My dear Mrs. Haight: We have a letter dated April 22nd from Miss Eleanor D. Myers, Assistant Director of the Community Council, relative to a hearing to be held on Friday at 10 A. M., May 9th, regarding the practices of "The Willows" in Kansas City. As I was out of the city I am sorry my answer has been delayed. It is not possible for a field representative of this office to be present at the hearing. However, may I say that the procedure or method of caring for illegitimate children by such institutions as The Willows is not approved by the Minnesota State Board of Control. There is no accusation against The Willows as to bad practice or otherwise, for as far as we know their workers are of good character.
It is the policy that is disapproved as the policy appears to be a deliberate plan to separate mother and child. It is not a program designed to preserve the parental relation and to give the child the benefit of its mother's care and training during the first few months of its life. It is the policy of the Board of Control that a child should be breastfed by its mother for at least three months, whereas the policy of The Willows is to separate mother and child at the end of ten days.
Along with the policy of separation of mother and child must naturally follow some plan for placing these unfortunate babes in foster homes. The general claim of The Willows is that their children come from good families, whereas it is true that many and possibly a far percentage of babies born at The Willows have relatives of some means, yet the records that this office has received from The Willows indicate that the information The Willows may have as to the father is very meager. In fact we are inclined to believe that the information is only such as the girl or mother may give, or represents the father to be. There is no mental test made of the child; there is but little information as to the suitability of the child for adoption, and in our reports there is no name of the alleged father. There is no attempt to do social case work with the mother before deciding on the best plan for mother and child. The program relieves the mother of the care of her child and it is the claim of The Willows that the girl may go back to her home and community without knowing that she has been in difficulty. It can hardly be denied but that this tends to breed repeaters, as in cases where girls may live a rather loose form of life if she may easily extricate herself from the predicament, there is but little to urge her to refrain from future unsocial relations.
Some of the girls that have gone to The Willows from Minnesota have been known to be of rather low mental level which, if true of cases from other states, would not tend to support the claim of The Willows that their children are exceptional in physical and mental qualities.
The Minnesota Board of Control has, however, cooperated with The Willows in passing upon the suitability of a home where a husband and wife petition to adopt a child from The Willows. We have endeavored to make these reports as promptly as possible, but can hardly proceed any faster than we can with our own cases. In the rural counties it is impossible to make an immediate investigation at all times. In one case the Board of Control refused to approve a home because the mother had had a gonorrheal infection and was afflicted with arthritis. The doctor did say that the infection was cleared. On this basis The Willows did use the home, or has signified their intention of using it.
The foregoing are some of the outstanding points wherein we disapprove of the program of an institution conducted as The Willows. Altho such an institution may afford an opportunity for women and girls to hide from public view and summarily leave their children, it does not appear to the Board of Control of Minnesota that such a program promotes standards and really affords the most favorable outlet for the unfortunate illegitimate child.
Very truly yours (no name) Director.
The following names all begin with Mr. and Mrs. therefore I will only list the "names" that follow Mr. and Mrs.
Child Secured Through Juvenile Court of Kansas City, Missouri:
Ernest Case, Bennie Dahl, Ray Fritz, Wiley Ford, Carl Carlson, Dan Jansen, Max Bemel, Ross Gamble, O. E. Saxhaug, Joe Dugan, Maurice Rosengren, Armand Dhein, Ryan, and George Rosengren.
Child Secured from Another Agency or Independently:
Anglemeyer, Carson, Hotchkiss, Fockens, Drinkwater, Paul Odelius, and Clarence Hanson.
Investigated by the Minnesota Board of Control but Placement Pending:
Sidney Okes, Eldon K. Foss, and Frank Jacobson.
Investigation by the Minnesota Board of Control Pending:
Minnesota Board of Control has been Informed that Application is Abandoned:
Howard Marsh, Elmer Leffingwell, Carl Bratnober, Amiel Olander, Russell Porter, and Paul Jacobsen.
Home Not Approved by the Minnesota Board of Control:
Fay Dennis and Sidney Hanson.
Dear Mrs. Denter: We have your letter of February 9th and we know that you must be quite upset over the information given to you by the welfare worker.
