Adoption History (Archives and Special Collections)

Collections in the Social Welfare History Archives that document the history of domestic and transnational adoption.


A guide to archival collections in the Social Welfare History Archives that document the history of domestic and transnational adoption, often from the perspective of social work and aid organizations. Access policies may impact the use of some collections. Please contact the Social Welfare History Archives for more information. 

The Archives and Special Collections department of the University of Minnesota Libraries is located in the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the West Bank campus; these collections are open to the public and can be viewed, by appointment, in the reading room.

For more information about visiting the Elmer L. Andersen Library, or to search other archival collections, visit 

Archival Collections

The Child Welfare League of America records document research, advocacy, policy legislation, and social work practice standards related to child welfare in the United States. Child welfare topics in the collection include adoption, foster care, institutions, and day care. 

The Children’s Home Society of Minnesota records date from 1891 to 2004 and document the Society's administration, planning, programs, funding, and outreach. The records include The Minnesota Minnesota Children's Home Finder, 1899-1971. The newsletter included discussion of the Society's policies, child placement statistics, funding, and programs. It also featured specific children who had been adopted or were waiting for adoption. 

The E. Wayne Carp papers include files related to the history of adoption policy; adoptee rights and access to adoption case records; and Carp's research and legal consulting. The papers also include information on Jean Paton, a founder of the adoptee rights movement, and on Oregon Measure 58, which involved the right of adult adopted persons to access their records.

The records document a national association of maternity homes for single, pregnant women. Topics include the administration and funding of the Association; services for member maternity homes; and research and legislation related to adoption and single mothers. The records also reflect changing policies for and attitudes about unmarried mothers during the 1950's to the 1970's.

The International Social Service United States of America Branch records document international social services and policies for adoption, migration, and refugees from the perspective of social service and aid organizations. The records are an important resource on the history of transnational adoption by families in the United States, particularly from the 1950's to 1970.  The files document interactions between International Social Service American Branch, other branches of International Social Service in various countries, and local aid and social service organizations. 

Access policies apply. Please contact the Archives for more information.

The Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota records document the services, facilities, administration, funding, and leadership from 1879 to 2016.  The records include information on Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and its many predecessors and affiliates, including the Lutheran Welfare Society, Lutheran Children's Friend Society, and the Board of Christian Service, as well as numerous women's auxiliary groups. Portions of the records that relate to adoption, child welfare, or single mothers include files on the Vasa Children's Home, Lutheran Girls Home, and Children and Family Services division. 

The National Florence Crittenton Mission records document the policies, philosophy, and programs of a national organization of maternity homes for single, pregnant women. The records include information on the national organization and on individual member homes, but they do not include case records or document individual residents of the homes.

Jean M. Paton (1908-2002) was an adoptee, adoption rights activist, social worker, and sculptor. Paton was founder of the Life History Study Center and Orphan Voyage, organizations that provided resources, support, and advocacy for adopted individuals.  The Jean Paton papers include files on Orphan Voyage; correspondence between Paton and individuals researching their personal adoption histories; resource files on national and state adoption practices; and articles and writings about adoption reform.

Access policies may apply. Please contact the Archives for more information.

William Pierce was a co-founder of the National Council for Adoption and an adoption policy advocate. The William Pierce papers include information on adoption policy debates surrounding the issue of open and closed adoptions, access to adoption records, the Model State Adoption Act, and other subjects of professional and personal interest to Pierce. Also included are Pierce's files from his time at the National Council for Adoption and the Child Welfare League of America. 

Last Updated: Oct 7, 2020 11:53 AM