Letters from Adults and Children to the U.S. Children's Bureau, 1918-1943

The U.S. Children’s Bureau provided no adoption services. Yet hundreds of adults seeking children to adopt, birth parents in trouble, and children of all ages wrote heartfelt letters to the Bureau in hopes of forming families, finding help, and locating lost relatives. Each inquiry was answered promptly and respectfully, usually with referrals to local or state agencies whose staff and minimum standards were deemed reliable.

W.H. Sullivan to U.S. Children's Bureau, April 27, 1918


As mayor of the city of Bogalusa [Louisiana], am sending circular out to a large number of institutions that thought might be interested in placing some white babies in a progressive growing city. A large number of well to do citizens of the City have requested me to bring a carload of babies to Bogalusa. By a carload, mean about thirty to fifty. . . . There are sixteen thousand people and there are many families who have no children, who would like to have them. . . . The city authorities themselves will see that the children are placed in desirable homes and will look after them. . . .

We do not care to know anything about their antecedents or parentage. All we want to know is that they are healthy. We would be interested in about one half Protestant and one half Catholic children, both boys and girls. . . .

* * *

Mrs. L.A. Parkhurst to U.S. Children’s Bureau, September 3, 1919

Dear Sirs:

I am thinking of adopting a little girl as I have only one, seven years old, and want a companion for her but would like information in regard to the chance one takes in bringing a child without blood ties into the home. Granted the home conditions are good is one taking a much greater chance than with their own? I would also like to know what age is best. I think I would like one about three years old? At that age would a child completely forget the past and be like my own?

I have lived in Baltimore long and would like to know how I can locate the most desirable orphans homes. I am not very particular about the child’s looks if its health and disposition are of the best. Doesn’t the ravages of influenza and the high cost of living make the number of orphans in this country unusually large at the present time?

* * *

Zilpha Warren to U.S. Children’s Bureau, December 19, 1921

Dear Lady,

I am a little orphan girl age 13, who wishes to be adopted by a woman who is mentally, physically and financially able to rear and educate me.

1. I am robust and healthy

2. I have completed the 8th grade at school and received a diploma.

3. I attend church and Sunday school

4. My mother died when I was less than one yr. old

5. I am both poetic and artistic

6. I am about 5 ft. tall, weight 112 lbs., have gray eyes and brown hair.

7. I never attend parties and dances as I think they are unelevating to the mind.

8. I now reside in the country, altho I was born in Kan. City, Oct. 6, 1908, residing there one yr. only.

9. My mother passed away ere I could remember and I pine, I long, for a God-mother all the while.

10. Here are some of my maxims.

(1) Perfect health, is a steadfast foundation for wealth

(2) If we people on earth are afraid, It is because our own Divine Master we have not obeyed.

(3) Wear a smile, it costs nothing so continue to wear it all the while.

(4) Do the very best that you can do, and the world in return will be proud of you.

(5) Sanitation helps to make a stronger and better nation.

(6) What e’er you do, do it well, for neatness the story will always tell.

If you will refer me to a dear, kind lady who desires a little girl for adoption, I am almost aware that God in Heaven will repay you many times.

Enclosed I am sending a goose as seen running over one of my father’s former snow-covered wheat fields.

Please ans. promptly.

* * *

Mrs. C.B. Sheppard to U.S. Children’s Bureau, July 18, 1927

Dear sir:

Will you plese helpe me to git my Baby girl; I have Ben trying going on five long years now and I cant make no hidway She will Be 5 five years old 28 of this month. I cape her until she was Six 6 month old. and I was taking sick and they stold the Baby a way. and wondent let me no ho got her. I came down hear from the north two month before my Baby came and was a stranger here in Tarpon Spring [Florida] and I work hard to keepe my Baby with me until was worked down and was taking sick and then it seems as they wanted to run over me and take the Baby.

