Tom Edwards wrote a few weeks ago on Facebook that he read the column “Today’s Child”. I had never heard of it so I decided to do some sleuthing and found out how popular Helen Allen was.
Once referred to as the “fairy godmother of adoption,” journalist Helen Allen tirelessly worked for 18 years to find homes for 11,000 children who had no parents or relatives to take care of them. In her column, Today’s Child — which began in the now-defunct Toronto Telegram but later continued in the Star and other local papers like the Ottawa Journal.
The Globe and Mail, for one, publicized the plight of war orphans and was able to brag that its efforts meant 181 homes had been found. Not to be outdone, the Toronto Telegram started putting Helen Allen’s “Today’s Child” column on its front page, with its heart-wrenching details of the needs of these kids.
Adoption crusader Helen Allen died in Toronto on Nov. 9, 2006 at the age of 99.
Her work on behalf of domestic adoption in Canada garnered her many awards. The most recent was a Special Achievement Award from the North American Council on Adoptable Children in 2005.
Helen Allen was honoured for her pioneering work with the “Today’s Child” newspaper column. Today, it’s a fixture at the Toronto Star, which since 1971 has featured the pictures and profiles of children awaiting adoption.
But when Ms. Allen, then a reporter for the Toronto Telegram, launched “Today’s Child” in June 1964 it met with skepticism from the Children’s Aid Societies of the day, who balked at the idea of parading their children before the public. Three of the 51 CASs did take part — Hamilton, Kenora and Toronto — and the daily column became a success. Other daily and weekly papers in Ontario picked up the column and in 1968 Ms. Allen launched a television version on CFTO-TV, “Family Finder”.
Columnist Helen Allen treasures this picture of Albert, 4, a cystic fibrosis victim, that appeared in the Today’s Child column three years ago. Six months later, a Newfoundland family saw him in an old copy of The Star wrapped around a parcel from Toronto, and adopted him. Cooper, David–Picture, 1981–Toronto Star Photo Archive
Helen Allen received many honours. She was named to the Order of Canada and received an honorary doctorate from York University and the Award of Merit from the City of Toronto.
Helen Kathleen Allen was born in Dundurn, Sask., on Aug. 16, 1907. She married Charles Stacey in Toronto on Oct. 3, 1980, when she was 73, and he 74. In 1981 she stepped down from the “Today’s Child” column (Judith Adams did it for seven years more) and “Family Finder”, but still spent two days a week writing letters and Adoption Bulletins.
Adoption 1960’s Style –MJ Whittaker
Today’s Child — A Look Back
Sad Memories of the Waifs and Strays Society
The Wright Brothers– British Home Children
Canadians Just Wanted to Use me as a Scullery-Maid
Laundry Babies – Black Market Baby BMH 5-7-66
I remember the newspaper article “Today’s Child”, we always got the Citizen so I’m sure that’s where I read it. I was only little at the time, but always read the newspaper even when I couldn’t read! I could never understand why my parents didn’t adopt these kids! I would show my parents the pic in the paper, and read the words I could, but nope, they didn’t rush out and bring home another brother or sister! If it wasn’t for your article Linda, I think I would have forgotten about my memoir forever. As my dad would say when he started his journey into Alzheimer’s ……Thanks for the memories! (that’s what he’d say when we reminded him of something)
As a Metis child growing up when the Toronto Star featured many of these children during the 1970’s, my heart would break. There was a disproportionate large number of Indigenous children featured. Why couldn’t they be with their birth families? My heart still breaks today at the large number of Indigenous children that are still taken away from their birth families, often at the moment of birth. How can that mother have caused harm to her child? She hasn’t even held her babe yet. I’m currently helping a 60’s scoop woman fill out her claim form. Ripped away from her birth family as an infant, she doesn’t even know what Indigenous Nation she comes from. When will it be understood that we can’t be forced to assimilate. After all, it is truly a difference of opinion and culture as who considers who the “uncivilized” one. Allowing us to raise our own children, or those who rip our families apart?
Agreed… truly awful…things that should never have happened. Glad to hear of angels like you helping out.. HUGGGG
I’m a 60’s Scoop survivor and I just shed tears reading this page and comments. They thought they were doing us a world of good adopting us through newspaper ads…instead my sister and I were placed in an all racist town and we were abused in every way possible. I’ve come to terms of my past and I continue to help as many sixties scoop survivors as I possibly can.
Lots of healing and I did that through my Cree ceremonies by crawling into a sweat lodge and attending as many support groups as possible and I also have a psychologist I see once a week.
I’m 53 years old and this “Sixties Scoop” has not only impacted myself but also my family my reserve and my children. I was informed by an elder that I will continue to have abandonment issues until I walk into the spirit world.
I am so sorry to hear this.. but and happy to see you are helping others. I am sending you the biggest hugs I can send. Lead us to repent when we as settlers deny Indigenous peoples respect, dignity and fullness of life. Help us to listen compassionately, to speak humbly and to act justly. Help us to seek the peace, justice and reconciliation you desire among all your children. Thank you for your mercy and grace and may you Sharon try to find some peace.
I was also on ‘Todays Child’ with my 2 siblings.. We were from kenora and adopted out in southwestern ont. I still have a pic from the tv set we were featured on.. If u want a copy. Email me.
Thanks Debb… love this story… sending much love and you can send your story and photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
Just noticed this now, but if you would still like to share, I’d love to see it
Got your email… thanks 🙂
Hi Linda !! I was born Dec 27 1961 and given up for adoption and adopted out of Carleton Place (through Children’s Aid in Perth) in January 1963. Obviously I was adopted out before Ms Allen started her column but when I asked my adopted parents, a long time ago now, how they came to hear of me, since they lived in Port Arthur at the time and I was in Carleton Place, they told me that it was at church. The story as I remember it was that the priest stood up and spoke about me at mass and how I needed a good home and he asked people to search their hearts to see if they would be willing to give me a forever home. I suppose this was probably a romanticized parents’ version of the actual process but it does have me wondering now !! Thanks for posting this article.
sending big hugs
Those kids were advertised like livestock. Allen was a part of a process to eradicate the Indigenous, even if her intentions were well meaning.
hi Linda thanks for writing about this. do you know what day of the week her column appeared? I’m trying to help my partner find her birth parents and we think the Today’s Child articles might help.. thanks so much
Oscar no..:( they were on different days and sometimes they were in rural papers too. Best way to search for them is to search under the title @Today’s Child.. wish I could be of more help.
I have an original newspaper copy from 1967 which inspired my parents to adopt me. I was born in Toronto and even though I wasn’t in any article it did serve a great purpose. Thanks for this insightful article.
Love hearing stories like this. HUGGG