Two Adoption Home Studies, 1949 and 1950

These two adoption investigations were conducted close together in time but had two different outcomes. The first resulted in rejecting Mr. and Mrs. J’s application, before a full home study was conducted, whereas the second resulted in recommending that a child be placed with Mr. and Mrs. Z. Infertility was key in both investigations but it was discussed and interpreted in strikingly different ways. The report format was quite standard, illustrating the narrative style of casework recording prevalent among social workers and the importance they attached to details related to matching. The abbreviations in the second case refer to “Foster Mother” (FM), “Foster Father” (FF), and “Foster Parents” (FP).

8-23-49 Mrs. J telephoned. She was referred by the St. Cecilia Home. She is interested in applying to adopt a baby. She inquired anxiously whether it would be possible for her to make an application. She explained that the home had told her that their list is closed and they would not be in a position to accept her application. She said she feels rather hopeless about this because she also applied at St. Mary’s Home. Although she has had an application for about a year there, she has heard nothing.

Mrs. J has had two babies by Caesarian section, each have died. She cannot have any more children. It seems to her that it is a matter of life and death to have a baby. . . .

8-30-49 Mr. and Mrs. J in office by appointment. They are an unpretentious looking young couple with dark hair and eyes, although they would be noticeable because Mrs. J is so tiny. She is a pert, rather sweet faced girl and has expressive eyes, is probably not over five feet in height and even with high heels, gives the impression of being a tiny person. Mr. J is of about medium height, slim and athletic. He is a little fairer than his wife in complexion and looks like a person who is used to taking care of himself. . . .

I recalled that Mrs. J had come to think about adoption after some difficult experiences in attempting to have children of her own. Mrs. J. repeated that she had to have a baby and told of crying and feeling downhearted because she seems to meet difficulties on every hand. . . . What makes her angry is that people who put so little into raising children should be able to have them while she, who wants a child so badly, can’t seem to get one. . . . She asked whether we did have children for placement and I said that we did although I could not know at this point whether we would have a child who would be suitable for them. . . .

She wonders how she is going to be able to get along without a child and seemed worried about what would happen to her if she did not have a child. She added that her husband gets quite angry when he comes home and finds she has been crying. Mr. J explained that he is concerned because his wife gets herself so upset. After all, crying doesn’t do any good. He made it clear that he wasn’t really angry, but that he felt helpless in the face of his wife’s unhappiness. Mrs. J said she really doesn’t want to feel as she does and tries not to think, but that’s not always possible. When I asked Mr. J some questions about his wife’s pregnancy, Mrs. J said she might as well tell me the whole story. The pregnancies were during an earlier marriage. Her husband was a paratrooper in the war and was killed while she was pregnant the second time and it was just at the end of the war. . . . It was only when she was pregnant the second time and her husband was overseas that her doctor talked very plainly to her. He told her it was a matter of her life if she became pregnant again and she agreed to be sterilized. . . . She wanted to make it clear that she and Mr. J had discussed adoption carefully before their marriage and they both agreed to this. . . .

Mr. J had taken little part in the conversation at this point, except to clarify statements made by his wife and I asked him what he thought of his wife’s desire in adopting a child. He made it very clear that he wanted a child too. . . . Mr. J himself is a butcher. . .and feels very comfortable that he has a good job. He has a rather philosophical outlook on life and I got the impression of him as a dependable person who could be counted upon. . . .

Because the J’s are young and because there is a warm and spontaneous [missing word] about Mrs. J which made me feel that if she could get her feelings about the very difficult experiences which she has had straightened out, there might be a possibility that they could give a child a good home. . . .

9-13-49 . . . .Mrs. J said she didn’t know anyone who had so many bad things happen and yet remain in their right mind. I asked whether that scared her a little sometimes and she could admit that it did, particularly when she gets upset and can’t seem to stop crying. The periods when she feels worst, are when someone makes an unkind remark to her or discourages her in the faith that she has built up that in spite of all that has happened, she can still have a normal life. Sometimes she does not know how much longer she can go on. She could admit that some of this hopelessness comes back when I tell her that I do not know whether we will have a child for her and raise questions about the feelings she has.

9-30-49 Since it was quite clear that a referral to a psychiatrist was too threatening to Mrs. J, I suggested that there are social agencies who can help her with this problem of finding ways of bearing that things are as they are with her, in much the same way that she and I have been looking at this today. . . .

10-31-49 Application temporarily rejected as Mrs. J is needing help in accepting her own inability to have children before proceeding with adoption plan.

* * *

1-20-50 FM: Mrs. Z is a short, dark-haired, dark-eyed girl with a vivacious face. She is 5'1" tall and weights 115#.

