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Old 03-11-2013, 12:07 AM
 
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Throughout the different threads here, there are discussions about adoption records and what the original purpose of adoption was; who chose it; what were the reasons; and, how it has evolved over the centuries.

Reading the history of adoption definitely demonstrates how a society can go from literally "dropping" children off in other states via "Orphan Trains" to establishing "safe haven" states and allowing parents to drop-off children who are unwanted in safe environments with no questions asked (i.e. fire departments, hospitals) to enacting laws that protect children, safe guard adoptions, and help families in need.

To this end, I thought it would be interesting to dedicate a new thread to the topic of adoption history and it's evolution. Adoption reform over the years, along with changing social attitudes towards adoption have impacted many involved with adoption as well as society as a whole.

Below are just a few sources on the history of adoption and a timeline of adoption in the United States. Feel free to post timelines and histories from other countries...would be nice to compare/contrast.

Adoption History

Adoption History Project - University of Oregon

Timeline of Major Federal Legislation on Child Welfare

Thoughts?

And finally, if you have more spare time and if you don't mind tearing up...these "Orphan Train Rider Stories" will make you do just that!
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Old 03-11-2013, 07:49 AM
 
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I read a lot of adoption history, not just that of the US.

The most notorious woman in the history of adoption in the 1900's is Georgia Tann. Barbara Bisantz Raymond (an adoptive mother) wrote a book on her titled: "The Baby Thief The untold story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption". Barbara and the book were featured on 60 Minutes in the 90's, and a movie was also made with Mary Tyler Moore playing Georgia. Many hollywood babies came from Georgia. Georgia is also the one who pushed that the records not just be sealed from the public - but from the adoptive family as well and because babies were sent to many states, they also felt a need to change the laws. The book is a must read, yet Georgia wasn't the only one who sold babies during my era.

Kafauver Committee investigated other Black Market Adoptions in the US. You can read it on-line, or save it to your computer (various formats to the left). "Juvenile delinquency: interstate adoption practices--Miami, Florida: hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, eighty-fourth Congress, first session, pursuant to S. Res. 62 ... November 14 and 15, 1955 (1956)" Juvenile delinquency: interstate adoption practices--Miami, Florida: hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, eighty-fourth Congress, first session, pursuant to S. R

Some maternity homes were well known for it, and lawyers as well. Back then those stories made the newspapers. Google news archive is a good source.

Canadian source of babies to the US through The Ideal Maternity Home run by Lila Young - those babies were sent to the northeastern states before the scandal finally shut them down. The Butter Box Babies is the name of the book - very much like Georgia Tann - those babies not perfect "seemed" to just waste away and die, and the wooden butter boxes were what was used to bury the babies in fields. Horrible story. Other outlets like Montreal that made headline stories in the US in the 50's and 60's. I've been reading about the Butter Box babies in this update to her original book - but it is a hard read. Butterbox Babies | | Fernwood Publishing

Adoption has some dark history and why it was mired in secrecy.

Good post I will come back later.
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Old 03-11-2013, 07:57 AM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
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My father was a young man during The Depression and he remembered vividly orphan trains and neighbors in Oklahoma whose children suddenly disappeared. It was rumored they put them on an orphan train. The Depression was a time of great suffering and I can understand how some would be fooled into thinking their children would be fed and safe if they were given away. The same thing happened in Germany during the Nazi rule.

Some of these children were sold as farm hands, both male and female. Cruel and greedy adults willing to exploit children have been around forever and probably always will be.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:21 AM
 
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My grandmother was the youngest of a very large family in rural Arkansas, a few miles away from a larger town. My mother said that my grandmother told her that she could not remember when there were not other children staying with the family - children whose own parents could not care for them for one reason or another.

This was around 1870-1885 (long generations in my family), well before the foster care system was established. My g-grandparents informally took in nearby children in need, it appears. These children were not adopted and I do not know their names or what eventually became of them - it appears that my g-grandparents simply responded to temporary need and became informal foster parents for whatever time was needed for the children's parents or other family members to stabilize themselves and reunite with their children.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:34 AM
 
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It was not at all unusual among well-to-do families in early America for a child who'd lost his or her parents to become the ward of another family member, usually an uncle, who would become the child's legal guardian. Such children were generally treated very much like their cousins and became foster sons and daughters, given the same education and privileges as the other children in the family, judging by wills and other old family records. This occurred in two instances in my own family, once in rural Tennessee in the early 1840s, when two teenage sisters were placed under their nearby uncle's guardianship after their widowed father died intestate.

Their older brother was 20, technically a minor, but this was the frontier and he was engaged and married within a few months, so no guardianship was established. It appears to have been a close extended family, as that brother, my g-grandfather, later named his youngest daughter, my grandmother, for his first cousin, the daughter of this uncle who was around the same age as her teenage cousins when they first came to live with their uncle and his family.

