Sample Letter to Families Applying for Infants Where the Woman is Over 40 Years of Age, early 1940s

Age limits for adoption applicants have been typical features of agency adoptions. Although this excerpt makes it clear that age limits served the important practical purpose of limiting the applicant pool for healthy infants, the official rationale had to do with matching. Placing children with parents of normal reproductive age was preferable in order to give all parties the feeling that nature could, at least in theory, have brought them together.

We have given your recent letter telling us of your wish to adopt a baby very thoughtful consideration. I realize that it must be very disappointing to you that we cannot consider your application at this time. However, we know from experience how much wiser and more considerate it is to be realistic about our limitations.

We have only a very limited number of children coming to our care and about 500 families who have applied to us. Although we are constantly striving to increase the number of children referred to us so that we may consider a larger number of families, there has been as yet no substantial increase. For this reason it is necessary for us to choose families not only on the basis of their merits as families, but primarily on the individual needs of the particular children we happen to have coming to us.

Since most of our children are the very tiny infants, we feel that for the present we must limit our applications to those families where the mother is under forty year of age. If we are able to increase the number of toddlers or older children coming to us, we will be happy to consider an application like yours. We do not want to raise your hopes falsely and therefore want to explain what the situation is and the reasons why we must limit the number of applications.

We will, however, be glad to note your interest in adoption and should we get a substantial number of older children, we will be glad to get in touch with you and discuss your interest further.


Source: Sample Letter to Families Applying for Infants Where the Woman is Over 40 Years of Age, Viola W. Bernard Papers, Box 157, Folder 2, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University.

Page Updated: 2-24-2012
Site designed by:

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
About the Project and the Author
© Ellen Herman