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Adoption History

Welcome to our Adoption History wiki! The following articles are an attempt to cover the history of adoption services in the United States. Included in the references are social science and psychological studies, doctoral dissertations, conference proceedings, speeches, peer-reviewed journal articles, and books. The Adoption History articles cover a wide range of adoption topics such as the history of open and closed adoptions, foster care, orphanages, Native American adoptions, the Orphan Train Movement and so on. Most of the articles focus on the history taking place between the 1920s and today, but a lot of it goes back to the early 1800s. We hope that you find these articles informative and useful, especially if you are considering adoption in one form or another, or even if you are simply curious about the history of adoption practices in the United States. Enjoy.

Adoption in America before the Twentieth Century

In the early days of the nineteenth century (1800s), Americans had a vastly different view of the role of children, both as a part of society and as part of the family; especially when compared to the view that we have of the roles of children in our society today. During the nineteenth century, it was commonplace to find children from working class families in the . . .Read More

Open vs. Closed Adoption

Open Adoption

Adoptions have been open throughout most of US history. In fact, prior to the 1930s, most state governments did not have laws regulating the privacy of adoption records. Until that point, court records, birth certificates, adoption records, and other official documents, such as those related to a person’s marital status and court proceedings, were generally considered freely available to the public. Then, beginning in 1917, . . . Read More

Closed Adoption

Closed adoptions, also known as sealed adoptions, are adoptions where the birth records of the person who was adopted were sealed, most often by law or by the request of the birth parents. Many people who are unfamiliar with the history of closed adoptions in the United States assume that adoptions have always been closed or have been . . . Read More

Indian Child Welfare Act

During the time of the American colonies, the European colonists separated the various Native American children from their families for reasons such as selling the children into slavery, forcing the children to adopt a certain religion, and adopting the children into Euro-American families. Throughout the . . . Read More

American Orphanages

A history of institutionalized orphan care in the United States.

During the Roaring Twenties: Orphan Trains

n the 1853, the New York Children’s Aid Society sent out letters to various individuals to see if they would be willing to house an orphan child in exchange for that child working on their farm, in their home, or in their place of manufacture. If the people were willing to accept a child, then the Children’s Aid Society would send an orphan out by train. This is where the nickname “Orphan Trains” . . . Read More

During the Great Depression

On Thursday, October 24, 1929, the stock market in the United States began an unprecedented decline. This day would later become known as “Black Thursday” and was soon followed by more “black” days. By Wednesday of the following week, the stock market had declined by 33 percent: the era in the United States known as The Great Depression had begun . . . . Read More

End of American Orphanages

The American orphanage system began to decline after World War II, even though the American foster care system began to increase. There were several factors that led to these changes in post-WWII America. The first was the economic boom that followed . . . . Read More

Arguments to Bring Back American Orphanages

In the early 1900s, people began to voice concern over the state of the child welfare programs in the United States. This led to the end of the orphanage system and the beginning of the foster care system that we know today. . . . Read More

Modern Alternatives to the Current Foster Care System

The School that Chocolate Built

In the early 1900s, Milton Hershey, founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, and his wife, Catherine “Kitty” Hershey, decided to build an orphanage for boys. The couple could not have kids because of an illness Kitty had that made her very ill. They decided to give the fortune they had earned from Milton’s ownership stake in the Hershey Chocolate Company to. . . . Read More

A Town for Boys

In the early 1900s, Father Edward J. Flanagan was working as a young Catholic priest in Omaha, Nebraska. While in Omaha, he operated what some called a “Working Man’s Hotel” which was little more than a warehouse where he provided food, clothing, and shelter to the homeless men in Omaha. While serving those men, he began to see a pattern that began when the men were young boys. Many of the men would start as homeless and neglected boys. . . . Read More

Politics Around Modern Orphanage Debate

In 1994, the idea of returning to the use of orphanages became politicized. Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich began to re-introduce the idea of orphanages as part of the Republican Party’s new “Contract with America.” Gingrich suggested that the government could. . . . Read More

The Rise of Foster Care

The movement to switch to Foster Family Care began in the middle of the nineteenth century with the out-placing system. The system was started by Catholic Father Charles Loring Brace and the organization that he founded called The Children’s Aid Society, which was located in New York City. Brace believed that the only choices for homeless children in the New York City area in 1853, which were either. . . . Read More

Problems with the Current Foster Care System

In the book Rethinking Orphanages for the 21st Century, Florida Seventeenth Circuit Court Judge Estella Moriarty summarized her argument for the need to establish an orphanage-style institution by sharing a story about a . . . Read More

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