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N.Y. City Abandons Religious Rotation System for Adoption of Foundlings

A New York City procedure of assigning abandoned infants of unknown parentage to Catholic, Protestant and Jewish homes in rotation has been cancelled in a major policy change made public here today. The effect of the change is that parents for such foundlings will be chosen hereafter on the basis of their qualifications, without religious requirements. Twenty to 25 foundlings come under city care annually. About 60 percent of the foundlings are Negro.

The change does not affect a current procedure applied when a foundling is left at a house of worship. In such cases, the infant is assigned to that particular religion. The changes were adopted by the city Department of Social Service on July 15. Private welfare agencies which place foundlings will receive formal notification of the new policy on August 15.

Commissioner Mitchell J. Ginsberg said that, as a result of the change, “the ultimate test will be what is best for the child, not the religion of the home into which he is going.” He added that the religious rotation system had led to an “element of inflexibility” in adoption planning, and delayed placement for some of the infants.

The rotation procedure has been a long-standing practice. In the 1940’s, foundlings were designated Catholic and Protestant, in rotation, because the Jewish placement agencies waived their right to accept every third foundling in the absence of definite evidence that the infant was of Jewish origin. In 1953, the Louise Wise Services asked that the Jewish religion be restored to the rotation procedure, and the city did so.

Mr. Ginsberg said that the changes have been incorporated in the department’s manual of procedures which now provide that, if a foundling’s identity has not been established 10 days after it had been found, it is to be given a name and a birth date based on estimates by physicians at the New York Foundling Hospital. Children left in hospitals or other institutions operated by religious groups will not necessarily take those religions, as they do when found in a house of worship.

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