Excerpt from Helen Lucile Pearson, “Child Adoption in Indiana,” 1925

CHILDREN PLACED BY NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENTS

To show what is happening in Indiana through the placing of children by newspaper advertisements, which is prohibited by law in some states, the writer watched the two principal daily papers in Indianapolis for a period of six months and followed up a few of these cases. These papers both have a wide circulation throughout the state, so the facts found are not ones which affect Indianapolis solely. The State Charities Aid Association of New York has recently made a study of this problem in New York City and this report entitled “A Baby a Day Given Away” says a “study of Promiscuous Placing through Newspaper Advertisements Shows A Astonishing Abuses”.

In Indianapolis, it was found that in the six months from Jan. 1st to June 30, 1924, there appeared in these two papers 59 “want ads” and two editorials concerning placement of children. (The same advertisement in many cases appeared more than once but has been counted only once). 20 of these were for children to adopt; 21 were for homes for children, 5 of these indicating that the children concerned might be adopted, and 15 were for children to board. The majority of these advertisements appeared in the evening paper, no doubt because it is considered more of a “home” paper, and were found usually in the “Personals”. Only one of the advertisements offered a reward for a baby. This same advertisement appeared in papers at several different times. The writer answered this appeal at the P.O. box number given and had an interview with the woman doing the advertising. She have a name and address in another city which the writer found afterwards was fictitious and the supposition is that she was “buying” babies for other people.

Another of these advertisements for children to adopt indicated that the family not only wished to adopt a baby but wished to provide a “little mother” for the baby by the same method. It read: “Wanted, —girl 10 to 14 years to raise; also a baby girl to adopt; blonde preferred”. Another advertisement for a girl between 10 and 14 years of age to adopt, it was found, was placed by a single man who lived with a woman not his wife whom he wished to provide with a young girl for company and to help with the housework. Most of these advertisements for children to adopt, however, were for babies and some of the homes were very good. In the advertisements for homes for children, one which was followed was found to have been inserted by a very nice type of woman for an adoptive home for the baby of her maid. She received thirty-seven responses to this advertisement but none of them appeared to her to be very desirable. She was very glad to have the writer put her in touch with an organization where a better plan could be worked out for the mother and baby.

 

Source: Helen Lucile Pearson, “Child Adoption in Indiana” (M.A. thesis, Indiana University, 1925), 44-46.

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
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