A Home for Every Child

The Washington Children's Home Society in the Progressive Era

Patricia Susan Hart

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / Western
  • Bibliographic information: 272 pp., 8 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Published with: Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest
  • Series: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
  • Contents

Adoption has been a politically charged subject since the Progressive Era, when it first became an established part of child welfare reform. In A Home for Every Child, Patricia Susan Hart looks at how, when, and why modern adoption practices became a part of child welfare policy.

The Washington Children's Home Society (now the Children's Home Society of Washington) was founded in 1896 to place children into adoptive and foster homes as a means of dealing with child abuse, neglect, and homelessness. Hart reveals why birth parents relinquished their children to the Society, how adoptive parents embraced these vulnerable family members, and how the children adjusted to their new homes among strangers.

Debates about nature versus nurture, fears about immigration, and anxieties about race and class informed child welfare policy during the Progressive Era. Hart sheds new light on that period of time and the social, cultural, and political factors that affected adopted children, their parents, and administrators of pioneering institutions like the Washington Children's Home Society.
Patricia Susan Hart is associate professor of journalism and American studies at the University of Idaho.

"This is the best researched and most sophisticated history yet of a single adoption agency during America's Progressive Era."
-E. Wayne Carp, author of Family Matters: Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption

"Hart's thoroughly researched account of the changing policies and practice of child placement sheds new light on current foster care dilemmas. An excellent contribution both to Northwest history and to the national history of adoption."
-Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

"Poignant testimony from children and adoptive parents brings to life Hart's careful and nuanced interpretation."
-Barbara Melosh, author of Strangers and Kin: The American Way of Adoption

"The compelling stories in A Home for Every Child testify at once to the irresistible allure of reform and the stubborn centrality of poverty in the history of adoption and social welfare."
-Ellen Herman, author of Kinship by Design: a History of Adoption in the Modern United States


Introduction: Taking a Chance on the Pacific Northwest

1. Seeking Alternatives to Institutional Care

2. Child Relinquishment: The Last Best Hope

3. Sorted, Boarded, and Reformed: Coming into the Care of WCHS

4. Completing God's Plan and Competing Desires: Negotiating Adoptive Parenthood

5. Biology, Botany, and Belonging

6. Traveling Children: Placement, Re-placement, and Return

Conclusion: A Home for Every Child: The Elusive Promise

Selected Bibliography

"A smooth and informative narrative on the history of this pioneering Pacific northwest home placement society and a balanced treatment of its achievements and limitations."
-Xi Chen, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Win. 2011/2012

"A lucid and engaging history . . . an essential contribution to the literature on child dependency, foster care, and adoption. Hart . . . made it clear that the assumptions implicit in contemporary policy discussions . . . have a long history."
-Alice Hearst, Reviews in American History, June 2012

"Helps to round out historical knowledge of child-saving practices in the period before the full professionalization of social work. . . . a fascinating and in-depth study of the multiple actors and institutions that shaped adoption practices."
-Felice Batlan, Social Service Review, March 2012

"[A]s a history of a movement that remains with us today, the book is fascinating."
-Ann Patricia Payton, Columbia, Summer 2011