Helen Fradkin, “Outline for Adoption Studies,” 1954

This outline suggests the therapeutic or even Freudian orientation of adoption home studies after midcentury. Especially notable is the emphasis on interpretation of unconscious or hidden factors—visible in the contrast Fradkin draws between the things “clients” actually say and the worker’s impression or diagnosis of what they are actually feeling. The reference to O.W. is to out-of-wedlock births, or illegitimacy.


I. Presentation of Clients (How do they present themselves)
a. How do they come; tone of letter or telephone call; way of relating, participation, etc.

b. What do they know about the agency.

c. Worker’s personal impression.

II. What is their expressed comfort with adoption (what do they tell us)
a. Personal experience with it.

b. Limits and requirements expressed.

c. First reaction to discussion of whether or not they will tell a child of adoption.

d. Expressed knowledge of source of supply of children; attitude toward O.W.

III. Our impression of their comfort with adoption (What do we think diagnostically)
a. Efforts to have own child.

b. Length of time involved in work-up

c. Difficulty and timing of decision to adopt

d. Reasons for delay.

e. Their attitude towards risks in adoption.

IV. Infertility and its implications (What does it mean to them)
a. Reasons, definiteness.

b. Medical exploration.

c. Reality to couple or family

d. Meaning to person and marriage

1. How do they talk about it.
2. Degree of acceptance.

e. Hints of possible contributing psychological factors.

V. Marital Relationship
a. Impression (with substantiating evidence)

b. Cross background facts (emotional tones)

1. Family relationships
2. Childhood and adolescence
3. Interests and hobbies
4. Meeting and courtship

c. Estimate of effect of background facts as evidenced by adult adjustments.

d. Indications of break with child’s role, readiness for responsibility and parenthood.

e. Sexual adjustment.

f. Impression of dependency balance in the marriage.

VI. Attitudes toward parenthood and children
a. Expressed motivations for parenthood.

b. Experience with children.

c. Sensitivity to children and their needs

d. Kinds of children they like; qualities they admire and disapprove.

e. Expectations for a child; impression of pressures on a child.

f. Sex preference

1. Strength and expressed reason
2. Suspected reason

g. Impression of ability to take on and share a child.

VII. Ability to support a child
a. Financial position

1. Employment
2. Income
3. Insurance

VIII. Security with agency
a. Re its decision in relation to selection of a child

b. Ability to work with the agency

Worker’s impression of positives and risks for child as evidenced by material from interviews, medical reports, references, etc.

a. What family were left with.

b. How worker accredited them as people

c. How worker prepared them for placement or rejection

d. Clients reaction and expectation


This Is Suggestive: Obviously, not all interviews will include all this. Rejections obvious early in the interview might omit whole sections and dwell on acknowledgment of all these people have and possibility of rejection notwithstanding, with reasons and preparation. Evidence supporting decision to reject should appear in dictation.


Source: “Outline for Adoption Studies,” Used at Southern Regional Conference, 1954, Child Welfare League of America Papers, Box 15, Folder 7, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.

Page Updated: 2-24-2012
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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
(541) 346-3118
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
About the Project and the Author
© Ellen Herman