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Sources are the raw materials that historians use to write history. This site offers a range of primary sources—published and unpublished documents as well as images—that begin to fill in the picture of adoption’s past, illuminating topics, people, organizations, and studies that shaped adoption theory and practice during the twentieth century. Visitors interested in the location of unpublished sources can find these in a list of archival sources.

Individual documents are listed alphabetically by author below. In a few cases, they are listed by title. They can all be reached through other sections of the site, but they are also presented together here for those with a special interest in the documentary record itself. A selection of additional sources—not excerpted on the site itself—can be found in Further Reading.


Adopt-A-Child, Confidential Report, December 19, 1955

Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

An Agency Considers Its Policies on Infertility, 1943

Agency for International Development, Operation Babylift Report, 1975

Agency Philosophy and Policy Regarding the “Telling” of Adoption, 1966

ALMA et al v. Lefkowitz et al, 1977

Catherine S. Amatruda and Joseph V. Baldwin, “Current Adoption Practices,” 1951

Carole J. Anderson, “Child Abuse & Adoption,” 1991

Anonymous, “An Adopted Mother Speaks,” 1922

Anonymous, “How It Feels to Have Been an Adopted Child,” 1920

Bernadine Barr, “Estimates of Numbers of Children in Institutions, Foster Family Care, and Adoptive Homes, 1910-1960”

Bastard Nation, Mission Statement, 1996

Bastard Nation, “Open Records: Why It's an Issue,” 1999

Bastard Nation, “Why It's Great to Be a Bastard”

E. L. Beckwith to Grace Abbott, June 21, 1931

Viola W. Bernard, “Adoption as a Model for Community/Social Child Psychiatry,” 1998

Viola W. Bernard, “Application of Psychoanalytic Concepts to Adoption Agency Practice,” 1953

Viola W. Bernard, Can an Adopted Child Replace a Dead Child? 1961

Viola W. Bernard, A Probable Case of Psychogenic Infertility, 1942

Viola W. Bernard, Review of a Manuscript About the Incidence of Psychiatric Problems in Adoptees, 1986

Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York & Twenty Years' Work Among Them, 1872

Ethel E. Branham, The Los Angeles County Bureau of Adoptions Reflects on Its Transracial Adoption Program, 1964

Ethel Branham, “One Parent Adoptions,” 1970

Charles E. Brown, “Agency Seeks Homes for Negro Kids, Single Persons May Adopt,” 1966

Pearl Buck, “The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption,” 1955

Pearl Buck, “I Am the Better Woman for Having My Two Black Children,” 1972

Edmond J. Butler, “Standards of Child Placing and Supervision,” 1919

Miss Elizabeth Campbell to Bessie Irvin, April 4, 1956

The Case of Alice R., 1927

The Case of Michael B, 1965

The Case of Miss M, 1944-1945

Henry Dwight Chapin, “Family vs. Institution,” 1926

Child Citizenship Act of 2000

Child Welfare League of America, “Adoptions: A Statement of the Problem,” 1937

Child Welfare League of America, “Adoption Terminology,” 1980s

Child Welfare League of America, Constitution, 1921

Child Welfare League of America, “Definition of Child Welfare,” 1957

Child Welfare League of America Memo, “Description of Children Who Were Referred For Adoptive Placement and Considered Difficult to Place,” 1955

Child Welfare League of America, “Minimum Safeguards in Adoption,” 1938

Child Welfare League of America, “Proposal for Analysis of the Sealed Adoption Record Issue,” 1973

Child Welfare League of America, Rating Sheet for Prospective Parents, 1962

Child Welfare League of America Special Bulletin, “A Study of Board Rates,” January 1942

Child Welfare League of America, Standards for Adoption Service, 1958

Child Welfare League of America, Standards for Foster Family Care Service, 1959

Children’s Home Society of Florida, Home Investigation Report Form, 1910s

“Children's Story Needs an Ending . . . Adoption Could Make It So!” 1956

Florence Clothier, “The Psychology of the Adopted Child,” 1943

Florence Clothier to Mary Ruth Colby on “Permanent Love Objects,” January 14, 1941

Margaret Cobb, “The Mentality of Dependent Children,” 1922

Concerned United Birthparents, “Separated By Adoption? What Is CUB?”

Confidential Medical Report on Fertility Status of Prospective Adoptive Couple, early 1940s

Reverend S.S. Cummings, New England Home for Little Wanderers' Orphan Train


Neva R. Deardorff, The Children's Commission of Pennsylvania Studies Adoption, 1925

Department of Defense Position Regarding Children Born Out of Wedlock, 1971

Helene Deutsch, “Adoptive Mothers,” 1945

Discussion of the Role of Anthropology in Transracial Adoptions, 1956

Kathleen d'Olier, “Case Work with the Unmarried Father,” 1937

Annie Hamilton Donnell, “The Adopted,” 1906

Helen Doss, The Family Nobody Wanted, 1954

Helen Doss, “Our International Family,” 1949

Gloria Emerson, “Operation Babylift,” 1975

David Fanshel, Far From the Reservation, 1972

Marshall Field, Child Welfare League of America President, Address to National Conference on Adoptions, 1955