The other case was in Colonial Virginia, where an uncle's will shows arrangements made for a young orphaned nephew's care and education, including an allowance for clothing, plus provisions for academic instruction, along with instruction in dance and horsemanship!
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:04 PM
Status: "Sooma Come Loud!" (set 4 days ago)
 
15,580 posts, read 18,147,850 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaded View Post
Throughout the different threads here, there are discussions about adoption records and what the original purpose of adoption was; who chose it; what were the reasons; and, how it has evolved over the centuries.

Reading the history of adoption definitely demonstrates how a society can go from literally "dropping" children off in other states via "Orphan Trains" to establishing "safe haven" states and allowing parents to drop-off children who are unwanted in safe environments with no questions asked (i.e. fire departments, hospitals) to enacting laws that protect children, safe guard adoptions, and help families in need.

To this end, I thought it would be interesting to dedicate a new thread to the topic of adoption history and it's evolution. Adoption reform over the years, along with changing social attitudes towards adoption have impacted many involved with adoption as well as society as a whole.

Below are just a few sources on the history of adoption and a timeline of adoption in the United States. Feel free to post timelines and histories from other countries...would be nice to compare/contrast.

Adoption History

Adoption History Project - University of Oregon

Timeline of Major Federal Legislation on Child Welfare

Thoughts?

And finally, if you have more spare time and if you don't mind tearing up...these "Orphan Train Rider Stories" will make you do just that!

Thank you for these informative and informative links!

I've always been interested in this subject, and I have done quite a bit of personal research about the subject.

I also have a have interest in adoption policy. I recently read a an excellent book called "The Book of David - how preserving families can cost children their lives" by Richard Gelles which questions the wisdom of family preservation at all costs, which has been the prevailing policy in adoption for the past 30 years.

For those who really want to delve into this subject, Hunter College of CUNY offers a post graduate certificate in adoption studies.
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Old 03-11-2013, 06:56 PM
 
1,851 posts, read 2,653,312 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artful Dodger View Post
I read a lot of adoption history, not just that of the US.

The most notorious woman in the history of adoption in the 1900's is Georgia Tann. Barbara Bisantz Raymond (an adoptive mother) wrote a book on her titled: "The Baby Thief The untold story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption". Barbara and the book were featured on 60 Minutes in the 90's, and a movie was also made with Mary Tyler Moore playing Georgia. Many hollywood babies came from Georgia. Georgia is also the one who pushed that the records not just be sealed from the public - but from the adoptive family as well and because babies were sent to many states, they also felt a need to change the laws. The book is a must read, yet Georgia wasn't the only one who sold babies during my era.

Some maternity homes were well known for it, and lawyers as well. Back then those stories made the newspapers. Google news archive is a good source.
Thanks for the additional info. I'll check out the story of Georgia Tann. It is very disturbing that children were viewed as "property" at one time. With no rights whatsoever.

I knew a woman who was "sold" by her father/parents, along with her sister. One was an infant, the other at 1-years old I believe. She did go to a wealthy family, but this didn't change how being sold affected her life. She said she pretty much felt like people should only have one or none. No doubt she and her sister being sold greatly influenced her opinion about this. She told her only son to never have kids. To her, if her parents didn't keep having children, she would not have been sold. Apparently this was done regularly, selling your own children for money (this was in the late 40s early 50s). He and his wife had six children, and when the wife gave birth to a girl, the father sold them (the girls that is). They were farmers and this was Florida. She said her mother paid $10,000 for her. Went to Florida, approached the father, and offered the money. No questions asked, no authorities involved. Really sad. She really believes that her father had her and her sister just to sell them, and she never got over that feeling...despite being left a trust fund of millions of dollars. Ironically, when I met her she was broke. Barely making ends meet. One might say she ended up in a similar financial situation as her birth parents. This story makes me appreciate regulation and ethics in adoption.

Last edited by Jaded; 03-12-2013 at 07:09 PM.. Reason: clarification
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Old 03-12-2013, 08:06 AM
 
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What a tragic and horrifying story, Jaded! Those poor children...

It seems there are several common threads in the history of adoption - some children were foundlings, either informally "adopted" (legally or not) by other families, orphanages existed and it was simple to adopt (see "Anne of Green Gables") with little oversight or follow-up, some orphaned children were given room and board and used as domestic servants or farmhands (see James Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphan Annie"), other orphaned children were frequently taken in by extended family members, just as continues to occur today, well-intentioned efforts like the Orphan Trains appeared, with results being all over the ethical map...

