During the fall of 1916 wretched
conditions existing in several uncertified homes where children
were boarded apart from their parents were discovered through the
regular case work of the Juvenile Protective Association. . . .
The Association then decided to make a thorough study of all baby
farms, in the hope that the information would afford data upon which
legislation might be secured that would require all homes where
children were boarded apart from their parents to be licensed and
supervised by some branch of the City or State Government.
One hundred and thirty-seven alleged homes were thus reported and
later were investigated by the Association.
Some Examples of Conditions Found in Homes. Some
of the worst moral conditions were found in the homes where the
physical conditions were best and in good residential districts
of the city. In one of the best neighborhoods of the south side,
a home was found which was an unlicenced maternity hospital, a disorderly
house, and a baby farm combined. It is not at all difficult to see
the connection between these enterprises. The woman who operated
this home made a specialty of taking in unfortunate girls for maternity
cases, she then made inmates of them and charged them for the board
of their children; or she would dispose of a child for the sum of
$25.00 or more. A warrant was taken out for this woman, she was
tried and convicted.
Commercialized Traffic in Children. As a result
of this baby farm investigation, it was found that there was a regular
commercialized business of child placing being carried on in the
City of Chicago; that there were many maternity hospitals which
made regular charges of from $15.00 and more for disposing of unwelcome
children; and that there were also doctors and other individuals
who took advantage of the unmarried mother willing to pay any amount
of money to dispose of her child. . . . One woman
in charge of a baby farm sold a baby for $100.000 during the time
of the investigation. It was found that she had required $25.00
to be paid at once and the remainder on the installment plan. Her
trade slogan was, “It’s cheaper and easier to buy a
baby for $100.00 than to have one of your own.” . . .
Many children placed in this manner were taken by people who could
not have secured children through certified child-placing agencies
because they were immoral, or wished to procure a child for a fraudulent
Conclusions and Recommendations. Children such
as those found in baby farms need better care and protection from
the state than children surrounded by normal family influences. . . .
It should be unlawful for any organization or individual to place,
or assist in placing, more than one child during one year in the
permanent care of another without first obtaining a license for
the business of placing children from the State Department of Public
Welfare. Organizations and individuals thus licensed should be subject
to supervision by that department. . . .
The State should make it unlawful for a mother or any other person
to give away the permanent custody of a child. . . .
The exclusive power to issue a decree of adoption should be vested
in the Juvenile Court. The court should require a thorough investigation
of the adopting family before permitting a child to be placed with
such family for adoption. The adoption should not become permanent
until a satisfactory six months’ probationary period has elapsed.
During the probationary period a visitor from the State Department
of Public Welfare should make inspections to ascertain whether or
not the child has been properly placed.
Traffic in children should be stopped. The passage of the laws
recommended here would, of course, entail increased expense to the
state. But money spent on such preventive measures would mean an
ultimate saving and a better citizenship.