The Cradle Celebrates 90 Years of Building Families

MAD-the-cradleRona Green Taylor, 41, of Evanston, says she can’t remember a time when she and her husband didn’t talk about adopting.

“In my perfect world, everyone would at least consider adoption,” she says.

Today, the couple has three children: 7-year-old Kara, 5-year-old Julian and 9-week-old Nina. The eldest was born to them; the younger two were adopted from The Cradle in Evanston.

“Most people I know have adopted through The Cradle,” Taylor says. “Their ethics are unquestionable. There’s never been a question that they’re concerned with the best interests of the children.”

Adapting to Changing Times

Founded in 1923 by Evanston resident Florence Dahl Walrath, The Cradle is gearing up to celebrate its 90th anniversary. While the stone, castle-like structure at Ridge Avenue and Simpson Street has been around since 1938, the operation’s inner workings are strikingly different.

Today, for example, birth mothers can solicit information through the agency’s Facebook page or by texting or IM’ing Cradle staff.

“We’re very conscious of being ‘of the moment’ as times change,” explains Joan Jaeger, vice president of outreach and communications. And that doesn’t just mean social media—it includes mythbusting about a myriad of adoption issues.

Taylor, who adopted her two younger kids through The Cradle’s Sayers Center for African-American Adoption, says many families believe adoption is out of reach financially. Or they buy into other myths about home studies or the volumes of paperwork that often accompany adoption. “From the outside, it seems daunting,” she says.

Myths like those mean The Cradle works hard to prove adoption is an accessible option for everyone.

The agency has also adapted to profound changes in international adoption, which has been curtailed in recent years by countries that have closed their doors to foreigners. The Cradle currently does not have an international program, but they still offer home studies to people who want to adopt from another country.

A Lifelong Commitment

The Cradle has grown to national, even international prominence since its inception in 1923, in large part due to its long-term support of the adoption “triad” (child, birth mother, adoptive parents). This includes an on-site nursery, where babies can stay until an adoption plan is complete or post-adoption services, such as helping adoptees find their birthparents or counseling to iron out ongoing issues of identity.

“Adoption isn’t a transaction,” Jaeger says. “It’s a lifelong commitment.”

A Legacy of Love

Some of The Cradle’s more famous adoptive parents include entertainers George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Donna Reed, Pearl Buck and Gale Sayers.

The Cradle By the Numbers

Last year, the Cradle…

  • Placed 72 babies with nurturing families through its domestic adoption program.
  • Helped 16 children born in 7 foreign countries join loving families in the U.S. through its international home-study program.
  • Provided exceptional care for 68 babies in its nursery.
  • Offered compassionate guidance and support to more than 1,000 pregnant or new moms.
  • Offered post-adoption information or services to more than 1,200 people.

Upcoming Events

Make It Better is a proud Media Sponsor of this event.

Looking for another way to help? Bring your gently used children’s clothing items to Kazoom, and donate the money from your sale to The Cradle. Kazoom, a new children’s resale store in Evanston Plaza, buys, sells and trades clothing, shoes and toys for children up to age 8. Buying days are Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (847-905-0179, 1940 Dempster St., Evanston)