Racial And Religious Limitations In Adoption In The United States: A Timeline
Prejudice is an unwavering, rigid, and unfair generalisation
about an entire category or people. Prejudice often takes the
form of stereotypes. Stereotypes are overdrawn simplified
descriptions that are applied to every person in a category.
Negative stereotypes are often directed at people who are
different from the rest for example the minority section of the
An example of a common stereotype in American Society is
that people who use Government Assistance are either African
American or gaming the system, whereas the majority of
people on welfare are white and people who use social
services like welfare are also likely to need extra help. This
example is a specific type of prejudice that is racial prejudice.
Beliefs, thoughts, and actions which is based on the ethos that
one race is innately superior to another race known as racial
prejudice Until 1994, inter-racial adoption was a common hurdle faced
by parties willing to adopt. Transracial adoption or interracial
adoption was a precarious yet a pensive conversation within
the foster care system. Agencies that placed children for
adoption frequently did not approve inter-racial or inter-religious
Some statutes specifically prohibited mixed adoption
proceedings. In Louisiana, for example, the Law required the
child and the adopting parent must of the same race. Texas
specifically prohibited Negro-White adoptions. In some states,
the petition or the investigative committee report , or both were
required to state race or colour and/ or religion of the child and
adopting parents. Even where the statutes were silent on the
subject, the court could refuse to approve a mixed adoption (
racial or religious) on the theory that such an adoption is not in
the best interest of the child. This applied to particularly to inter-
racial adoption which were rarely, if ever, approved by
Many states required, by Law, that the child be adopted into a
family of the same religious faith. Numerous state statutes dealt
specifically with the matter of religion of the parties, which vary
considerably in detail. Many required that due consideration
be given to the matter of the religion; others that the religions
be the same wherever possible and still others provided
additional steps to be applied. Many provided that the
petitioner incorporated information as to race and religion in his
In addition to Legislative policies and judicial precedents, the
manuals of many state welfare departments as well as private
agencies indicated that considerable attention must be given to
both race and religion at the time of an adoption placement.
In Delaware, one of the adoptive parents must be of the same
religion as the prospective adoptee's natural mother unless the
latter, in a notarised statement, specifies the religion in which
she desires the child to be brought up or states that she has no
In Florida the Law specified that when practicable the child
and the adopters should of the same religion, but the mother
may give her written consent to placement with adopters of a
different religion. Illinois also required identity of religion whenever practicable, but this requirement applied only to
agency placements, not private. As stated retrospectively , in
Louisiana, adoptees must be of the same race as their
The Maryland Law was similar to that of Florida with
respect to this question. Massachusetts required identity of
religion when practicable regardless of mother's Intent.
Procedurally the courts did have a right to grant a mixed
adoption, but was supposed to do so only upon the placement
agency's recommendation. As Agency's own rules
conventionally prohibited mixed adoption, such adoption
was possible only when the court disregard the agency's
recommendation, when it does it is required that the court must
state in writing the reasons therefore, and these become part of
the minutes of the proceedings.
In Missouri, if a child bore any signs of coming from a different
race than that of the adopters within a period of five years, the
adoption may be set aside. In Ohio, the investigating agency
took into account the racial, religious, and cultural background
of the child and the adopters.
New York Law was similar to that of Massachusetts in regard to
religion. Pennsylvania provided that whenever possible the
child should be of the same religion as the adopter; otherwise
the court required the mother to appear and state her approval
to the mixed adoption.
The Rhode Island statute was similar to that of Massachusetts
and New York, perhaps stricter. The court was forbidden to
grant a mixed adoption if anyone else's having the same
religion as that of the child could be found within the state who
must be willing to adopt. It has been noted in Texas that a white
person was not allowed to adopt a Negro, nor was a Negro
allowed to adopt a white person.
All adoption statues provided some sort of investigation, either
mandatory or discretionary. In the case of private placements,
the investigation usually came after the child had lived in the
home of the would be adopters for a substantial period of time.
This often resulted in Judicial approval of an otherwise
unsatisfactory adoption, since the courts were reluctant to
sever family ties already formed. In order to remedy this
loophole in the Law, many states enacted Placement Statutes
that either prohibited independent placements altogether or
subjected them to specific requirements.
The following states
outlawed non-relative adoption:
Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, New York, North Dakota,
Oregon, South Dakota , Texas, Virginia , Wisconsin and the
District of Columbia. The Ohio statute provided that no child
shall be placed or received for adoption or with intent to adopt
except through a placement made by a county welfare
department having child welfare division; or an organisation
authorized to place children unless prior to such a placement.
Other states had stricter and more rigid statutes prohibiting
private placements with anyone other than a relative for
example, Colorado, Georgia , Indiana , Maine and Tennessee.
Maryland and New Hampshire required notification by the
prospective adopters. Rhode Island and Kentucky required
notification by the party making the placement, while
Massachusetts placed the burden on both.
It must be noted that many of these Laws got flouted with
impunity because of the reluctance to prosecute in the face of
already overworked agencies.
Written By: Navin Kumar Jaggi Sejal Khanna
Law Article in India
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