Perhaps you will be better satisfied if you write to Dr. Husband of Manhattan, since he furnished one of your reference letters and ask his opinion as to our institution and its reputation for we are sure that he will give you his candid opinion.
As for the welfare worker, the Minnesota Children's Bureau does not approve of people living in the state of Minnesota going outside of the state to adopt a child. They feel that you should adopt one from some Minnesota Home. Furthermore, they believe that patients who give birth to illegitimate babies should keep them and nurse them for at least three months. We believe that the baby, as well as its mother, is best served by the mother of the child releasing it for adoption. In this way it is given a name and its mother has another chance to make something of her life. Our methods are just opposite that of most welfare organizations for we feel that we care for a different type of patients than are found in charitable organizations. Since our home is not a charity institution, we require our patients to pay for their period of seclusion and our patients are girls, from good middle class homes, who have made socio-moral error. They are ordinarily with us from two to three months previous to their confinements and as we have daily contact with them, we are in position to know much about the patients' background. Our patients are nearly all sent to us by their family physicians and they are from small towns and the country.
All of our patients are examined upon entrance and this includes a Wassermann test. We take three histories while a patient is in our institution and we furnish the foster parents with all information except the home address of the mother of the baby. In no instance do the patients know where their babies are placed nor by whom they are adopted.
All of our babies are examined by a baby specialist when they are ten days old and we keep no defective babies nor do we offer such a child for adoption. The Willows Album being sent to you under separate cover will no doubt enlighten you on the Willows' methods and on the institutions itself.
We are sorry that you have become so upset over this matter, but as we happen to know that the welfare workers tell like stories to all Minnesota applicants who apply to our institution for babies, we think little about it as we are used to it. It does not influence these people who really want a baby from our institution and are willing to wait until we can supply them with a suitable child. Under the Missouri law, foster parents are protected against three diseases when due to prenatal influence or heredity up to the time a child is five years old, namely, syphilis, feeblemindedness and epilepsy. Should foster parents adopt such a child, they may return it to the institution from where they adopted it, and they have no further obligation. Before the adoption decree becomes final, foster parents are given a ninety days probationary period.
Trusting that this explanation answers your questions satisfactorily, I am
Very truly yours, Cora M. Haworth, Supt. THE WILLOWS
The following names all begin with Mr. and Mrs. therefore I will only list the "names" that follow Mr. and Mrs.
F.C. Gardiner, Minneapolis, Minn. Application read July 1934. Home approved by SBC on November 16, 1934. No notice of placement read.
F. Pfeiffer, St. Paul, Minn. Application read July 1934. Home approved by SBC on November 3, 1934. No notice of placement read
Walter Spannan, Hutchinson, Minn. Application read July 1934. On April 1, 1935 SBC read. Information that family wished to postpone taking a child.
Howard Osvold, Minneapolis, Minn. Application read January 1935. Home approved by SBC on April 27, 1935. Later SBC learned that family received a Minnesota child.
Fred Leightner, St. Paul, Minn. Application read August 1935. Home disapproved by SBC on April 7, 1936.
Adolph Olson, Luverne, Minnesota. Application read August 1935. Home approved by SBC on October 23, 1935. No notice of placement read.
John Van Hovel, Blue Earth, Minnesota. Application read October 1935. Home approved by SBC February 18, 1936. No notice of placement read.
Frank Johnson, Minneapolis, Minn. Application read October 1935. Decision of SBC pending intensive investigation. Home not desirable.
Philip Carter, Minneapolis, Minn. Application read October 1935. SBC was notified on April 2, 1936 that family wished to abandon application.
Fred Denton, Minneapolis, Minn. Application read November 1935. Home disapproved on April 9, 1936.
Lee Lund, Minneapolis, Minn. Application read November 1935. SBC notified in February 1936 that they were taking a Minn. child.
John Hanson, Minneapolis, Minn. Application read May 1936. Decision of SBC pending. Wo. under care of a mental specialist.
Dudley Beaumont, Norwood, Minn. Application read June 1936. Decision of SBC pending.
