This film is part of Free

Nobody’s Children?

From New York’s Foundling Hospital to the US Children’s Bureau in Washington DC, this film introduces us to the orphans of America and the couples who wish to become their parents.

Documentary 1947 17 mins


This March of Time film takes us to the heart of America’s ‘unwanted children’ problem: a black market in babies, inadequate and overcrowded boarding homes and unsuitable couples were just some of the obstacles hampering the American social services’ commitment to finding homes for the country’s homeless children and orphans in 1946. The sequence showing a social worker assessing a childless couple for suitability provides the viewer with an example of at least one happy outcome.

This film shows Katharine Lenroot, the Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, saying that more people need to adopt older children. In fact Lenroot and her colleagues at the bureau had been very critical of many adoption agencies, saying that commerce and sentiment often won out over social work in the process of choosing suitable parents. Although the central sequence of this issue shows a couple undergoing an extremely rigorous assessment by a social worker, the final montage of shots showing cute babies, undeniably appealing though it is, does undermine the film’s more serious message.