Two factors made Kansas City the “baby hub” of the United States: the railroads and only one child placement agency, the adoption department of the Juvenile Court.
Parents from all over the United States used to pack their pregnant, unwed daughters onto the train and send them to Kansas City where taxis waited at the station to transport them to one of several maternity homes, including The Willows, Fairmount, St. Vincent’s, Florence Crittenton, Kansas City Cradle, and others. In 1929, “292 young women from 25 states slipped into Kansas City that year to give birth at The Willows, the city’s largest maternity home.” And scores more came to the others.
Reporter Norma Lee Browning wrote in the Chicago Sunday Tribune Grafic Magazine on July 2, 1950, “There is one city, however, that has solved its own ‘black market’ baby problems by devising a simplified court adoption system that has gained a nation-wide reputation for its high standards, fine work, and success in the child placement field. That is Kansas City, Mo. The adoption court there places about 1,000 babies a year, thus making it one of the largest and possibly ‘the’ largest child placement agency in AMERICA.”
When attitudes began changing in the 1960s and ‘70s, most of these homes closed.
Because so many children were adopted in Kansas City during the first half of the twentieth century, the Missouri Valley Special Collections department receives numerous requests for information about the maternity homes and also about their records. We have information about the homes, but we do not have any records.
Missouri does not have open adoption records. There is a movement called Missouri Open 2000 working to make uncensored and unaltered birth certificates available to Missouri adult adoptees upon request.
Useful Sources in the Missouri Valley Room
Vertical files with articles, pamphlets, etc.
- Adoption (both in the general files and the genealogy files)
- Crittenton, Florence Home
- Hospitals-The Willows
- Hospitals-Fairmount Maternity
- Kansas City Cradle
Articles and Books
Barlow, Cathy. “Adoptees’ Ancestors: Breaking Through the Red Tape of Sealed Records.” Everton’s Family History Magazine 57 (2003): 38-47.
Culligan, J. Adoption Searches Made Easier. Miami, Fla.: FJA, Inc., 1996. [BROWSING MVSC 363.2336 C967AD]
Drake, Paul and Beth Sherrill. Missing Pieces: How to Find Birth Parents and Adopted Children. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, 2004. [BROWSING MVSC 362.829 D76M]
On the Internet
State Historical Society of Missouri adoption records research guide.
Adoptee Registry Connect
Look under the “Browse” tab for links to the different states.