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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 society.

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 adoption.

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 Southern Courts.

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 petition.

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 religion.

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 adopters.

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:
Alabama, California, 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

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