May 10, 1915
Dear Miss Sumner,
Since your visit and the talks we had about adoption, I have got
at a side of the subject that may interest the Children’s
Bureau as strongly as it interests me, and if you don’t mind
a lengthy letter I want to go over it pretty fully.
At luncheon the other day, Mr. C.C. Carstens of the S.P.C.C. spoke
of what he called the “Traffic in Babies,” and Mr. J.
Prentice Murphy of our Children’s Aid Society said, “There’s
a lot of that,” but the conversation switched off to other
aspects of the child problem and it was not till next day that I
could challenge Mr. Carstens to substantiate his phrase.
He did it by making two points:
1. That a group of experts who are investigating newspaper advertisements
of babies for adoption find rascality in a considerable proportion
2. That unless there is opposition, the courts do not investigate
before sanctioning adoption.
When questioned further, Mr. Carstens said he had had to prosecute
foster-parents for neglect or abuse of adopted children. He spoke
of men who adopt babies because their wives complain of loneliness
and want children as playthings; all goes well till they discover
that the playthings are also burdens. However, he was inclined to
discount the statement of Mr. Robert W. Kelso (Massachusetts Board
of Charities) that there are people who adopt infants in order to
get work out of them later; he said such people began with an older
But he did say, just as Mr. Murphy had, that sometimes babies are
got possession of as a means of blackmail, so that when a man comes
back to his mistress after a year, she can confront him with an
infant and a demand for money. Or a mother may get her baby adopted
with the intention of visiting the foster-parents later on, begging
its return, making “scenes,” and allowing herself to
be bribed into quitting the annnoyance.
Mr. Cartens knows of white babies falling into the hands of negroes
who have white wives. One such negro is now in prison after surrendering
a nine-year-old white concubine.
Also he told of maternity homes that contract to get rid of the
babies, and of baby-boarding establishments into which infants are
put by mothers who stop paying and disappear, leaving them for the
proprietress to dispose of. . .
Rollin Lynde Hartt