Ida M. Matern, Supervisor
Adoptions and Placements, Minnesota Children's Bureau
July 30, 1936
To MEMBERS: The executives of a number of the member agencies of the Child Welfare League of America have from time to time had unfortunate experiences with organizations for the adoption of children that are either on a commercial or philanthropic basis, and are asking whether the League is not in position to formulate and express more or less publicly a policy that may lead to better protection for infants that at present come into care of commercial maternity homes or certain adoption agencies.
In order that the Board of Directors of the League may reach a conclusion on this matter on the basis of all the facts available, as a first step we would ask that you or some member of your staff gather together any experiences that you may have had with The Cradle Society of Evanston, Illinois, The Willows of Kansas City, The Veil Maternity Home, West Chester, Pennsylvania, and any other agencies that seem to make infant placement the only basis of their social interest and provide inadequate safeguards for the child, the family in which he was born, and also the foster home into which he goes.
If well tested data are available regarding the experience of persons or agencies not directly connected with your organization we should also like to have them for study and possible use.
The sources of this information will not be revealed except to our own Board of Directors and will be kept out of print at all times.
Your cooperation in connection with this request will not only be appreciated by us but may prove to be of value in the better understanding of all the elements involved.
Our interest is not a mere repressive one. If such organizations as are referred to perform a useful function to unfortunate mothers who wish to hide their embarrassment and who are not adequately served by our members, and instead turn to poorly equipped or discredited children's agencies or accept service from individuals or organizations entirely outside of the children's field to satisfy their needs or their cravings, it seems to us that some better way should be found for the protection of the children involved.
In many communities placements of children for adoption are made by the attending physicians who have delivered these infants and in some instances at least were influenced by the fear that proper service could not be rendered without publicity.
The interest of the children involved would seem to require that the Child Welfare League of America canvass this whole situation in sufficient leisure to seek a way of meeting the very apparent need. Not only will your experience with commercial or philanthropic adoption agencies be of value but your opinion as to a solution of the problem will be given consideration.
Sincerely yours, C. C. Carstens, Executive Director.
Child Welfare League of America Officers: Jacob Kepecs, President, Chicago; Miss Ruth Taylor, 1st Vice-Pres. Valhalla, N. Y.; Mrs. Lessing J. Rosenwald, 2nd Vice-Pres. Philadelphia; Mrs. Paul B. Welles, 3rd Vice-Pres. Plainfield, N. J.; Alfred H. Whitman, 4th Vice-Pres. Boston; Kenneth L. Messenger, Secretary, Hartford, Conn.; Paul T. Beisser, Treasurer, Baltimore; C. C. Carstens, Executive Director, and C. W. Areson, Executive Director.
Board of Directors: Rev C. Rankin Barnes, New York; Paul T. Beisser, Baltimore; Miss Ella Castendyck, Minneapolis; Miss Susan K. Gillean, New Orleans, La.; Mrs. George C. Hitchcock, St. Louis; Sydney Hollander, Baltimore; Fred R. Johnson, Detroit; Albert Sidney Johnstone, Richmond, Va.; Jacob Kepecs, Chicago; Rev. Bryan J. McEntegart, New York; Miss Grace McGowan, Canton, O.; Edward W. Macy, Brooklyn, N. Y.; Dr. Lois Hayden Meek, New York; James S. Plant, M. D., Newark; Miss Gertrude Taggart, Indianapolis; Miss Ruth Taylor, Valhalla, N. Y.; Miss Sophie Van S. Theis, New York; Henry W. Thurston, New York; Mrs. A. M. Tunstall, Montgomery, Ala.; Miss Ethel Verry, Chicago; and Forrester B. Washington, Atlanta, Ga.
My dear Mr. Carstens: In response to your letter of June 22nd, directed to all members of the Child Welfare League, we are sending a summary of our contacts with hospitals mentioned. We, too, have been concerned with the publicity that the Cradle has received and we are attempting to combat it in our state by an educational program during the next year. So far we have found our newspapers cooperative in promoting our cause and we hope, through working with the press, the radio and various groups such as the medical and legal professions, to make our methods and aims fairly familiar to the prospective foster parents in Minnesota.
