U.S. Children's Bureau, Adoption Laws in the United States, 1925


The importance and complexity of the subject of adoption legislation have been indicated in the foregoing pages. The tendency of recent legislation and the standards which are being developed by those engaged in child-welfare work emphasize as the primary consideration the welfare of the child and also provide for safeguarding the rights of all the parties in interest.

The requirement of notice to the State department of public welfare and of investigation and recommendation by the department is a recognition of the State’s interest in children placed for adoption and gives the State a method of fulfilling its responsibility toward the children who have been placed. If the jurisdiction is vested in a court equipped to make social investigations the law may properly direct that investigations be made either by the court or by the State department, but in any case the State department should be vested with ample supervisory powers covering all aspects of the placement of children.

The relative advantage of granting jurisdiction to juvenile courts or to those traditionally connected with matters of probate seems still an open question, but it is generally agreed that in whatever court jurisdiction may be placed, provision for social investigation is essential.

In drafting adoption acts the welfare of the child, the rights of the parents and the possibilities of their assuming the case of the child under proper conditions, and the rights of the adopting parents must be borne in mind. Provision for social investigation, for trial period in the home either before petition is filed or before a final decree is granted, and for State supervision will safeguard the interests of all parties. The investigation should include the fitness of the natural parents to care for the child with a view to determining whether he is a proper subject for adoption, and the financial ability and moral fitness of the adopting parents and general suitability of the proposed home.

Among the items in adoption procedure which are of especial importance with reference to the child’s welfare are those providing that if the petitioner is married the spouse shall join in the petition, and those safeguarding records from publicity. . . .

Other important points to be considered in connection with adoption legislation include provision for appeal, for vacation of order or annulment for good cause, and for inheritance rights. The statute should specifically provide that adoption shall establish between the child and the adopting parents the legal relationship existing between parents and their children born in lawful wedlock. Either in the adoption law or in related laws the transfer of parental rights and responsibilities without order or decree of court should be prohibited. Administration of adoption laws for the welfare of the child is to a large extent dependent upon the administration of related laws governing children’s institutions and the placing of children in family homes.


Source: U.S. Children's Bureau, Adoption Laws in the United States: A Summary of the Development of Adoption Legislation and Significant Features of Adoption Statutes, With the Text of Selected Laws, ed. Emelyn Foster Peck, Bureau Publication No. 148 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1925), 25-26.

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) 346-3699
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
About the Project and the Author
© Ellen Herman