Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Practice Babies"

A quite astonishing story at ABC News:
Denny Domecon had eight "mothers." And every six weeks, eight more would take their place; planning his nutritious diet, his naps and tending to his every need.

The 4-month-old was a "practice baby" in 1952 at Cornell University's home economics program in upstate Ithaca, N.Y., cared for by a group of "practice mothers" -- young 22-year-old students -- in a "practice apartment."

Denny's real identity was anonymous and, like so many other Domecon babies, his surname meant "domestic economy."

He was one of hundreds of babies, mostly children of unwed mothers, who were on loan from orphanages to colleges like Cornell, University of Minnesota and Eastern Illinois State University and many others. There, students could practice the latest child-rearing theories of the day on a real newborn.

"It was a science," said one of Denny's mothers, Margaret Redmond, who is now 80 and living in Englewood, Fla. "That was the whole emphasis."

After a year or two, the babies would leave their multiple mothers -- in some programs up to 12 young women -- to find homes in adoptive families.
Adam Pertman sure had it right when he said: "It's strange on so many levels," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York City. "On its face, the fact that we could, as a society, as educated people, think this was a good idea, is quite amazing."


Sandy said...

And this practice happened until the mid 1960's...

Life Magazine did a full length feature on the benefits in the 50's...not sure if links will go through but the link below is to google books which has the article.

Apparently these babies were sought after for adoption simply because they spent time in the practice apartment being raised in the latest scientic method.

And folks wonder why we want to ensure only ethical actions happen in adoption today...they don't take the time to learn the history of abuse many adoptees went through...has anyone wondered what society will think of today's practices in 50 years? What picture will they see...

Tina said...

Dear lord - has anyone looked a tthe impact on these children? I'm not a proponent of our entitlement and sue everyone society most days but these poor kids deserve compensation from teh schools in my poinion since they were essentially used as unpaid labor with little regard to the impact on them - other than scientific interest in support for this or that theory.