CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Cradle was one of the first four adoption agencies to be started in the United States.
"The Cradle's story really starts with a story of family and love," said Jason Friedman, The Cradle's president and CEO. "Our founder, Florence Walrath, her own sister had experienced a miscarriage and Florence knew her sister was desperately trying to become a mom. So, Florence, ever the spitfire, was doing a lot of networking. She was reaching out to local hospitals and doctors and ultimately found, through a doctor, a young woman who was looking to place her infant daughter. And that little girl became Jane, who became Florence's niece and her first ever placement."
From that point on, word spread among families looking to adopt. The Cradle officially opened in March of 1923. And, over the last 100 years, more than 16,000 children have been placed thanks to The Cradle. During that time, the Evanston-based adoption agency has been at the forefront of open adoption, African American infant adoption, and placements with LGBTQ+ identifying families.
Former Bears great Gale Sayers and his first wife adopted a child through The Cradle.
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"We knew there was a really rich tradition of familial or kinship adoptions within the Black community, but there was an opportunity to share more information about the type of adoption The Cradle does within the Black community as well," said Friedman. "So, really, the express purpose of the Sayers Center is to raise awareness of adoption within the Black community, because ultimately it comes down to the choices of our birth parents. We want to make sure as they're thinking about the families with which they could place their babies, that they have a diversity of options including families that might share similar racial identifies or lived experiences."
The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with an on-site nursery.
"The nursery provides a safe, neutral place for the baby to be sometimes for a couple of days, sometimes for a few months while parents are coming up with the right plan for themselves and their babies. Sometimes, that means the baby goes back home to parents, because the parents had enough time to gather their resources and figure out a parenting plan," Friedman said. "And, other times, it means placing their child for adoption. That's a really important part of The Cradle, something that makes us different. And, ultimately, it's all about providing the right conditions for parents to make the best decisions on behalf of themselves, their families and their baby."
Before becoming president and CEO, Friedman went through the adoption process at The Cradle. And, in June of 2019, he and his wife adopted their son. He said the journey included probably "some of the most joyous highs of our adult highs, my wife and I, and some of the hardest moments as well."
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