Tag Archives: today’s child

Today’s Child Newspaper Column– Helen Allen

Today’s Child Newspaper Column– Helen Allen

I’m the one with the head down, we were from the Kenora area , taken by a CAS worker to Toronto . We were shortly fostered to south of Sarnia , than CAS decided to split us up and I was adopted and my younger siblings were adopted to another family. 

Photo only— Sent to me and used with permission from Deb

Written in 1974

Four-year-old Mark was born with neither arms nor legs. Doctors could offer no explanation for the overwhelming deformity and handicap. The distraught parents decided they could not provide adequate care and attention in the family set-ting. They felt perhaps an institution offered the best possible future in the circumstances. But Helen Allen drew him to the attention of readers of her newspaper column Today’s Child, and more than 50 couples offered to adopt him. Today Mark, now 6 and attending kindergarten, is happily settled in his new home with his adoptive parents and two older brothers and a. sister.

“The most satisfying experience of my life and the highlight of my career in adoptive work.” says Miss Allen of the adoption of Mark. Helen Allen is not given to extravagant speech, but she adds: “The past years been the most satisfying and exciting years of my life.” She’s referring to the time that she has presided oer the column Today’s Child w hich has been responsible for the adoption of thousands of children. Mark’s case, though remarkable, is only one of a series of miracles in placing children. Seven Ojibwa children from a broken family in the Brantford area will look back with gratitude on Helen. They were featured with the hope that they could be adopted as a unit.

The usually optimistic columnist confessed: “This is an im possible dream.” Impossi. bleor not it happened. Stan and Gwena Morrill, of Brantford, read of the seven children (three of them adopted). They sub-mitted the adoption proposal to their “family hour,” pointing out that the adoption of seven children would mean major readjustments and the cancellation of the planned holiday to Arizona. The unanimous vote was to proceed, Stan Morrill, who is On-tario director of Christian ‘ Education for the Church of Jesus Christ of I alter Day Saints (Mormon Church), simply stales: “We can’t reject a child in need.”

The column originated in response to a suggestion of Dr. James S, Band, then deputy minister of social and family services in Ontario, Andrew MacKarlane, then managing editor of the Toronto Telegram, agreed to a three-week trial run of a column which would acquaint the public with hard-to-place children available for adoption, “We assigned Helen to the job because she was probably the best reporter in the place.” recalls Mad ‘aria ne. The Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario were not enthusiastic with the announced project. Only three of the 55 societies in the province would have anything to do w ith it. Miss Allen managed to line up pictures of 23 children who were to be featured over the trial period. Eighteen of the 23 were soon adopted.

The first column appeared on June 6, 1964. Helen Allen fondly recalls that first child. “She was part Negro, a beautiful child, 15 months old, and perhaps her name Hope was prophetic. We got 40 letters for her within a week.” Hope quickly found a home. When the three weeki trial period ended, there could be no turning back, Today’s Child was to be a permanent newspaper feature, Then 10 ye;irs have witnessed a remarkable record. , Four sets of seven children have been adopted by non-relatives, 208 persons answered one plea for a family to adopt a group of seven sisters. And mentally challenged children have also found homes through the column. In 1972, nine were adopted, Recently the first child with Down’s Syndrome found parents.

Since the inauguration of Today’s Child, there has been a steady increase in the number of older children who have been adopted in Ontario. Of the 5,880 adopted in 1972. for. instance, more than 5 per cent were over a year old. The whole adoption picture in Ontario has been radically altered and improved in those 10 years. Now older children, handicapped children, and those with mixed blood are routinely adopted. Large family groups are adopted intact. Ontario Children’s Aid Societies have come to recognize Helen Allen as a friend. Mrs: Victoria Leach, Ontario Adoptive Coordinator and Miss Allen’s closest collaborator, is candid. ‘Helen Allen has led the way in showing that adoption is the responsibility not only of the social agencies hut of the community at large,” she sas.

No one knows exactly how many children have been placed through Today’s Child. An extensive 17-month survey revealed that one of every three couples who wrote to the column did adopt some child. Using that yardstick, it is conservatively estimated that the column had been responsible for placing 6,500 children by the end of 1973. In addition, of course, other couples were doubtless motivated to consider adoption through reading the daily column but proceeded to apply for a child without reference to it, The Toronto Telegram, for which Helen Allen worked 42 years, and which provided a home for Today’s Child for its first years, ceased publication.

At that time, the column appeared in 20 other papers in the province, The Ontario government recognied that the column must not die. The Ministry of Community and Social Services took over the column and newspaperman Helen Allen became an employee of the provincial government. Today’s Child now appears in 24 daily newspapers and 155 weeklies.

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada21 Apr 1981, Tue  •  Page 58

Helen Allen didn’t get married until last fall, by which time she was in her early 70s. Allen, as Citizen readers and hundreds of thousands of other people know perfectly well, is the woman who finds parents for Today’s Child. One estimate is that as a result of the column more than 12,000 children have been adopted since 1964. This is the second time Helen Allen has been Mother of the Year, but she figures the first one was a joke. “It was in Centennial Year, and Mike Pearson sent me a telegram complete with roses, but I still think some friends of mine put him up to it. He loved a good joke.”

