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
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
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.