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The Baby Scoop Era: Research, Education and Inquiry

Founded in 2007 by Karen Wilson Buterbaugh, BSERI is dedicated to research, education and inquiry into the period of American adoption history known as the Baby Scoop Era. The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative is established on principles of historical accuracy, truth and justice. We demand acknowledgement of the historical truth surrounding adoption practice in the United States during the Baby Scoop Era. We demand recognition for the millions of women who were systematically denied their inalienable right to raise their infant sons and daughters.

The American Maternity Home Movement experienced radical change after 1945. Karen Wilson-Buterbaugh’s research into the textbooks, papers, and conference presentations of social workers and sociologists of the Baby Scoop Era has revealed a movement in flux. Once the province of altruistic Christian women, the movement rapidly moved from a supportive model to a psychoanalytic model after WW II. Homes that had sheltered unmarried pregnant women, and trained them in the life skills they needed to successfully raise their children, began instead to promote closed, stranger adoption to married couples as the best social solution to the challenges presented by single motherhood. The change occurred as social workers began to practice within Maternity Homes, eventually pushing the Christian women out. The social work profession brought with it a psychoanalytic bias that informed their practice and radically altered the outcome of single pregnancy during this period. These practices persisted until 1972, a period of great social and technological change in the United States. After 1972, the number of domestic adoptions dropped dramatically.

After the early 1970s, easy availability of contraception, vastly increased economic and educational opportunities, and growing acceptance of single parenthood presented women with many more options then they had before. The years between 1945 and 1972, with its maternity reformatories, institutionally induced guilt, psychoanalytic explanations for single motherhood, and coercive adoption practices became a brief footnote in American social history, except to the cohort of women who survived these practices. These women carried into their adult lives unaddressed burdens of worry, pain and a corrosive secret. The effects of social work practice of these years are very much alive and well in the lives of millions of American women These years are called the Baby Scoop Era, and these women, Baby Scoop Mothers.

There are many resources for you on this site. Among them you will find a variety of academic research on Baby Scoop Mothers. Please take a few moments to peruse some of the research amassed by Karen W. Buterbaugh. This is what the social workers of the time were thinking and saying about us, the Baby Scoop Mothers.

There are numerous original articles by BSE mothers, as well as several recommended books.