Chosen book.for telling the child they were adopted. The clip after (7.) is here on page 61 of the scanned document.

Post-placement clip below on reinforcing how to tell and to answer questions can be found here on page 62.

The final clip below can be found on page 73 here. They are the first 4 questions posed after the conference in relation to how the adopted child feels about being adopted and references the adoptees who returned to their agencies seeking information.


Posted by on May 8, 2020 in Adoption


Tags: , , ,

9 responses to “Told Not To Tell The Child They Are Adopted?

  1. maryleesdream

    May 9, 2020 at 1:49 am

    My adoptive parents were told to tell me, by their agency, Spence-Chapin back in 1962. I was told before I could speak. A-Mom said she would lay me on the changing table and repeat, over and over, “You are adopted” and “I am your mother”. She said I would just stare at her.

    For some reason, that image really haunts me.


    • TAO

      May 9, 2020 at 3:05 am

      Sounds kind of weird to me too, mom and dad told a story of how they came to adopt me. And of course the majority of people did what was advised, tell the child. Just get so tired of people who’ve less experience or knowledge of adoption spouting off what some other new to adoption told them. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

      • beth62

        May 10, 2020 at 2:22 am

        Thanks TAO. It’s good to know the history of things that you’re involved in. Especially if you are teaching or promoting it, and haven’t had much of the experience yet. So thanks for researching and presenting these old and often disturbing writings. Makes my whole body say, Yikes!! reading some of that stuff. Stuff I remember well.

        I guess the confusion, the fog, myth, or sales trick, or whatever must lie between telling people they are adopted, and telling them who exactly their mother and father are.

        I saw the disturbing “integration” in the sameness of my families during my experience. Everybody is the same ya know, no worries. I heard it, and read it in documents with descriptions of my unknown family members…
        Your maternal grandma bakes, makes quilts and goes to church like your grandma does.
        Your paternal grandfather drives his car to work, handy around the yard, house and car, and takes good care of his family like your grandpa. Your mother and father were in college and wanted to finish like mommy and daddy did, before they got married and started a family, and me too one day of course, and absolutely everybody went to church every sunday. Don’t ya know, everybody in my families are just so dang promising. And everybody did their chores and brushed their teeth and said their prayers every night too🌙
        The same was a big deal back then. Obviously 😶

        Yeah, it’s still the same, today millions of people who know they ‘re adopted are Not told by their adopted family who their mother, father and their families are. Not to mention the professionals and the judges, who don’t tell either.

        And yes, there are still people that don’t tell someone they ‘re adopted, and still people discovering that they ‘re adopted.

        I believe my mom and others in the fifties and sixties were tasked greatly with normalizing adoption in their communities, and within their families, by the agencies and professionals suggestions and educational materials. They only had so much to read about it. As you can see in the last paragraph posted, they still had lots of really big questions unanswered… a bizillion years ago!!! That’s the big and new change I see with Adoption today, answers galore now.
        I don’t know when the !Tell! campaign first had to begin? I’d guess not long after amended birth record Adoption did?

        I’ve read the books my mom had from the fifties and sixties. Every one had a chapter on why and how to tell, all promote telling a human they are adopted, they go on and on about it, in scary to me old terms and phrases, that I remember well. Tell and make it normal, the same. And on and on about carefully and properly informing others that may need to know, to help make Adoption a normal and accepted way to build a family. I’m pretty sure that’s still nuthin new. Then after that the books get a little… A lot weird and too freaky with the sometimes good intentions of sameness integration brainwashing ideas, which encourages and allows erase and replace ideas, and laws. Like not telling does, minus all the talking.

        And then there’s the old newspaper article/ads telling all about the new adopted kids and families in the area, and how they are just the same as any…

        Yeah, no agencies or individuals are doing anything new, different or better for Adoption today (10, 20 or even 70 years later) by telling, or promoting telling children that they’re adopted! LOL

        Liked by 1 person

        • TAO

          May 10, 2020 at 1:23 pm

          Happy Mum’s Day Beth.


          • beth62

            May 11, 2020 at 5:37 pm

            Happy Mom Day to you too.
            good and hard day today, can I go to bed yet? LOL I feel like a baby if I can’t stay awake until it gets dark at least! I can’t keep up lately, been working on my new just for me only house, finished the roof today. Happy Roof Day. I’m pretty sure I can’t get back up now that I’ve sat in my chair LOL I think I won’t bother to try until tomorrow.

            And now it’s the next day and I’m awake again! I can’t keep up, I’ve started so many replies lately and then pass out before I can hit send LOL I’m definitely way too old to be a roofer, but I’m still good at it and got r done, didn’t fall off of it, and it is perfect!! So, Hahaha! and ow, ow, ow, it even hurts to type 😬


  2. cathb1964

    May 10, 2020 at 11:23 am

    There is often a great deal of “rewriting” of history by adoption agencies and professionals, presumably to send the message to today’s HAPs and emoms that “everything is so different now, all those adoptees who aren’t cheerleaders for adoption are that way because they had bad experiences, bad parents, bad advice blah blah blah” – I think that many want to believe it was all so different because they want to distance their children from us as much as possible – I am not sure why because I think the adoptees on this page are pretty awesome 🙂

    Of course there are some adoptees in the past that were never told (as is the case today judging by many forums I’ve been on) but in general, adoptees were generally told the basic fact that they were adopted. To imply that all adoptees in the past were never told about their adoptions seems less about accurate adoption history and more about distancing modern adoptees from their fellow peeps in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      May 10, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      I really think they keep the myth alive because adult adoptees are vocal now and they want to pretend everything is so different now; but it’s not different because you were born into one family and moved into another family.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Joker

    May 14, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Im a 37 yr old adoptee that barely found out a year ago that i was adopted. I was wondering if there is any or how many had a situation like mine im reaching out here it is my adoptive parents who i thought were my biological ones are really my uncle and aunt then a couple i thought were my aunt and uncle are in reality my biological parent i now have 1 older full brother same parents then my bio dads side i got 1 half sis
    My bio moms side i have my older bro and a young bhalf bro and half sis .i found out not thru my parents rather instead outside source im beyound torn up


    • TAO

      May 14, 2020 at 10:48 pm

      Hey Joker, I’m so sorry, I can’t imagine how that rocked your world. There are some adoptees, both kinship type adoptions and stranger adoptions. The term you will find other’s with your story using is Late Discovery Adoptee (LDA). I do know there are closed fb groups that only LDA’s are allowed to join. If you need help finding them let me know here. I’m going to give you a link to a really great guy on Twitter, he’s about 20 years into life as an LDA – and there will be other LDA’s that he follows or they follow him.


      If you need help navigating anything – let me know, also feel free to just be here too. The regular commenters here are wonderful and will engage and offer support.



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