The Kansas City Cradle

Kansas City Cradle

Was the Eastside Maternity Hospital Actually the same Entity as the Kansas City Cradle?

It was previously stated on the Kansas City Public Library website that the Eastside Maternity Hospital and The Kansas City Cradle were one in the same entity. This is my summation of a 1942 report: The Kansas City Cradle, Circa 1942, by  the Council of Social Agencies 1020 Main St, Kansas City, Missouri: From the Kansas City Cradle Vertical File in the Missouri Valley Reading Room, Downtown Kansas City Public Library; Written by C. W. Pfeiffer

 The report was to determine if the Kansas City Cradle was subsidizing a commercial maternity home (The Eastside Maternity Hospital).

 The officers of the Cradle felt they were being treated poorly by the community at large. “If this institution were an individual, it could be truthfully said that it was suffering from a ‘persecution complex’.” Mrs. Shirley Matthews and the board were in agreement on this point.

 Points of Grievance

 1.) The new building: The officers of the Cradle raised money to have a new building constructed. They were encouraged to do so by repeated recommendations by members of the old Charities Committee and Budget Committee. The Cradle board said that if there were anything wrong with their policies or programs, they should have been advised rather than encouraged to build a new facility.

 The 520 Woodland Location was in bad shape, and was not a fireproof building.

 Before Mr. Brace became president, a home on Paseo had been purchased, and was intended for remodel. Before that, they’d negotiated for a home on Benton Blvd.

 The question was: why were questions raised at that time about the Cradle taking babies from the Eastside Maternity Hospital?

 The answer was that no one in the Council or Community Fund knew about the arrangement with Eastside Maternity Hospital.

 In the first half of 1934, Dr. J.E. Cavanaugh wanted to build a building at 4911 E 27th St, had previously been Fairmount Maternity Hospital, chiefly for unmarried mothers. Dr. Cavanaugh stated that in order for Mrs. W.W. Henderson , head of the Children’s Bureau of the State *Eleempaynary Board (*this is how it’s spelled in the report, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean) to grant his license, he had to place babies that were intended for adoption, through the Evans Home. He stated further that Mrs. Henderson wanted all such commercial institutions turn their babies over to the Evans Home, but his was the only one that did so. He agreed to do so partly because he needed his licenses, and partly because he had no objections in doing so. Had it not been for Mrs. Henderson’s suggestion however, sending adoptable babies to the Evans Home would not have occurred to him. The adoptions through his hospital would have been handled directly through the Juvenile Court, as it was at the Willows and Fairmount.

 Mrs. Mary J. Weaver confirmed Dr. Cavanaugh’s statements. She added that the Juvenile Court encouraged Mrs. Henderson to make the proposal. Judge Cowan states that he never discussed this with Mrs. Henderson. His statement was confirmed by Mrs. Mary Wilson Jones. Mrs. Matthews stated that the Cradle Board knew nothing of the arrangement. The Council Office and the Community Fund were not aware of the arrangement either. There was no information on file, no records, and no reports in indicate this arrangement had been made.

 Prior to 1934, the Evans Home had received it’s children from a variety of sources which included directly from Juvenile Court, doctors, non-commercial maternity homes, and other places. Since the new plan had been worked out, three quarters of the babies that went through the Cradle were sent from Eastside Maternity Hospital. All babies born there, and are for adoption, are automatically sent to the Cradle, provided that the records on the child and the mother, medical and otherwise, were satisfactory to the Cradle.

 2.) Alleged Opposition to Adoption

 The Cradle staff believed Mr. Paul T. Belsser and Miss Moss Tyler, of the 1939 Community Survey Staff, who did survey work in connection with the Cradle, were opposed to adoption.

 Before Mr. Belsser had the chance to discuss the Cradle with it’s board, Mrs. Matthews had told various members that he was anti-adoption and would report unfavorably. She said she knew so because they had told her.  The reporters personal knowledge of Mr. Belsser, his work, and a letter written by him denying this, he believed it was untrue. Of Miss Tyler as well.

 The feeling was that Mrs. Matthews belief on this point contributed to the fact that the officers of the Cradle felt they were unjustly treated by the social workers.

 3.) Difficulties with Juvenile Court

 The third complaint was that the Juvenile Court officers were treating the Cradle staff unfairly because the Cradle staff wouldn’t comply with unreasonable requests from the court, and because they had higher standards of adoptions and adoption procedures than the court. Therefore they felt the court had developed a hostile attitude and was trying to force them out of business.

 The Court does have two complaints about the Cradle:

 First: that the court has to do the Social Service work, including interviews with the adoptive parents, preparation of social histories of the adoptive parents, visits to the home, calling the references etc. Until the mid 30’s, while Mrs. Weaver was superintendent, she made the social investigations, provided that they lived in or near Kansas City.

