High adoption fees charged by private agencies are a factor helping to make it almost impossible for minorities to adopt babies, according to a new national survey of 87 public and private agencies in 25 states.

The survey was conducted by the North American Council on Adoptable Children, based in St. Paul, Minn., the major advocacy group for permanent placement of children caught in the foster care system.According to the survey, half of the 70,000 children nationwide awaiting adoption are minorities - while only one-fourth of the nation's population are minorities.

Since 78 percent of black children and 38 percent of Hispanic children are adopted by same-race families, there is much controversy about the fact that there are not enough minority families for minority children who are waiting.

Public adoption agencies, which rarely charge fees, and agencies that specialize in same-race adoptions, which typically have low or no fees, placed minority children in same-race homes far more often than did traditional private agencies, which charge an average fee of $5,780.

The survey says that adoption fees are regarded as a barrier to minority families trying to adopt - for psychological as well as financial reasons. Because of the history of slavery among blacks, such fees are seen as "payments for human flesh" and are deeply resented.

Other barriers include a preference among adoption agencies to place children with young, relatively affluent couples - and a distrust of public and private agencies by many minority families.

Unfortunately, there is no governmental provision available to control the costs of private agencies. Clearly, the adoption demand has exceeded the supply.

Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that psychological and humanitarian pressures can help to remove the discriminatory barriers for adoption from minority families, who do not deserve the hassle and the disappointment.