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Monday, May 9, 2011

Our Indian Program, operated by Louise Wise, 1960

Louise Wise Services, Different Eligibility Requirements for Different Children, 1961

In this form letter, Louise Wise Services Executive Director Florence Brown clarified something about adoption that has been as easy to see as it has been uncomfortable to admit: supply and demand shape the “market” for children and parents alike. Her agency, like most others, had different requirements for Jewish couples wishing to adopt healthy infants, for those willing to consider older children with special needs, and for “Negro” families interested in African-American children. Brown’s mention of native children in need of adoption was a reference to the Indian Adoption Project.

Dear _____

We have your inquiry expressing your interest in adoption. We appreciate how much this means to you and hope we may be able to help you.

Since the number of young Jewish children in need of adoptive homes is so small compared to the number of couples applying, it has been necessary for us to set up certain eligibility requirements for adoptive applicants. Infants, as well as the occasional pre-school age child, are placed only with childless Jewish couples where the wife is under thirty-five and the husband over forty years of age, who live in any of the five boroughs of New York, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and in a small area of New Jersey close to Manhattan. . . . Since it is required that couples be married at least three years and that they be citizens of the United States, we suggest that those who do not presently meet these requirements should write us again when they have been fulfilled.

If you do meet the requirements outlined above, we will appreciate your filling out and returning the enclosed form. You will hear from us as soon as we are able to invite you to a group meeting. This is the first step in our application procedures. . . .

Exceptions to our eligibility requirements are made for families applying for children of school age (6 to 14); for those who may be ready to consider a child with a physical disability; and for families interested in children of interracial background. Included in the latter are a group of American Indian children who have been referred to us through a special program of the Child Welfare League of America and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In addition to helping Jewish families interested in adoption, the Louise Wise Services also places children for adoption with Negro families. Here, again, the eligibility requirements with respect to age, childlessness, residence, as well as the procedures outlined above, do not apply and we are able to offer immediate appointments.

We do hope that we can be of help to you.

Sincerely yours,

(Mrs.) Florence G. Brown
Executive Director

Source: Louise Wise Services, form letter explaining eligibility requirements, June 30, 1961, Viola Bernard Papers, Box 116, Folder 5, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University.

[I added the bold for emphasis... This letter is from my archives.. I have the description of "Our Indian Program" in my memoir...Trace]


  1. I want to add that my friend Dan is Sisseton Lakota and he was adopted by Jewish jazz musicians in NYC in the 1960s. He is one of those special "hard to place" adoptees, yet he is one of the most incredible guys I know! This was their plan and NY state was only one state with a program like this one. Connecticut and Maryland had their own.

  2. I want to add that my friend Dan is Sisseton Lakota and he was adopted by Jewish jazz musicians in NYC in the 1960s. He is one of those special "hard to place" adoptees, yet he is one of the most incredible guys I know! This was their plan and NY state was only one state with a program like this one. Connecticut and Maryland had their own.


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