Clarence Fischer, “Homes For Black Children,” 1970

Abraham Flexner, “Is Social Work a Profession?” 1915

Earnest Fowler to Mrs. Squires, Washington City Orphan Asylum, November 1, 1910

Helen Fradkin, “Outline for Adoption Studies,” 1954

Richard Frank, “What the Adoption Worker Should Know About Infertility,” 1956

Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham, Infants Without Families, 1944

Sigmund Freud, “Family Romances,” 1909

Harriet Fricke, “Interracial Adoption: The Little Revolution,” 1965


Arnold Gesell, “Child Adoptions in Connecticut,” 1939

Arnold Gesell, “Pre-School Children Deprived of Parental Care,” 1923

Arnold Gesell, “Psychoclinical Guidance in Child Adoption,” 1926

Henry H. Goddard, “Wanted: A Child to Adopt,” 1911

Petition of Goldman, 1954

Joseph Goldstein, Anna Freud, and Albert J. Solnit, Beyond the Best Interests of the Child, 1973

Arthur Alden Guild, “Baby Farms in Chicago,” 1917

Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, 1993

Agnes K. Hanna, “The Interrelationship Between Illegitimacy and Adoption,” 1937

Frederick Hanson and John Rock, “The Effect of Adoption on Fertility and Other Reproductive Functions,” 1950

Harry F. Harlow, “Love in Infant Monkeys,” 1959

Reverend Hastings H. Hart, “Placing Out Children in the West,” 1884

Rollin Hartt to Helen Sumner, May 10, 1915

Harry Holt's 'Dear Friends' letter, 1955

Mrs. Harry Holt, The Seed from the East, 1956

“Homes Needed For 10,000 Brown Orphans,” 1948

How Do Adult Adoptees Feel About Illegitimacy? 1968

How Should Agencies Handle the Rejection of Adoption Applicants? 1950

Dorothy Hutchinson, “Factors to Consider in Family Study,” late 1940s

Indian Adoption Project Evaluation, 1958 through 1967

Indian Child Welfare Act, 1978

International Social Service Memo, “Home Study Material for Intercountry Adoption Applications,” 1957

International Social Service Memo, “Telephone Calls Concerning Adoption,” 1957

International Social Service, “Proxy Adoptions,” 1954-1956

Rael Jean Isaac, “What the Agency Looks For,” 1965


Benson Jaffee and David Fanshel, How They Fared in Adoption, 1970

Ann Johnston, “Our Negro Daughter,” 1960

Alfred Kadushin, “Single-Parent Adoptions: An Overview and Some Relevant Research” 1970

Randall Kennedy, “Orphans of Separatism: The Painful Politics of Transracial Adoption,” 1994

H. David Kirk, Shared Fate: A Theory of Adoption and Mental Health, 1964

Joan Lawrence, “The Truth Hurt Our Adopted Daughter,” 1963

Ruth W. Lawton and J. Prentice Murphy, “A Study of Results of a Child-Placing Society,” 1915

Elizabeth A. Lee to Katharine F. Lenroot, August 6, 1931

Katharine F. Lenroot, “Case Work with Unmarried Parents and Their Children,” 1925

Katharine F. Lenroot to Eleanor Roosevelt on The Cradle, March 4, 1944

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

Letters from Prospective Adopters to Arnold Gesell, 1939-1950

Louise Wise Services, Different Eligibility Requirements for Different Children, 1961

Louise Wise Services, “Our Indian Program,” 1960

Louise Wise Services, Placement Contract, early 1960s

Louise Wise Services, Press Release Announcing Recruitment of White Parents for Black Children, 1963

Louise Wise Services, Sealed Records in Adoption, 1975

Charlotte Lowe, “Intelligence and Social Background of the Unmarried Mother,” 1927

Arnold Lyslo, “Impressions on Meeting the Harry Holt Plane,” 1958

Arnold Lyslo, “Suggested Criteria to Evaluate Families to Adopt American Indian Children Through the Indian Adoption Project,” 1962


Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act, 1851

Penelope L. Maza, “Adoption Trends: 1944-1975”

Muriel McCrea, “The Mix-Match Controversy,” 1967

Lewis Meriam to Hastings Hart, July 28, 1915

Minnesota Adoption Law, 1917

Maud Morlock, “Determination and Establishment of Paternity,” 1940

National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, “The Adoption Home Study Process,” 2004

National Adoption Information Clearninghouse, “Single Parent Adoption: What You Need to Know” (1994)

National Association of Black Social Workers, “Position Statement on Trans-Racial Adoption,” September 1972

National Committee for Adoption, “About Adoption and Privacy of Records,” 1982

National Council for Adoption, “Protecting the Option of Privacy in Adoption”

Navajo Tribal Council, “Tribal Policy on Adoption of Navajo Orphans and Abandoned or Neglected Children,” 1960