We have felt that, if it were possible in any way to secure the names of Minnesota people who have received children, we would be able to give some specific instances of poor placements. And, in this connection, we were wondering whether any agency in Illinois, particularly the State Department, could secure from the courts in Evanston the names of petitioners from the various states. In every instance where we have any knowledge the family in question has been of the most socially prominent group where securing adverse information would be most difficult. But it is possible that some of these, who have been disappointed with results, may be willing to give information helpful to the agencies trying to control this type of placement.
We shall ask all of our agencies to be on alert for cases and shall report from time to time if information is secured.
Very truly yours, Ida M. Matern, Supervisor, Adoptions and Placements
Report On Minnesota's Contact With Commercial Child Placing Agencies.
(Minnesota Children's Bureau--July 1, 1936).
Minnesota has so far as we can discover no contact with the Hospital. One case was reported from there several years ago and, after considerable effort, a birth record and some history information was secured. The adoption was completed in Minnesota so an investigation of the home was made and an approval given.
THE WILLOWS (and other hospital in Kansas City)
For approximately ten years Minnesota has had an agreement with the Juvenile Court in Kansas City whereby applications at any of the Kansas City hospitals (The Willows, Richard Evans, and Fairmount) made by Minnesota persons have been referred to the Minnesota State Board of Control for investigation. In this way the Minnesota State Board of Control is able to pass on the home before placement but receives no information regarding the history of the child. If a child is placed notice is sent to the Minnesota Board of Control giving the name of the child, birth date, name of the mother, and sometimes very brief information such as nationality, religion, etc. No addresses are given and no information regarding the father other than a name, which is not always given. The Kansas City Court has cooperated well with this agreement and no children have been sent to homes disapproved by Minnesota, so far as we can discover. Note: See attached report on all Kansas City cases.
This report was not among the papers I received from the Minnesota Historical Society.
THE CRADLE--Evanston, Illinois.
Minnesota has no direct contact with this agency and has no authentic information as to the number of children placed in this state. Any requests for information of any kind sent to the Cradle are answered by a statement that the Hospital can give out no information. Chiefly through personal friends of social workers in this community we hear from time to time of the placement of a child here, but have no grounds for entering the home or making any investigations, so that reliable information is not available. The following irregular cases have reached us through rumors;
Child has been placed in the home of socially prominent persons in which the foster mother is epileptic and regarded by personal friends as unsuitable to give foster care.
Recently we have learned of a child placed in a superior home where the child in question is now testing at the borderline group.
Child has been placed in a home which was once rejected by a child placing agency here because the foster mother is of unstable personality.
Child was placed with a woman who had previously adopted four children in Minnesota. Previous to the Cradle placement the home was broken by divorce and the foster mother, after re-marriage, was refused a child here because her second husband did not wish to adopt a child.
All the homes that we hear about in which children have been placed are in the socially prominent group. Several stable families of moderate circumstances have been refused by the Cradle and told of the long waiting list.
One of our social workers, whose sister lives in Chicago, has reported that her sister's maid gave up her child to the Cradle and, so far as can be learned, no questions were asked and no investigation made regarding the social history of the child.
The Minnesota Children's Bureau has also had information that one of our unmarried mothers took her child to the Cradle. Our investigation of this girl's history showed the child to be from very mediocre background and no paternal history was available. We were unable to verify the statement that the Cradle had actually accepted the child since the Cradle refused to give this information.
Minnesota, through its Minnesota Council on Adoptions, is attempting to combat publicity regarding the Cradle by a counter attack showing the dangers in unscientific placement and by doing educational work showing the methods used by better agencies.
Private agencies have been questioned regarding actual cases from this Hospital but this information is also unreliable and secured by rumor rather than through actual investigations.
My dear Miss Maturen: Replying to your letter of July 29th, the answers that we have gotten from people in Chicago and other sources would indicate that it is not possible to secure the names and addresses from
The Cradle. I do not know whether it will be possible for you to get them from the court.
One of the best sources of information in Evanston is Professor Thomas D. Eliot, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, with whom we have been in correspondence on this matter of adoptions at various times.
He is much interested and probably has the closest approach to the group of any persons not directly connected with the board or staff of The Cradle.
I thank you so much for your information regarding The Willows. This will be of interest to our special committee on standards.
The Veil Maternity Home has gotten under control through the state department of Pennsylvania.
Sincerely yours, C. C. Carstens, Executive Director