She was married November 26, 1936 and both she and her husband hoped they would have children at once. In the Spring of 1949 she and her husband submitted to complete examinations at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. _____ reported that her tubes are completely closed and there is no possibility of pregnancy. (He will furnish us a statement of this, as they were told he would do this on request of an adoption agency.)

FF: Mr. Z was born 9-23-14 in _____. . . . Mr. Z, also dark of hair, has blue eyes. He is 5'4" tall and weighs 140#. Worker saw him briefly at the store but did not have a long interview. Aside from his work, Mr. Z finds diversion in fishing and gardening. He has done much of the finishing on their home and contemplates doing the work to make two additional bedrooms and the bath planned for the second story of their home.

HOME: Worker saw the Z home last summer. It is a neat new bungalow located at _____ Street. At present it has 5 downstairs rooms, with plenty of provision for expansion. There is a large sunny living-room, a kitchen with an alcove dinette, bath, and 2 bedrooms—all well furnished and cared for. The house is located in a neat yard with flowers in every corner. The flowers are Mr. Z’s project.

CHURCH: Mrs. Z was raised a Methodist; Mr. Z is a good Lutheran and since they prefer the Lutheran minister they attend that church. Mrs. Z thinks she will have her letter entered in the Lutheran church.

OCCUPATION AND EDUCATION: Both Mr. and Mrs. Z graduated from the _____ High School. Mr. Z operates a grocery store—the Superette—in _____. His partner is Mrs. Z’s only brother. It is reported that they are very companionable and never disagree. Mrs. Z has been a bookkeeper at the _____ Grocery for over 10 years. She will resign if a child is placed in their home. . . .

3-7-50 See letter giving the following information:

Mrs. Z’s parents: Her father was a big man almost 6' tall and weighing about 185#. He was of fair complexion and had dark brown hair and greenish eyes.

Her mother was 5'2" in height and weighed 140#. She was of medium complexion and had black hair and dark brown eyes.

Mr. Z’s parents: His father was 5'10" in height and weighed 145 to 150 pounds. He had a fair complexion, light brown hair and light blue eyes.

His mother was 5'5" in height and weighed 185#. She had black hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion.

Mr. Z apparently resembles his father. . . .

NOTE FROM MISS _____, 3-13-50 This is the best foster home study of yours that I have had an opportunity to read. Would you please incorporate into your dictation the following: Are FPs members of the Lutheran Church and would this be the Church to which an adopted child would go; who holds the mortgage on the store and what are the annual or monthly payments; is house clear of debt; is the store and business “tied-up” in any way if FF should die; what is their annual income; any savings or insurance. . . . I can’t find that you saw any references or the minister. Do FPs have any insurance? . . .

3-29-50 Mrs. Z made her first application by letter on May 15, 1949. The balance of the data has been collected over a ten month period. . . . The Zs will take either a boy or a girl, but rather lean to a girl. Mr. Z appears lighter than his wife, but both are really medium in coloring.

7/27/50 I called on Mrs. Z in her home. She was dressed in overalls and “T” shirt, for which she made no apology. She said she had worked all day and was going back to the store to help Mr. Z. . . .

I had a personally conducted tour through the beautiful little house, a good share of which they built themselves, and was allowed to peek into cupboards and drawers in a most matter-of-fact way. Through it all was an air of pride in her ability as a housekeeper and there were no excuses because her slippers were in the living room near a chair where an open book showed she had caught a few moments of relaxation. . . .

Mr. Z is slight in build. . . . It is quite clear there is perfect harmony between him and his wife, that he is proud of his business and the grocery lines he carries, equally proud of his home, and is interested in people. . . .

They had recently purchased a dozen new carts for wheeling groceries. Some had baby carriers. He wheeled one down the aisle, demonstrated its good points, put their imaginary baby in the cart and loaded up with baby food, Hoffman salad dressing, a new kind of bread mix, green vegetables, frozen foods, and dairy products, and while doing so gave me a running explanation about the stock and why some brands were better sellers. . . .

After an hour with Mr. Z I felt there was no business quite like the food business and that rationing or no rationing this man is a success, and he could start a grocery store in the middle of the Sahara desert, install freezing units and have nomadic tribes trooping to his establishment without much effort. . . .

I sincerely feel this home has much to offer a child in the way of a good home, security, and much affection.

When the Zs have the opportunity to turn some of their enthusiasm toward the care of the child, not only they but the child and the community will be gainers. Both believe in an education and would be able to give a child opportunity. Both are courteous, cultured people.

When I left they were figuring out where to put a piano and I would not be surprised to see one installed when I next call.

Both are healthy; both like and enjoy children and have much more understanding of their needs than the average childless couple.


Source: Adoption Home Investigation, Dorothy Hutchinson Papers, Box 1, Folder 7; Adoption Home Investigation, Dorothy Hutchinson Papers, Box 1, Folder 3, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

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