Spence-Chapin’s 20th African-American Adoption Benefit will take place on Thursday, May 20. This year, supporters will get to see the critically acclaimed performances of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in August Wilson’s Fences. It is one of Wilson’s extraordinary plays chronicling the African-American experience through each decade of the 20th Century. Proceeds from the benefit will help fund the agency’s African-American infant adoption program offering services for birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees.
Spence-Chapin has long been a leader in African-American infant adoption. In the 1940s, Gladys Randolph, former director of Social Work at Harlem Hospital, brought the issue of boarder babies languishing in her community without families to the attention of Spence-Chapin. The agency started a program in 1946, challenging the then-popular notion that African-American families were not interested in adoption and developed an impressive track record,
In 1953, Mrs. Jackie Robinson, wife of the famous baseball player, was elected to the Spence-Chapin board of directors and served as a spokesperson to help the agency recruit families. Throughout the 1950s, other illustrious African Americans who helped to recruit families included Mrs. Ralph Bunche, Marian Anderson, and Mrs. Hubert Delaney. In support of the agency’s outreach efforts, Eleanor Roosevelt was the featured speaker for a Spence-Chapin conference in 1954. Mrs. Roosevelt was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “No matter what the color of their skin, all our children must be looked at as the future rich heritage of the country.” One in every six children adopted through the agency that year was African American.
In 1991, families who had become parents through the African-American Program formed the Spence-Chapin African-American Parents Advisory Committee, known as AAPAC. The group, which welcomes all families to join, provides input on matters concerning African-American adoption, and brings families together for social networking. One of the extremely positive outcomes has been the close ties formed by members and their children, and the sense of community among families who have adopted African-American children. AAPAC has also been instrumental in developing ideas on adoptive parent recruitment, organizing the annual African-American Family Day Picnic, and in raising funds through special events to help those families who have unusual expenses or circumstances with adoption costs.
Today, African-American adoption services continue to be a cornerstone of Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption program. Over the past 20 years, the agency has placed close to 700 African-American babies.