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The attempt to select adoptive parents similar to the child to be adopted. The selected parents and children may be similar in appearance, interests, intelligence, personality or other traits. This practice has also become known more recently as trying to achieve a "good fit" when choosing a family for a specific child. Other components may be included in the parent selection process, such as the ability to meet a child's unusual or specific needs (for example, if the child has a medical problem with which the parents have experience).


Some agencies attempt to match a child based on religion, although religious matching is more often based on the preference of the birthmother. (Most sectarian agencies limit applications to couples with certain religion backgrounds.)

State adoption laws prior to the 1970s were very restrictive in some states and mandated matching despite the wishes of the birthmother. (Several cases are covered in The Law of Adoption and Surrogate Parenting by Irving J. Sloan.)

In 1954, in the Massachusetts case of In re Goldman, a Jewish couple attempted to adopt twins whose birthmother was Catholic. Although the children had lived with the couple for three years, the court decreed they could not adopt the children because Catholic couples waited to adopt children. The court refused to consider the birthmother's wishes. In contrast, a birthmother today may often specify the religion of the family that will adopt her child.

In a 1957 case, the Ellis family, a Jewish couple, adopted a newborn child in Massachusetts. State officials later demanded the child be returned since the birthmother was Catholic. The adoptive parents fled to Florida. (The birthmother did not wish to revoke consent.)

Governor Collins of Florida, who received more than 9,000 calls, letters and telegrams both pro and con, refused to extradite the couple, stating that "the controlling question .?.?. must be the welfare of the child."

In 1971, a trial court held that a couple could not adopt because of a "lack of belief in a Supreme Being rendered them unfit to be adoptive parents." The adoption agency had insisted the prospective adoptive parents were people of high moral standards and argued they should be allowed to adopt. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the lower court.

Some states still have religious matching laws on the books; for example, in Delaware, the child must be placed in the home of the same religion as the birthparent unless the birthparent states that placing outside the religion is acceptable.

In Pennsylvania, the adopting parents should be of the same religion as the birthparent if at all possible. (This is a recommendation in the law, not a mandate.) A similar provision is incorporated into Rhode Island adoption law and Wisconsin law.

Ethnic Matching and Physical Appearance

If the child to be adopted is an infant, the social worker will compare the birthparents to the adoptive parents in an attempt to make a suitable match; for example, if the birthmother is very musically inclined, the social worker will not place the infant in a home where both adoptive parents are tone-deaf. (Note: Some caseworkers do not believe in physical matching, and adopting parents should not depend on adopting a child who resembles them.)

When attempting to match for personality (if such matching is tried), a social worker will not place the child of a serious and bookish birthmother with a family who lives for weekend football.

Sometimes a factor to be considered in making a match is socioeconomic status: The child of a college student will probably not be placed with a blue-collar worker, particularly in the case of an open adoption. (On the other hand, the child of a blue collar worker will be placed with an upper middle-class family.)

Proponents of matching point to studies that indicate similarities between the adoptive parents and their adopted offspring lead to greater harmony and happiness. Adoption experts, such as Ruth McRoy, Ph.D., say the "goodness of fit" is important, and the more closely the child fits in with the family, the more he or she will thrive. McRoy, et al., also take issue with the MULTIETHNIC PLACEMENT ACT.

Dissenters insist it is often impossible to achieve realistic matches, and just because a birthmother is musical does not mean her child will also be musically talented nor will the child's personality necessarily be anything like the parents. They also point out that biological children often do not resemble their parents.

Opponents of matching add that painstakingly trying to match an adopted child to an adoptive family is a form of denial and a way to make it easier for the adoptive family to pretend the child is their biological child. Other opponents of matching say the practice results in unnecessarily long stays in foster care for black and other non-Caucasian Children. (See also GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS; RELIGION.)

Robert W. Delaney, "1957 Decision Puts Baby-Swapping Case in Perspective," Florida Today, November?17, 1988, 10B.

Ruth G. McRoy, Harold D. Grotevant, Louis A. Zurcher Jr., Emotional Disturbances in Adopted Adolescents: Origins and Development (New York: Praeger Press, 1988.)

Irvine J. Sloan, The Law of Adoption and Surrogate Parenting (New York: Oceana Publications, 1988).

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