The Traffic in Babies: Cross-Border Adoption and Baby-Selling between the United States and Canada, 1930-1972
Between 1930 and the mid-1970s, several thousand Canadian-born children were adopted by families in the United States. At times, adopting across the border was a strategy used to deliberately avoid professional oversight and take advantage of varying levels of regulation across states and provinces. The Traffic in Babies traces the efforts of Canadian and American child welfare leaders—with intermittent support from immigration officials, politicians, police, and criminal prosecutors—to build bridges between disconnected jurisdictions and control the flow of babies across the Canada-U.S. border.
Karen A. Balcom details the dramatic and sometimes tragic history of cross-border adoptions—from the Ideal Maternity Home case and the Alberta Babies-for-Export scandal to trans-racial adoptions of Aboriginal children. Exploring how and why babies were moved across borders, The Traffic in Babies is a fascinating look at how social workers and other policy makers tried to find the birth mothers, adopted children, and adoptive parents who disappeared into the spaces between child welfare and immigration laws in Canada and the United States.
- Series: Studies in Gender and History
- World Rights
- Page Count: 448 pages
- Illustrations: 20
- Dimensions: 5.9in x 1.0in x 9.0in
Reviews'Karen A. Balcom’s The Traffic in Babies: Cross-Border Adoption and Baby-Selling between the United States and Canada, 1930-1972 is a model of scholarship in transnational policy history. Professor Balcom deals with an important, but largely neglected, aspect of Canadian-American relations – the movement of babies across national borders through transnational adoptions. This book makes an outstanding contribution to policy history because it examines the interactions of public and private agencies in placing children in adoptive homes, as well as policymaking and implementation at the federal, state and provincial levels on both sides of the border It also makes important contributions to women’s history and the history of social welfare, since women in both the U.S. and Canada led the efforts to regulate and rationalize the international movement of adopted children … In sum, The Traffic in Babies is an outstanding book.'
Citation for First Bowling Green Prize in Comparative and International Policy History
‘A groundbreaking historical study of the movement of children across borders. While studies of adoption, both domestic and international, have proliferated in recent decades, none goes as far as this one in documenting the process.’
Judith Modell Schater
The American Historical Review; vol 117:03:2012
‘Magnificent study of Canada-US adoption… The Traffic in Babies is a model of transnational scholarship and a major contribution to the study of Canada-US relations.’
Canadian Historical Review, vol 93:04:2012
'Through a series of dramatic and compelling narratives, Karen A. Balcom effectively links the story of Canadian children adopted by American parents to central themes in the history of child welfare. Her examination of the practical and constitutional challenges that reformers faced in transnational family-making offers a powerful corrective to triumphal narratives about child-friendly liberal welfare states. The Traffic in Babies is both a very interesting read and a genuinely original contribution to the field of social welfare and adoption history.'
Ellen Herman, Department of History, University of Oregon
Karen A. Balcom is an associate professor in the Department of History at McMaster University.
Table of contents
Preface and Acknowledgements
Introduction: Babies Across Borders
- Charlotte Whitton and Border-Crossings in the 1930s
- Border-Crossing Responses to the Ideal Maternity Home, 1945-1947
- The Alberta Babies-for-Export Scandal, 1947-1949
- Cross-Border Placements for Catholic Children From Quebec, 1945-1960
- Criminal Law and Baby Black Markets, 1954-1964
- Controlling Cross Border Adoption, 1950-1972
Conclusion: A "No Man's Land" of JurisdictionBibliography
PrizesAlbert B. Corey Prize awarded by the American Historical Association/Canadian Historical Association - Winner in 2012
Bowling Green Book Prize in International or Comparative Policy History - Winner in 2012
2013/13 Donald Shepherd Humanities Book Prize - Winner in 2014
Subjects and Courses