No thought of retiring Both Allen and her husband, historian C. P. Stacey, continue with their work without so much as a nod in the direction of an official retirement age. Every working day finds her out on field work or in her office in the downtown quarters of the Ministry of Community and Social Services (children’s services). Charley Stacey, who will be 75 in July, is just as busy as his wife. He is the author of the popular A Very Double Life, a revelation of the off-beat personal life of former prime minister Mackenzie King, and this spring sees publication of the second volume of Stacey’s The Age of Conflict.

He is working on his memoirs, as well. Stacey was a widower for some years, and since Allen had been independent for most of her life, it seemed reasonable to wonder if there was a lot of adjusting to do when they began sharing the toothpaste. “We’re very lucky we have a place with two bathrooms,” Allen says. “So we have each taken possession of one. “However, last fall we did some travelling, and when we were in hotels, I must say I did think Charley made rather a muck of the toothpaste.” The age of tolerance “I think there’s something to be said for a later marriage,” Allen says. “Certainly you are more tolerant. You overlook things that at 18 or 22 would have had you flying off the handle.”

Does Charley Stacey share the cooking with his working wife? No way. “Charley likes to eat out, and I encourage him in it,” says his bride, The young Charley Stacey and Helen Allen dated occasionally in college, back in the late 1920s. Nothing serious. “Neither of us was left languishing, or anything like that,” she says. “He was ahead of me, and he married, went off to Oxford and Princeton. We lost touch.” Stacey, now a retired colonel, was in the army for 19 years, as official historian, before coming back to University of Toronto in 1959 to become a history professor.

They finally met again, after nearly 50 years, at a Varsity reunion. “I was with a cousin and another friend, and it was raining when we came out. Charley said he’d drive us to our car. “Later, when I called that cousin to tell her Charley and I were going to be married, I reminded her that it was all because of an umbrella. “I had left my umbrella in Charley’s car that day, and when he phoned later to say he had it, he asked me to lunch. . . .”

Today’s Child all began with a request to promote adoptions. It came from the Department of Welfare, which approached the managing editor of the Toronto Telegram, where Helen Allen worked for 42 years from her graduation in 1929 to the collapse of the Tely in 1971. “I was handed the assignment, and this was what we came up with. “There was considerable opposition from social workers at first. They felt it was too much like ‘selling’ children. “We planned to work closely with the Children’s Aid societies, but only three were prepared to take a chance at first: Toronto, Hamilton and Kenora. “We ran one column a day for three weeks 18 days. It was a real scramble to find enough children.

Actually, 23 youngsters were shown in those first three weeks, and 18 were adopted. “We took the summer off, on the assumption that people weren’t likely to undertake anything as critical as adoption in the summer.” There was an election coming up, too, and Allen, who had been a political reporter, was needed back on the beat. Today’s Child resumed in November. “For six weeks, they told me. That was 1 7 years ago.” Helen Allen smiles. “Out of every three letters we get, we figure there is one adoption. Not necessarily of the child inquired about in the letter, but the spark is activated.”

Allen sees and talks with as many of the children as possible, as well as with social workers, foster parents and the potential adoptive parents. “You never know what will trigger the adoption. The couple who have specified ‘a little girl, not over three,’ see a 13-year-old boy and the chemistry is right.” Did she ever consider adopting one of Today’s Children herself? “Certainly if this kind of thing had been going on when I was young, and if single parents were being considered, yes, I would have. “We have a single-parent adoption in the works right now. A single father. We have a boy who has said specifically that he wants a dad, and we’ve got some terrific ones!”

Allen has six godchildren, including two of Today’s, and has sponsored children through the Canadian Save the Children Fund. She sees no end to the need for a service like Today’s Child: “Babies, of course, are scarce, but there will always be children needing parents.” It’s because she has helped so many children and parents find one another that on April 28 the Pioneer Women of Toronto will present her with a plaque that acclaims her Spiritual Mother of the Year

Adoption crusader Helen Allen died in Toronto on Nov. 9, 2006 at the age of 99.

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa JournalOttawa, Ontario, Canada01 Sep 1967, Fri  •  Page 29

Today’s Child — A Look Back

Newspaper Columns of the Past- Today’s Child- Helen Allen

A Day With Children’s Aid in “Squatter’s Paradise” Tunney’s Pasture

Adoption 1960’s Style –MJ Whittaker

Newspaper Columns of the Past- Today’s Child- Helen Allen

Newspaper Columns of the Past- Today’s Child- Helen Allen


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.

 - Today's Child By HELEN ' This alert young...

Also read–

Adoption 1960’s Style –MJ Whittaker

Today’s Child — A Look Back


Margaret Lucas

I was in one of those pictures in May 1965 with my four sisters. I vividly remember getting together for the picture to be taken and it was an awesome day. We were not all adopted together but have found each other later in life. Love that picture so much and looked at it often throughout the years.–
Comment from Theresa this morning.. not everyone was lucky.
“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?”
Related reading

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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

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The Kingston Whig-Standard
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
18 Jan 1968, Thu  •  Page 21