Foreign Adoptions and the Evolution of Irish Adoption Policy, 1945-52

By Maguire, Moira J. | Journal of Social History, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Foreign Adoptions and the Evolution of Irish Adoption Policy, 1945-52


Maguire, Moira J., Journal of Social History


Introduction

In recent years it has become increasingly common for childless couples from the U.S. and Western Europe to look overseas--to Eastern Europe and Asia--to adopt the "unwanted" children that are no longer so readily available for adoption in their own countries. While some social observers would argue that this trend reflects a positive humanitarian impulse, others suggest that issues of culture, ethnicity, identity, and parental rights are not given due consideration. In Ireland at the turn of the twenty-first century the fact that Irish couples are enthusiastic participants in this "trade" has been juxtaposed with the stark and unpalatable reality that, as late as the 1960s, thousands of healthy Irish children were sent to the United States for adoption simply because they were illegitimate and thus "unwanted" at home. The State's "disposal" of these children in the mid twentieth century has received a great deal of attention in the popular media in recent years but has been virtually ignored by historians. ( 1) This interest has been generated by mounting allegations of the abuse and neglect of unwanted children in industrial schools and other state institutions in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. In hindsight it is clear that institutionalization was not the ideal solution to the problem of caring for children who, for whatever reason, could not be cared for in their own homes or by their own parents; however, until 1952 there was no statutory mechanism by which substitute or adoptive families could be provided for such children. Although various legislative initiatives provided for the boarding-out of children who otherwise would be consigned to an institutional existence, the boarding-out system was notoriously badly administered and inspected, many families fostered children for purely financial reasons, and children could be removed from one home to another with little notice, and little consideration of their needs and best interests. Until the 1952 Adoption Act provided for the legal transfer of parental right s from biological to adoptive parents, the only alternative to an institutional existence or an insecure boarding-out arrangement was adoption by foreign, primarily American, families. From the early 1940s to the mid-1960s thousands of Irish children were sent abroad under an informal (and probably illegal and unconstitutional) adoption scheme.

The story of Ireland's overseas adoption scheme, and the evolution of adoption policy are part of a twentieth-century social history that has for the most part been neglected by historians. General histories of the twentieth century ignore these issues outright or treat them in a cursory manner that underestimates their significance. Mike Milotte, a journalist, has examined the overseas adoption practice drawing on Department of Foreign Affairs files that were released in 1997. However, Milotte's book, Banished Babies, is aimed at a popular rather than a scholarly audience, and Milotte does not conform to scholarly standards and conventions in substantiating arguments and citing evidence. John Whyte, in Church and State in Modern Ireland, published in 1971, examines the evolution of adoption legislation within the context of Church-State relations in twentieth-century Ireland. Relying almost exclusively on interviews with key figures (including Archbishop John Charles McQuaid) and press accounts, Whyte conclu des both that the Legal Adoption Society was single-handedly responsible for fostering a positive public opinion on the question of adoption, and that the change in government in 1952 was the main reason that the issue was finally resolved. At the same time, he acknowledges that adoption legislation seems to have taken on a new urgency in government and ecclesiastical circles in 1951, but he was at a loss to account for this sense of urgency. (2) When it was published Whyte's work was regarded as noteworthy and path-breaking; however, Whyte's analysis, especially of the adoption issue, did not have the benefit of Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, and Dublin Diocesan Archive files that have been released since 1997. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Foreign Adoptions and the Evolution of Irish Adoption Policy, 1945-52
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.