U.S. Children's Bureau Memo, “Investigation of Adoptions, etc.” 1915

Source: www.ssa.gov/history

Julia Lathrop, for whom this memo was written, was the first Chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau.

U.S. Department of Labor
Children’s Bureau

May 22, 1915.

Memo to Miss Lathrop:
Subject: Investigation of Adoptions, etc.

The matters mentioned in Mr. Hartt’s letter are, of course, coming to our attention as we proceed in the illegitimacy study, and we had planned to gather a considerable amount of this material for future reference, even though some of it may not relate directly to our illegit. investigation. The agencies we deal with in our study are also, in general concerned with the subject of adoption and placing out. We are gathering a mass of material of this kind from the State records, as we shall need much of it in connection with our investigation. It may be that we should be doing this according to a more systematic plan than we have been, so that we could use it in this other connection as well. We were only yesterday discussing the feasibility of doing a certain amount of checking up of court adoptions, as we will undoubtedly find that illegitimacy is a considerable factor in it. We find that all changes of name, including adoptions, are reported to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and we were considering checking this list with the list of illegit. children and following further as extensively as our opportunities would permit. The adoptions of legitimate children could of course be followed also if desirable, as the need seems to be for securing investigation in connection with court adoptions.

The subject of adoption, if taken up as a separate study in itself, using various states with different situations as fields for research, is one that should be taken up, if at all, in a very painstaking and thorough way. It would require a considerable period of time, say two years at a conservative estimate, for one person to make a study that would be comprehensive enough to mean much. The subject is one that cannot be taken up profitably, it seems to me, as a separate problem. It should be considered particularly in relation to boarding and other placing out, and other alternatives to adoption, also state control and supervision, institutions available, etc. Our present subjects of feeblemindedness and illegitimacy would enter in as important factors. I think that adoption is a topic that should be taken up by the Ch. Bureau, but if it is undertaken, the treatment should be comprehensive and extended, and it should be closely correlated with our other work. Even in states having the best regulations at present it would, of course, be comparatively easy to find plenty of instances showing what may be called “traffic in babies”. . .

E.O. Lundberg


Source: Memo from E.O. Lundberg to Miss Lathrop, May 22, 1915, United States Children's Bureau Papers, Box 60, Folder 7346, National Archives II.

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