My wife checked a very interesting book out about the "Orphan Trains" of the late 1800s, and those who desire to bring the Church into a more vigourous policy of adoption would do well to read it and absorb its lessons.
More or less, the history of New York City in the late 1800s was one where multitudes of immigrants came and worked, and as with any extremely poor population with difficult working conditions, alcoholism and poverty resulted in hundreds of thousands of orphans needing care. Death rates for "foundlings" (abandoned infants) approached 90% in some orphanages, and (as today) parentless children began to terrorize the streets of Gotham.
Enter the "Children's Aid Society" and others, who realized that only hours away by train, multitudes of farmers needed more children to help with the work than they had. In the end, apparently about 200,000 orphans found homes. We can learn a lot from this example.
First of all, the clothes hound in me noticed that, while most likely these kids did not have the closets full of clothes that children today possess, they did tend to have at least one more decent winter coat than those of today--see the picture in the link. Next, it is illustrative that they tended to work only with families with good character references. I'm guessing they avoided a lot of problems that way.
On the down side, the book contained little information about the spiritual life of the founder of the "Children's Aid Society," Charles Loring Brace, other than that he was raised as a "Calvinist" and became a Methodist clergyman. I figured out why later; Brace was, if not one of the leaders, one of those who inspired the "Social Gospel" movement, and hence the intricacies of theological systems were not his chief interest.
Also of interest is the fact that the main difficulties they had with assimilating children were with older boys--in other words, once the damage of homelessness and parentlessness had been done, it is difficult to undo that, even with amazing parental love in an adoptive home.
Sounds a lot like our foster system, doesn't it? If a church, or family, wishes to do its part in providing loving homes for the 115,000 adoptable foster children in our country, they would do well to re-learn the lessons learned by Rev. Brace and others involved with the orphan trains.
I Heard It On The NARN - Katie Kieffer is the author of Let Me Be Clear. . Here’s how to learn more about, and donate to, the Salvation Army.
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