One of the most bizarre family stories to come down to me was not exactly about my family, but about something which occurred in their small town around 1910:

The "Gypsies" had recently camped just outside of town. After they left, a local family went to look at their campsite - and found a small child, a little girl about two year old, all alone and sobbing. She was white, not Romany. When questioned, the little girl kept talking about "Annie"...finally she was asked "Who is Annie??", to which she responded, "ME is Annie!".

The family contacted the police, who attempted to find Annie's family - to no avail. Nor were the "Gypsies" ever located, though authorities in other towns were notified to be on the lookout. Of course this was during the era when "Gypsies" were thought to "steal" children...

So little Annie was adopted by the family who found her on the "Gypsy" campsite (I am not sure if this was legally formalized or not, but expect it was, since the authorities had been involved in trying to identify her and find her biological family). Her family were friends of my grandparents, so Annie became a childhood playmate of their children. Annie was so young when she was found that she had little memory of her early childhood.

Somewhere I have an old photograph of Annie as a young woman - nicely dressed, clearly not Romany in origin, a rather wistful expression. The mystery of her origin and association with the "Gypsies" was never solved, as far as I know....leaving so many, many questions...
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Old 03-12-2013, 09:58 AM
Status: "Sooma Come Loud!" (set 4 days ago)
 
15,580 posts, read 18,147,850 times
Reputation: 34302
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaded View Post
Thanks for the additional info. I'll check out the story of Georgia Tann. It is very disturbing that children were viewed as "property" at one time. With no rights whatsoever.

I knew a woman who was "sold" by her father/parents, along with her sister. One was an infant, the other at 1-years old I believe. She did go to a wealthy family, but this didn't change how being sold affected her life. She said she pretty much felt like people should only have one or none. No doubt she and her sister being sold greatly influenced her opinion about this. She told her only son to never have kids. To her, if her parents didn't keep having children, she would not have been sold. Apparently this was done regularly, selling your own children for money (this was in the late 40s early 50s). He and his wife had six children, and when the wife gave birth to a girl, the father sold them (the girls that is). They were farmers and this was Florida. She said her mother paid $10,000 for her. Went to Florida, approached the father, and offered the money. No questions asked, no authorities involved. Really sad. She really believes that her father had her and her sister just to sell them, and she never got over that feeling...despite being left a trust fund of millions of dollars. Ironically, when I met her she was broke. Barely making ends meet. One might say she ended up in a similar financial situation as her parents. This story makes me appreciate regulation and ethics in adoption.

These were not actually "adoptions" how ever, anymore than slavery in America was adoption. I would not glorify 'adoption", a positive practice that benefits a person unable, unwilling judged unfit or otherwise incapable of raising a biological child, and a person or family who for whatever reason, want to have a child or more children; with the selling of a human being.

As a pro adoption person, I think that it is incorrect to equate any sort of sale of a human being with adoption or as a part of adoption history.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:21 AM
 
393 posts, read 421,635 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheena12 View Post
These were not actually "adoptions" how ever, anymore than slavery in America was adoption. I would not glorify 'adoption", a positive practice that benefits a person unable, unwilling judged unfit or otherwise incapable of raising a biological child, and a person or family who for whatever reason, want to have a child or more children; with the selling of a human being.

As a pro adoption person, I think that it is incorrect to equate any sort of sale of a human being with adoption or as a part of adoption history.
Sheena,

Just as slavery is part of the history of the United States. Sales of human beings in adoption is adoption history. You can't just white-wash away that which is uncomfortable...

Quoted from second link in my first post on this thread:

Quote:
Written by Senator Kefauver as the opening statements into the senate inquiry in 1955.

Our next step was to select certain topic areas for further study. Today and tomorrow we will continue our study of interstate adoption practices, one of these topic areas. I think I should say at this time that as chairman I have a special concern with this entire problem because my wife, Nancy, and I have 4 children - 3 girls and a little boy. Our little son, David, who is now 9 years of age, was adopted from the Cradle Society in Chicago. He has fitted into our family wonderfully and brought us much happiness, and we hope that we have been good parents for David. I do have a special interest in this subject matter and in doing what we can do to see that there is a proper investigation as to the fitness of children into homes and the certain practices which are not calculated to give a child the best opportunity.

[...]

We are also concerned because 33 of our 48 States do not have laws to prevent within the State sale of babies. Seventeen of our States have absolutely no teeth in their regulations governing who may or may not set up an adoption agency; that is, we found in some States that people with criminal records, immoral people, have established informal placement agencies, handled the placement of children, which on its face is a very bad influence.

33 of the 48 States had no laws to prevent the sale of babies in 1955...

http://archive.org/details/juveniledelinque659unit

Last edited by Artful Dodger; 03-12-2013 at 10:31 AM..
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