I said at I nevery will give my Boy up and I wont I nevery have Sined no pappers. and now I have got a nother Baby girl at will be wone year old in nick month and I would like to Bring them Both up togither if I can I have talk it over with my husban and he is willin and would Be glad fore me to git the Baby But I want to take him on a Surprise if I can All I every as find out is at the Baby was putt in the hands of Blacks in St. Peterburg fla. But I was told at they was norther foaks. But still you no as mutch a Bout it as I do an I was told at you help monther out and don’t charge any thing and if you can and will I shur will Be a happy mother a gain thank you

* * *

Louis Hooper to U.S. Children’s Bureau, April 28, 1931

My dear Miss Abbott:—

My wife and I want very much to adopt a little girl; we have talked the matter over with most of the child placement agencies in the larger cities from New Haven to Washington and from each we have obtained some points that were of value to us. But the matter is of such tremendous importance to us and to the child whom we hope to adopt that we would like very much the privilege of talking the subject over with you who know so much about children. If you can spare us just a little time we can come to your office any afternoon that may be convenient for you.

I am taking the liberty of enclosing a statement telling about the child that we want and about ourselves.

Mr. and Mrs. Hooper, who recently lost their only daughter, are anxious to adopt a little girl, one who comes from an American Protestant family, who is between five and ten years old, and who is in perfect health. They hope to find a child who possesses, besides these essential requisites, at least some of the following: New England ancestry: an I.Q. of at least 110; a happy, loveable disposition; some social and cultural background.

Mr. Hooper was born in Worcester, Mass. in 1867; Mrs. Hooper in Toconderoga, N.Y. in 1885; both are of New England stock. They were married in 1913 and have had two children, a daughter born 1917, died 1930; and a son born 1919. They are both in the very best of health and their family physician assures them that they have yet many years to live. If, however, Mr. Hooper should be compelled to give up active work or should die, ample provision has been made so that the family will not come to want.

Mr. Hooper received his A.B. (magna cum laude) and his A. M. from Harvard, being of the fourth generation to have attended that college. He has taught at Harvard and at several preparatory schools; for ten years he was Head Master of the Washington School for Boys; and since 1911, he has had charge of the business affairs of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf. Mr. Hooper’s brother, Horace E., was, before his death a few years ago, President of the Encyclopaedia Britannica Company; another brother, Franklin H., is the American Editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Mrs. Hooper, who is a graduate of the Oswego, (N.Y.) State Normal School was, at the time of her marriage, a supervising teacher in the public schools of Elizabeth, N.J. This year she has been doing part time teaching in Kendall School where she was formerly a full time teacher.

The family occupy a non-housekeeping apartment in one of the college dormitories and they take their family meals at a small faculty table with a few of the other officers and teachers. . . . Mr. and Mrs. Hooper receive in addition to their living a salary of $3,000.00 a year. . . .

Mr. and Mrs. Hooper are planning to send their son to Harvard and they would expect to send their adopted daughter to a college of equal standing. . . . Mr. and Mrs. Hooper feel that they can offer any child whom they may adopt a very happy home and abundant care and love. . . .

* * *

Leonard King to Eleanor Roosevelt, U.S. Children’s Bureau, March 3, 1943

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

I deeply appreciate that this letter may or may not reach you but perhaps some one will interpret my motives and assist me in a problem.

My wife and sweetheart underwent some surgery that precludes any more children and she has one of those “motherhood aches” that only a woman could understand. We have a boy age 5 and a girl aged nine and we are most anxious to use our home for some one who could use the care of a father and a moH

Mrs. King has expressed a keen desire to have a girl companion for my little girl and perhaps you may know of some one who may want a home. We are both fair complexioned and American birth—Protestant faith and would dearly love to either legally adopt or take to our hearts a little girl who could become one of us. If such a thing is possible please write.


Sources: W.H. Sullivan to U.S. Children’s Bureau, April 27, 1918, Box 67, Folder 7-3-4-2; Mrs. L.A. Parkhurst to U.S. Children’s Bureau, September 3, 1919, Box 67, Folder 7-3-4-3; Zilpha Warren to U.S. Children’s Bureau, December 19, 1921, Box 211, Folder 7-3-4-2-1; Mrs. C.B. Sheppard to U.S. Children’s Bureau, July 18, 1927, Box 292, Folder 7-3-2; Louis Hooper to U.S. Children’s Bureau, April 28, 1931, Box 406, Folder 7-3-3-4; Leonard King to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, March 3, 1943, Box 169, Folder 7-3-3-4, U.S. Children's Bureau Papers, National Archives II.

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