While the practice of adoption has been around for millennia, the recent history of adoption in the United States can be tracked to the 1850s, with the passage of the first "modern" adoption law in Massachusetts that recognized adoption as a social and legal process based on child welfare rather than adult interests. The 1850s also began the era of the orphan trains that relocated children from New York to live with families throughout the United States and Canada. In this section, find information on the history of adoption practice in the United States, including major Federal legislation dating back to 1974.
The Adoption History Project
University of Oregon
Provides a history of adoption practice in the United States.
Children's Bureau Historical Publications
The Maternal & Child Health Library at Georgetown University
Presents a digitized collection of U.S. Children's Bureau publications from 1912 to 1969.
Flying the Coop: ICWA and the Welfare of Indian Children
Stark & Stark (2006)
In Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
Traces the history of child welfare policy relating to American Indians, including the removal of children from their homes beginning in the 1880s and the Indian Adoption Project in the 1950s. The book also discusses passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), procedural elements of ICWA, and efforts by Tribes to reclaim and reassert jurisdiction over American Indian child welfare.
For the Records II: An Examination of the History and Impact of Adult Adopted Person Access to Original Birth Certificates (PDF - 333 KB)
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (2010)
Examines the most current evidence related to restoring adult adopted person access to original birth certificates.
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Download (PDF - 391KB)