 The Cradle representatives stated no one from the home made these investigations. They claim all Mrs. Weaver ever did was provide car service for Mrs. Jones, of the Courts. Mrs. Jones however, stated from her own personal knowledge, that Mrs. Weaver did the social work. Mrs. Weaver herself agreed with this.

 Second: The Cradle would not accept care of any infants from the court, even overnight, or when the court is willing to pay board. The Cradle felt that the Court was trying to make it a dumping ground of children that are unsuitable for adoption.

 Third: the legal requirements for the signatures of releases, particularly in the event that the mother of the child was herself a minor. The Cradle, acting on the advice of it’s lawyer, require the parents of the mother , if she was a minor to sign a release.

 The Cradle was strictly adhering to the law, but the courts interpreted the law broadly.

 Mrs. Matthews also told stories about people, who she claimed, came to the Cradle looking for a baby, and then were redirected by someone at the court to Fairmount or the Willows. People at the court denied the claim. They stated several times that they did not want the Cradle to go out of business, especially if it would be willing to do its own social service work.

 Questions to be answered

1.) Does the Cradle Subsidize the Eastside Maternity Hospital?

65 babies came from the Eastside Maternity Hospital in 1941. The average age of placement from the Willows was 8 weeks, which was more than double the average age of the babies sent from Eastside to the Cradle. The age difference in these babies is proof of the expense of other maternity homes Eastside didn’t have to be responsible for.

A suggestion was made that Eastside have to pay the Cradle for this service. Dr. Cavanaugh said if he had to pay the Cradle, he’d stop sending babies. His hospital would deal directly with the courts.

There were reports that Eastside had advertised the fact that it placed it’s babies through the Cradle. There was no evidence, and Dr. Cavanaugh denied it. If people came to him directly and asked about adoption, he referred them to the Cradle. He also provided his literature on the subject, and there was no mention of the Cradle in it.

There were also reports that Eastside charged less than the other two maternity hospitals in town. It may have been made possible by the arrangement with the Cradle.

It was the opinion of the author that some subsidizing had taken place.

2.) Are there certain social values resulting from the Cradle’s services which accrue to the children taken from the Eastside Maternity Hospital, such as to justify such subsidy?

                a.) What is the actual service provided by the Cradle and what is it’s social value?

                b.) Is it’s service enough to justify the subsidy?

                c.) If it does, should the services be extended to babies at other institutions?

The Kansas City Cradle was not licensed as a child placing facility, it was licensed as a child-caring institution only. It was licensed for placement from 1925-1932 or 1933. In 1934, no license were issued at all, and from 1935 on, only a child caring license was issued. A state worker said the Cradle did not qualify for a placement license.

The reasons why were sited from the State Social Security Commission.

                A.) The executive needed extensive training, to be equipped in child welfare casework.

                B.) The Cradle did not employ a person to do it’s casework. The caseworker needed 20 hours in Social Work and one year of experience.

Eastside Maternity Hospital did the social histories on it’s babies placed with the Cradle. The superintendent however, did have an interview with the mother.

In the case of St. Anthony’s, they made their own investigations and reports, turned them over to the courts, and the court did one final interview.

3.) Is the Community Justified in spending ten or eleven thousand dollars for the service given to these 62 children when so many others are adopted without such services?

                No, the reporter was of the opinion that costs for the home were unreasonable.

4.) If the children from the Eastside Maternity Hospital were to be handled as are babies from other similar institutions, would the Cradle be able to exists?

                No.  It would discontinue on it’s own if it didn’t receive babies from the Eastside Hospital

5.) If the Cradle were to cease operating, what would be the loss to the community?

                The babies would be place through the court or through the Willows, and the loss would not be great.

6.) Is there any other socially useful function which the Cradle is now performing in which it could perform in case it discontinues it’s present type of service? 


                St Anthony’s placed 69 babies in 1941. All social work was done by them.

                The suggestion seem to be that the Cradle work with Provident Family & Children’s services in the social work capacity; the superintendent should be a trained nurse.

                Another possibility of making the Cradle more financially solvent was to charge the adoptive parents a small fee to cover the expense of the social investigation. At this time, Kansas adoptions were investigated by the Kansas Children’s Home and Services League. When parents came to the Cradle, they were referred to this Kansas League which made the investigation and charged $10-$25.


1.) the Cradle become a straight temporary home for infants. The superintendent be a registered nurse.

2.) If this can’t be done, the Cradle’s funding from the Community Fund should be discontinued.

3.) If either of these are to be carried out, people should be brought in from the budget committee, the Council Board, the Adoption Department of the Juvenile Court Judge or both, the Provident Family and Children’s Services, and a representative from the Cradle and the Community Fund Committee.