National Adoption Day

Teachers and residents of the German Orphan Home of the District of Columbia pose on the steps of their location on Good Hope Road SE, ca 1890. Photo from the General Photograph Collection (CHS 15708G).

National Adoption Day is a relatively new holiday celebrated the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It began in 2000 as a day encouraging adoption finalizations and to raise awareness of the children in the foster care system still waiting for permanent homes.

To highlight D.C.’s own history with adoption we chose our German Orphan Home of the District of Columbia Records, 1879-2011 (MS 0571)  to tell one part of the story.

The German Orphan Home of the District of Columbia succeeded the “Allgemeiner Deutscher Waisenhaus Verein” (General German Orphan Asylum Association), founded in 1879 by members of the Concordia Lutheran Evangelical Church. Originally opened for children of German descent, the home gradually accepted all children regardless of background. The organization’s first locations were modest houses on L and K Streets NW prior to moving in 1890 to a spacious house on Good Hope Road SE. The organization remained there until 1965 when they moved to a farm on Melwood Road in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

As the need for services for orphans declined with the growth of modern social and medical services, the number of full-time residents decreased. In 1999 the German Orphan Home of the District of Columbia became primarily a foundation renamed the Children’s Fund of Metropolitan Washington, which concluded fundraising activities in 2010.

Want to read more about the history of the German Orphan Home of the District of Columbia? We recommend Anna Watkins’ article, “To Help a Child: The History of the German Orphan Home,” in vol.18, no. 1-2 of Washington History (2006), the biannual publication of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Interested in exploring the collection? The finding aid is viewable here. You can make an appointment to view the collection by emailing The last day for research in 2017 is December 15. The library will reopen to researchers on January 2, 2018. Photo orders must be placed no later than December 8 to ensure delivery by December 15.