International Social Service, “Proxy Adoptions,” 1954-1956

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

Bertha and Harry Holt arranged to adopt eight Korean children in 1955, and then facilitated scores of other proxy adoptions for U.S. citizens. The picture of their large, happy, evangelical family was at odds with warnings by professionals that such adoptions were especially risky and dangerous for children.

The following story was. . .related to (International Social Service) by a county judge.

In 1950 the County Juvenile Court had occasion to make an investigation relative to the background history of a couple who had made application to the court, for adoption. The investigation of the court revealed that Mr. M., the prospective adoptive father, drank excessively, was unstable in his employment, and was suffering from a physical disorder. Investigation concerning the prospective adoptive mother revealed her to be an extremely tense and high-strung individual with a prior history of nervous breakdowns. Marital discord was noted in the family situation and there were several separations between the prospective parents as a result of this marital discord. As a result of this information, these people were rejected as prospective adoptive parents by this court on the basis of marital instability.

This couple, at a later date, applied to still another adoption agency, and after making an independent investigation the agency arrived at the same conclusion and also turned this couple down as prospective adoptive parents. At still a later date the couple again made application with a third agency and that agency, based upon the investigation material obtained during the prior two investigations, plus a review of their own, turned down the family.

Approximately one year and a half ago, a local newspaper carried in it a feature story on the placement of a child of Japanese birth with a couple in that area. It was quickly learned that the adopting couple was the very same couple that had been rejected by the court as being unsuitable. Investigation revealed that the adoptive parents had adopted the child by proxy in a proceeding in the country of Japan and that no local court or unit of state government had in any way been consulted relative to the desireability of this adoptive placement. In view of this situation, and its prior history with this court, the matter was presented to the attorney general’s office of the State, for a ruling. After considerable delay and with some degree of hesitation on the part of the attorney general, it was finally his decision that there was nothing that any local or State unit of government could do with regard to this particular type of placement.


Source: “Proxy Adoptions,” International Social Service, American Branch Papers, Box 10, Folder: “Proxy Adoptions, 1954-56,” Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.

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