Adoption has come a long way over the years. Unfortunately, there were a lot of misguided, uneducated, and hurtful practices used in the past that have had long lasting negative impacts on all sides of the adoption triad today. Many of these originated during what is now known as the Baby Scoop Era. The Baby Scoop Era is generally thought of as beginning after World War II, around 1945, and lasting into the 1970’s. During this time, it was commonplace for young, unwed, pregnant women to be sent away by their families to live in maternity homes. There was so much shame put on these women from society that their families would keep the pregnancy a secret. These maternity homes would house woman for the duration of their pregnancies, all the while telling them adoption was their only choice. Each home utilized different tactics, but it is safe to say most used coercion.
These women were viewed as social deviants and juvenile delinquents- having moral flaws that made them unfit. If her parents so chose, she could be jailed as a wayward minor if she did not go along with an adoption plan. While this coercion was taking place throughout her pregnancy, she was also being lied to about who the adoptive parents were. After birth, the baby would be taken immediately, not allowing a moment for her to hold her child, never to be seen again. She was then sent home empty handed and expected to forget the whole thing ever happened.
All Members Of The Adoption Triad Were Affected
During this process, the adoptive parents were also being given false information. Pair the misinformation given to both sides with the fact that original birth certificates were sealed, and it became nearly impossible to re-connect if one so chose.
The babies wouldn’t get to go home with their new family for months. They would be kept and observed in foster care. Tests for temperament and personality would be given to them. How do you test for that on infants? Well, sadly, one example would be snapping the bottom of their feet with rubber bands and timing how long it took them to cry. Supposedly, the longer it took, the more temperate the child. These tests were done in the name of matching the right baby to the right family. But really, it was a way to collect monthly payments from adopting parents for much longer than necessary.
So who benefited from these experiences? Certainly not any member of the adoption triad. It was the adoption professionals and their bank accounts. This terribly sad age of adoption has given us many lessons. We now have ethical laws and regulations that prevent those practices full of deceit and coercion. But what about those still suffering from the effects of the Baby Scoop Era? For the birth moms in particular, it has been devastating.
What are some negative impacts women faced after experiencing life as a young, unwed, pregnant woman forced to give birth and relinquish parental rights…and then pretend like it never happened?
Stigmas from society.
Constant What if’s.
Years of unsuccessful attempts at locating her child.
Severed family relations.
Trauma response coping mechanisms.
You get it: the list goes on and on. Therapy and birth mom support groups are scattered all across the United States since the Baby Scoop Era has ended. If you are a woman in need of support, find it here: https://abidinglovecharities.org/post-placement-care/ and we can connect you to resources in your area.
How To Help Survivors Of The Baby Scoop Era
If you’re not a woman in need of this support, but want to do your part in helping ease the struggle they are facing, here are a few things you can do:
1. Be a safe space for her to open up. Women who experienced this atrocity have decades of pressure to keep it secret, so it’s not easy to discuss. Having a support system in place for her to feel comfortable sharing within is a great first step.
2. Listen and believe her. None of these women enjoy reliving details of that part of her life, so each word that slips past her lips is a conscious choice and important detail. Sharing that story after years of secrecy is liberating.
3. Love and reassure her. She did nothing wrong and shouldn’t be ashamed. Yet shame is an ever-present emotion as the Baby Scoop Era was extremely unforgiving and she has lived with that shame her whole life. It’s time to let it go, and the love and support of friends and family helps lift that burden.
4. Do not- I repeat- do not put labels of any kind on her. It’s sickening how poorly birth mothers are perceived in society: then and now. She didn’t abandon her baby. She isn’t cold or heartless. She went through one of the hardest imaginable experiences possible and is healing…grieving…searching… as best as she knows how. Negative stigmas have no place anywhere.
5. Help her find a therapist or a support group when she’s ready.
Together, we can all help heal this generation in the adoption world. The Baby Scoop Era may be over, but we still have work to do to recover from it. Spread love and acceptance, and let’s love these women big and well.