The “R” Family Case (Catholic Charities), 1941

In the following extract from an adoption home study, there appear a number of abbreviations that were common in social work narratives. FM stands for foster mother, FF stands for foster father, and HF stands for home finder.

Present situation: Couple said they have been married for twelve years. Both have received complete physical examinations and have been informed by Dr. D. that there is no apparent physical reasons why they cannot have a child. Their estimated monthly income is a little over $300. Last Spring they built a new home in B----- and have been successful in completely furnishing it. The couple said they were anxious to adopt a boy in the neighborhood of one year of age. Both listened very carefully to explanation given them of our investigation, and both emphasized that they would like a child as soon as possible. HF made it clear to them that we could give them no assurance of an early placement. Couple explained that they wished to adopt a child for a long time, but had not taken the necessary steps in the past because of Mr. R’s employment, which necessitated them moving about the country and living in apartments. His employment in Pittsburgh now has an aspect of permanency. Advised that investigation would start upon receipt of completed application form. . . .

Marriage: FM and FF were married at St. J---- Church, W-------, on April 13, 1929 with Monsignor S----- W----- performing the ceremony.

According to the couple, both wanted children from the beginning of their married life and FM consulted doctors during her travels with her husband to ascertain the reason for her inability to conceive. Probably the physician who gave her the most attention and is most familiar with her case is Dr. J---- D---- of C-------- A------. Dr. D----- confirmed to HF foster parents’ statement that they had both been examined by him and pronounced physically fit and capable of having children.

References bore out the fact that the couple appeared to their friends to be well-adjusted and happy with one another. All of the references emphasized FF’s unusual character and personality, at the same time, speaking of FM in positive terms. . . .

It was Dr. D------ who first revealed, under promise of absolute confidence, that at one time FF had consulted a psychiatrist about his wife. Dr. D------ did not state directly the reason why FF had felt it necessary to see a psychiatrist and indicated the fact that he had given any information on this subject must be kept from FPs. It was decided in view of this to call FF into the office to try to lead him to discuss frankly the sexual maladjustment which it was felt existed between the couple. When approached on the subject, FF was unusually frank and honest in his discussion and expressed a great deal of understanding. He said after he married FM he learned that she had absorbed through religion and through her mother’s attitude a rather distorted conception of the role of sex in the life of a married couple and consented to endure intercourse at very rare intervals. FF said he had done nothing about this for approximately two years’ time other than hope that her attitude would slowly change as time went on. However, when it became evident that his wife’s attitude did not spring merely from innocence and inexperience but appeared to be something which he could not change, he consulted a physician who agreed to talk with FM about the matter. FF said although two physicians had talked with FM about the matter in the meantime, he felt he should consult Dr. M-----, local psychiatrist, and the latter had seen his wife on two occasions. Dr. M------ advised FF directly to simply dominate the situation and not permit his wife to refuse him intercourse. FF said he felt there has been a marked change in her since the psychiatrist talked with her and added quite frankly that he felt she had adjusted to the entire situation to the best of her ability. FF explained that his wife would never receive any satisfaction or pleasure out of intercourse, but he, himself, was willing to accept it as such since he was convinced that she was handling her own unnatural attitude to the best of her ability and making a sincere effort to provide him with some satisfaction. FF’s discussion of the entire situation was very honest and direct and it was possible to conduct the interview without revealing to him the fact that Dr. D----- had first indicated that there was some emotional maladjustment between the couple. He admitted that during the first few years of their married life the problem of their sexual maladjustment had been a constant source of friction between them, but he said now that FM was meeting the situation to the best of her ability. . . .

8/23/42 At a meeting of the foster care committee, the question of the advisability of approving the R’s home was under discussion for a great length of time. A number of the supervisors felt that FM’s inability to accept and adjust to the idea of a physical relationship with her husband after twelve years of married life was a definite indication of a type of frigidity which was not only deep-rooted, but which would have its influence on the child. One or two of the members present felt, however, that her poor adjustment in the sex realm was not necessarily indicative of any inherent short-comings as a mother. The former group out-weighed the latter, however, and at this time the home was not approved as an adoption home. . . .


Source: “R” family case, Dorothy Hutchinson Papers, Box 2, Folder 27, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

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