Opportunity, National Survey of Black Children Adopted in 1972

Source: Viola W. Bernard Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University

The Boys and Girls Aid Society of Oregon launched a transracial program in the early 1960s and renamed it “Opportunity” in 1967. The surveys it conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s were (and are) among the only sources of national and state-by-state statistical data on the adoptions of African-American children during a period of intense debate about where black children belonged. The commentary that accompanies the numbers laments the decline in transracial adoptions and attributes it to opposition by the National Association of Black Social Workers. To my knowledge, these figures, which circulated in mimeographed form, have never been previously published.

OPPORTUNITY's survey of the adoption of black children shows a substantial decrease in the number of black children placed in 1972 in both black and white homes as shown in the following table:

 

1968

1969

1970

1971

1972

Decrease

Total black children placed

3122

4336

6474

7420

6065

18%

Placements in black families

2389

2889

4190

4846

4496

7%

Placements in white families

733

1447

2284

2574

1569

39%

Number of responding agencies

194

342

427

468

461

 

To provide comparative data, the following table shows the placement activity of all agencies (252) which reported from the four consecutive years 1969 through 1972:

 

1969

1970

1971

1972

Decrease

Total black children placed

3514

4808

5012

4000

20%

Placements in black families

2486

3063

3202

2896

10%

Placements in white families

1028

1745

1810

1104

39%

Percentage placed in black families

70.7

63.7

63.9

72.4

 

BLACK CHILDREN NEED HOMES

The decrease in the total number of black children placed in adoption is particularly disturbing when one considers the tremendous backlog of black children who are in foster homes throughout the country solely because agencies did not have adoptive homes for them. This condition appears slated to become worse, not better. The Child Welfare League of America in their current study of participating private adoption agencies states, “At no time have sufficient non-white homes been approved to accommodate the non-white children accepted (for adoption), and in the last period (July to December 1972) the ratio was only 59 homes per 100 children.” The picture for the participating public agencies was even more discouraging. The League reports, “The 20 public agencies approved 108 white (adoptive) homes for every 100 white children but only 51 non-white homes per 100 non-white children.”

Because of the high backlog of black children, this first year of declining adoptions might be expected to show a percentage decrease in white placements far larger than with black placements. The reverse happens to be true. Total white placements by all responding agencies totalled 32,063 in 1972, a decline of 14% from 1971. Black placements were down 18%, a decline nearly 30% larger than for white placements.

INTERRACIAL ADOPTIONS*

The militant campaign by some black social workers against interracial placements has obviously discouraged certain agencies from approving white adoptive applicants, however qualified they may be. The 39% decrease in placements of black children in white families is not offset by more placements in black homes. Comments by the responding agencies indicated that some had reverted to their earlier practices, denying adoption to black children if no black families were available. The damage to such children, like the cost of maintaining them, is monumental. We can only hope that most adoption agencies, adoptive parent organizations, public officials, and private citizens will insist that every child is entitled to loving parents, regardless of his or their color.

*OPPORTUNITY uses interracial which suggests a “blending” in preference to transracial which connotes a bridge over a chasm.

* * *

CHILDREN PLACED BY AGENCIES FOR ADOPTION IN 1972 BY STATES & REGIONS

U.S. Census Regions & States

Number of Agencies

Total Children Placed

Black Children Placed in Black Homes

Black Children Placed in White Homes

New England

36

1746

133

121

Connecticut

7

558

87

47

Maine

4

207

1

8

Massachusetts

17

420

36

38

New Hampshire

2

206

2

9

Rhode Island

2

135

6

13

Mid Atlantic

119

4417

1017

303

New Jersey

9

911

258

74

New York

38

1945

570

124

Pennsylvania

72

1561

189

105

E. N. Central

116

7822

1003

399

Illinois

16

1005

211

56

Indiana

9

1531

150

36

Michigan

22

2430

335

130

Ohio

61

1722

293

116

Wisconsin

8

1134

14

61

W. N. Central

43

4598

214

185

Iowa

10

1250

17

33

Kansas

3

516

74

20

Minnesota

8

922

14

64

Missouri

10

1183

91

52

Nebraska

8

439

16

12

No. Dakota

3

259

2

4

So. Dakota

1

29

0

0

Pacific

40

10344

809

335

Alaska

1

99

2

6

California

26

7251

764

215

Hawaii

1

20

0

0

Oregon

7

2444

18

71

Washington

5

530

25

43

S. Atlantic

48

3485

695

99

Delaware

2

89

16

3

Florida

7

1264

172

20

Georgia

2

620

118

4

Maryland

19

311

69

16

No. Carolina

2

227

61

2

So. Carolina

2

166

43

1

Virginia

7

235

49

4

Wn. D.C.

6

349

145

27

West Virginia

1

224

22

22

E. S. Central

15

1301

164

26

Alabama

1

61

10

0

Kentucky

5

619

45

23

Mississippi

2

52

17

0

Tennessee

7

569

92

3

W. S. Central

21

2273

392

40

Arkansas

1

201

28

3

Louisiana

2

155

55

0

Oklahoma

3

423

46

5

Texas

15

1494

263

32

Mountain

23

2142

69

61

Arizona

4

261

17

14

Colorado

6

758

31

32

Idaho

1

128

0

1

Montana

3

236

3

3

Nevada

1

155

11

7

New Mexico

1

8

0

0

Utah

4

469

5

3

Wyoming

3

127

2

1

GRAND TOTALS 461 38128 4496 1569
 

Source: Opportunity: National Survey of Black Children Adopted in 1972, September 18, 1973, Viola W. Bernard Papers, Box 162, Folder 7, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University.

Page Updated: 2-24-2012
Site designed by:

 
To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
(541) 346-3118
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
About the Project and the Author
© Ellen Herman