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Abstract

I would like to thank Charlie Langdon and D. Sharon Osborne, past and present Executive Directors of the Children's Home Society of Washington (CHSW), for permission to use the CHSW's case records, and Randy Perin, Supervisor of the CHSW's Adoption Resource Center, whose enthusiasm for this project has been inspirational. I am also grateful to Roger W. Toogood, Executive Director of the Children's Home Society of Minnesota (CHSM), and Marietta E. Spencer, Program Director, Post-Legal Adoption Services, CHSM, for permitting me access to the Society's case records. I would also like to thank Paula Shields, George Behlmer, Ruth Bloch, Clarke A. Chambers, Paula S. Fass, Ray Jonas, William I. Rorabaugh, and Eugene Sheridan for their thoughtful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

This paper samples the 21,000 adoption case records of the Children's Home Society of Washington between 1895 and 1988 in order to document and analyze the history of twentieth-century postadoption contact for adult adopted persons and birthparents. It demonstrates that as a result of a variety of factors - primarily social work professionalism, the demographic profile of birthmothers, and the influence of psychoanalytic theory on casework practice - the Society's polcy on releasing family information to clients evolved through three phases. In the first and longest phase, roughly from 1895 to the mid-1950s, the Society maintained that adult adopted persons were entitled to identifying and nonidentifying information and that birthparents had a legitimate claim to nonidentifying information. In the second phase, a transitional period spanning the mid-1950s to the late-1960s, the Society's postadovtion policy of relative openness became more restrictive. In the final phase, beginning in the early 1970s, the Society established a firm policy of closed records.

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