International Social Service Memo, “Home Study Material for Intercountry Adoption Applications,” 1957

Source:  Mrs. Harry Holt as told to David Wisner (Los Angeles: Oxford Press, 1956), 227.

Joe, one of the eight Korean children adopted by Bertha and Harry Holt in 1955, dressed as Davy Crockett. The expectation that international adoptions would lead to the easy assimilation of new Americans co-existed with concerns that matching pay close attention to racial and cultural differences.

Many agencies have asked us to outline the kind and amount of information we would like to have about families applying for a foreign child, and the form in which it would be most useful to ISS in the “matching” process. In the past few years we have accepted summaries or copies of home studies as they would be completed for an application for a local child, writing back for more information as needed. Agencies have been most cooperative, even though some of our requests involved extra interviews fitted into an agency’s already heavy schedule. We feel that we now have had enough experience with the “matching” of family to specific child to be able to outline the information that can give us a clear idea of the type and age of child for which a particular family is potentially most suitable, in relation to the attitudes and facilities of their community. . . .

The same amount and kind of material usually compiled for the placement of a local child is also needed for a family who has applied to adopt a foreign child. It should be supplemented by an evaluation of the special qualities we have found valuable for the successful placement of foreign children. First of all, the family must be ready to understand and handle the differences in cultural background and, perhaps, race of a child from another country, and to accept a child who has had material and emotional deprivations in the early years. It goes without saying that the family must be able to accept a child as he is, along with the cultural and environmental factors that had a part in molding him, and without a need to Americanize him too quickly. . . .


1. Basis for study and recommendations: Number of office interviews, and with whom; number of home visits, and with whom.

2. Reason for application for foreign child.

3. Description (for all members of the immediate family) of physical appearance; personality, activities and interests; education and ambitions, nationality background; family attitudes toward intercountry adoption; home and community.

4. Economic position: employment; income; assets, and resources.

5. Nationality and racial make-up and attitudes of community.

6. Medical report, current, completed by physician. (N.B. If medical basis for childlessness, add PAPs’ emotional reaction to it.)

7. Describe PAPs: Experience in handling children, and reaction in discussion of common problems at various stages in a child’s development and growth, and experience, if any, with people of other cultural backgrounds.

8. Discussion of type, age and sex of child for whom PAP and worker agree they would be suitable.

9. Worker’s evaluation of motivation for adoption, and for adoption of a foreign child.

10. Any additional comments by worker or PAPs of special qualifications as adoptive parents.


Source: “Home Study Material for Intercountry Adoption Applications,” pp. 1, 3, International Social Service, American Branch Papers, Box 11, Folder: “Home Study of Intercountry Adoption Applicants,” Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.

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