Peter B. Neubauer, “The One-Parent Child and His Oedipal Development,” 1960

New York Coalition for Families, "Beyond the Best Interests of the Child Is Being Used to Legitimize the Destruction of Poor Black and Hispanic Families," mid-1970s

New York State Charities Aid Association, Records of Foster Home Investigations, 1910s

New York Times ad about “Operation Babylift,” 1975

North American Center on Adoption, Position Papers—Search (Opening Sealed Records), 1975

Phan Ngoc-Quoi to Miriam Lewis, International Social Service Case Consultant, April 27, 1966

Opportunity, National Survey of Black Children Adopted in 1972

Oregon Ballot Measure 58, 1998

Ida Parker, Fit and Proper?, 1927

Jean M. Paton, The Adopted Break Silence, 1954

Jean M. Paton, Orphan Voyage, 1968

Helen Lucile Pearson, “Child Adoption in Indiana,” 1925

Susan Pettiss to Rosalind Giles, February 8, 1957

Placing Children of Unknown Background and the Problem of Matching, 1951

Justine Wise Polier, “Attitudes and Contradictions in Our Culture,” 1960

Justine Wise Polier, “A Memorandum Concerning Child Adoption Across Religions Lines,” 1955

Justine Wise Polier to Riki Kosut, October 13, 1978

Paul Popenoe, “The Foster Child,” 1929

Carol S. Prentice, An Adopted Child Looks at Adoption, 1940

Purinton v. Jamrock, 1907


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

Sheldon Reed, Dight Institute for Human Genetics to R.T. Wilbur, Des Moines, Iowa Division of Child Welfare, November 26, 1957

Sheldon C. Reed, “Skin Color,” 1955

Sheldon Reed and Esther B. Nordlie, “Genetic Counseling: For Children of Mixed Racial Ancestry,” 1961

Joseph Reid to Paul Smith, September 15, 1955

Loretta Renn, “The Single Woman as a Foster Mother,” 1948

Report on the First International Conference on Transracial Adoption, 1969

Chauncey Richardson to Washington City Orphan Asylum, March 12, 1912

Virginia Robinson, “Analysis of Processes in the Records of Family Case Working Agencies,” 1921


Sample Letter to Families Applying for Infants Where the Woman is Over 40 Years of Age, early 1940s

Michael Schapiro, A Study of Adoption Practice, Adoption of Children With Special Needs, 1956

Marshall D. Schechter, “Observations on Adopted Children,” 1960

Joan F. Shireman and Penny R. Johnson, “Single Persons as Adoptive Parents,” 1976

Slingerland, Child-Placing in Families, 1919 [on “Feeble-Minded” Children]

Slingerland, Child-Placing in Families, 1919 [on Matching]

Smith v. OFFER (Organization of Foster Families for Equality and Reform), 1977

from the Archives of Spence-Chapin Adoption Service, 1916

Benjamin Spock, “Adopting a Child,” 1946

Stanley v. Illinois, 1972

Statement on the Immorality of Bringing South Vietnamese Orphans to the United States, April 4, 1975

Albert H. Stoneman, “Adoption of Illegitimate Children: The Peril of Ignorance,” 1926

Jessie Taft, Children's Aid Society of Pennsylvania, Annual Report, 1921

Jessie Taft, “Early Conditioning of Personality in the Pre-School Child,” 1925

Jessie Taft, “The Re-Education of a Psychoneurotic Girl,” 1925

Jessie Taft, “Relation of Personality Study to Child Placing,” 1919

Jessie Taft, “The Woman Movement from the Point of View of Social Consciousness,” 1916

Sophie van Senden Theis, How Foster Children Turn Out, 1924

Sophie van Senden Theis and Constance Goodrich, The Child in the Foster Home, 1921

Kitte Turmell, “How We Told Our Adopted Children,” 1950

Two Adoption Home Studies, 1949 and 1950


UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

U.S. Census Bureau, “Census 2000 Special Reports, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000”

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

U.S. Children's Bureau, “The Confidential Nature of Birth Records,” 1949

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

U. S. Children's Bureau, Memo About Conditions at a Baby Farm, 1918

U.S. Children’s Bureau, Research on the Dangers of Illegitimacy, 1917

Margaret A. Valk, “Adjustment of Korean- American Children in Their American Adoptive Homes,” 1957

Martha Vansant, “The Life of the Adopted Child,” 1933

Matter of Vardinakis, 1936

Valentina P. Wasson, The Chosen Baby, 1939

Amey Eaton Watson, “The Illegitimate Family,” 1918

White House Conference Subcommittee Discussion of “Adoption,” 1959

Louise Waterman Wise, “Mothers in Name,” 1920

Helen Witmer et al, Independent Adoptions: A Follow-Up Study, 1963

A World War II Soldier Seeks Information About His Background, 1943

Leontine Young, “Personality Patterns in Unmarried Mothers,” 1945-1947

A Young Man in Search of His Parents, 1913

Joseph L. Zarefsky, “Children Acquire New Parents,” 1946

Page Updated: 2-24-2012
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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
About the Project and the Author
© Ellen Herman