The Case of Alice R., 1927

The failure of Alice R.’s family to recognize her mental defect and to agree to her placement in an institution for the feeble-minded was responsible for her remaining in the community following the birth of her first child. Three other children were born to her, all four being of illegitimate birth. When she was illegitimately pregnant for the fifth time she was arrested for adultery and sent to the reformatory, and was later transferred to an institution for the feeble-minded.

In spite of Alice’s history her four children were offered for adoption through a newspaper advertisement and were given by the overseer of the poor to a woman who lived in the neighborhood. Within a few months the two older children, a girl of 6 and a boy of 8 years, were removed from this home. The girl was placed in an institution and the boy was taken by relatives, but within less than two years he was sent to an institution for problem boys. The two younger children, boys of 2 years and 10 months, were adopted by Mrs. A. After they had been in the A. home for about two years Mrs. A. decided that she wanted to get rid of them, and a private agency that had been interested in the family from the time of the mother’s arrest was instrumental in having them committed to the board of children’s guardians. Mr. and Mrs. A. were both of limited intelligence and unstable, and had a mania for taking children. The board of children’s guardians had placed the children in a number of family homes prior to the time of the study. Only a few months after their commitment Mrs. A. found where they were and took them home with her. The board allowed her to keep them under supervision, but at the end of three months they were placed in another foster home. Mr. and Mrs. A. tried repeatedly to get the board of children’s guardians to release the children from supervision, but their request was not granted.


Source: U.S. Children's Bureau, Child Welfare in New Jersey, Part 4. Local Provision for Dependent and Delinquent Children in Relation to the State's Program, Bureau Publication No. 180 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1927), 68.

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
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