Children trapped in bad family situations, poverty and abuse, within the public welfare system is a serious matter; something one could not imagine occurring in the United States. In June 2014, the 24-hour call center of NCMEC received more than 3,989,626 calls since it was created in 1984 with information concerning missing or exploited children. Recent open border and lack of border security and laws being enforced by the federal government, an increase of child abductions and exploitation has risen due to the increase of the drug cartel operating north of the Mexican-US border. Those abducted children are sold like cattle or used in some exploitation operation of some sort, including child pornography. Children become missing for many reasons and the amount of missing children each year is disconcerting, to say the least.
This is something that should not be happening in the 21st century.
One person who spent 10 years in an orphanage, Thornwell Orphanage, now called Thornwell Home for Children in Clinton, South Carolina, is part of a mission of the Presbyterian Church, founded in 1875 to care for South Carolina children orphaned by the Civil War. Paulde Holczer wrote:
In ten years, I never knew a child at Thornwell to die or hospitalized for physical abuse or neglect or to simply “disappear” from supervision.
It is expensive to operate an orphanage, which is the main reason for them not to be built to meet the demand of orphans and children living in inferior conditions or abuse.
The foster parenting program exists with members who honestly want to help children; but there are more abuses taking place than the media will bother to investigate. Some foster parents are only doing it to get the money received for fostering children. In addition, the foster parenting program, unlike well-run orphanages, do not provide stability that the child requires. If the child misbehaves, which sometimes is a rebellion from what they have experienced, their lives are disrupted. Generally, orphanages provide a structured setting and the children encouraged to feel like they belong, a place to stay until they are old enough to venture out on their own. Orphanages (good ones) provide guidelines to become productive and responsible adults.
As in the book by Richard McKenzie, Home Away from Home: The Forgotten History of Orphanages – they are not warehouses for unwanted children, like what occurred during its long and tumultuous history.
One can tell whether a society or civilization is advanced and successful by the way they treat their children and pets.
The first orphanages were founded by the Catholic Church in the 1st century, when Christianity began to affect Roman life. However, the Athenian Greeks viewed the care of orphans as being patriotic and mandated that children of citizens killed in war were to be educated up to 18 years of age by the State. Plato stated:
Orphans should be placed under the care of public guardians. Men should have a fear of the loneliness of orphans and of the souls of their departed parents. A man should love the unfortunate orphan of whom he is guardian as if he were his own child. He should be as careful and as diligent in the management of the orphan's property as of his own or even more careful still.
Antonius Pius, Roman emperor (131-161) established relief agencies for children. Christians established hospitals and asylums for children in the East. St. Ephraem, St. Basil, and St. John Chrysostom built a number of those orphan hospitals. They were called orphanotrophia.
The Apostolic Constitution stated:
Orphans as well as widows are always commended to Christian love. The bishop is to have them brought up at the expense of the Church and to take care that the girls be given, when of marriageable age, to Christian husbands, and that the boys should learn some art or handicraft and then be provided with tools and placed in a condition to earn their own living, so that they may no longer necessary a burden to the Church. [Apostolic Constitution, IV, tr. Uhlhorn, p. 185]
St. Augustine stated:
The bishop protects the orphans that they may not be oppressed by strangers after the death of the parents.
In the medieval period, monasteries took on the duty of the Church to care for orphans. They were taught learning and trade skills.
The major figure concerning the welfare of orphans stands out in its long history: St. Vincent de Paul (1576-1660). He obtained the notice of the nobility and upper class as well as peasants to address the need of orphans – abandoned and children of the poor included. Seventeen years later he established the institution called Ladies of Charity amongst noble women. When the war between France and Austria had created orphans, St. Vincent de Paul went about collecting them from the provinces and took them to Paris where they were cared for by Mlle le Gras and the Sisters of Charity. Three towns contained 1000 orphans under the age of seven years. The Sisters of Charity spread around the globe and still serve to protect orphans to this day, or have been an inspiration for other orders to perform the same work.
When the Revolution began in France, there were 426 houses in that country established for orphans by the Sisters of Charity. They were suppressed, but many were reopened by Napoleon.
In England, Ireland, and Scotland, 51 houses of Sisters of Charity were established between 1855 and 1898. On the American continent, the first orphan asylum inspired by the work of St. Vincent de Paul's influence was not by the French, but the Spanish. It was an orphanage for girls, established in Mexico in 1548 by a Spanish Catholic Order called La Caridad. The first orphanage in the territory that is now the United States was Ursulines, founded in New Orleans in 1727, under the direction of Louis XV.
Of the 77 charities for children, mostly orphanages, established in America before the middle of the 19th century, 21 were Catholic orphanages. One of them is the interesting Girard College, founded by the merchant prince of Philadelphia, Stephen Girard, who endowed $6,000,000 which has increased five times. His terms were clear: no minister of Gospel would be permitted to cross the threshold of the orphan institution.
Orphanages are institutions that require solutions to complex and varied problems. Orphanages must provide plenty without being wasteful, clothe adequately without cheapness or uniformity, educate in learning and handicraft without turning orphans into slave labor, and provide entertainment to provide change from education and work duties – discipline without oppression. Buildings must be safe and have adequate sanitary conditions. Orphans must be provided with medical checkups and medical care for the sick and injured. An established workable program must be established beneficial to the development, mentally and physically, for the orphans and a competent and caring staff with competent management.
In pre-industrial United States, orphans were indentured to foster families in exchange for their work. This led to child abuse, as the famous Calamity Jane wrote in her memoirs about her experience in a working foster home, Jane herself giving up her only child to foster parents.
After the Civil War, states became involved in building orphanages for war orphans, later that included orphans of the Spanish-American War. As the industrial age got into full swing, so did the increase of orphans and abandoned children. Jewish and fraternal orphanages were established in major cities, as well as county orphanages financed by local governments. Philanthropists also established orphanages, usually for racial minorities like African American, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Native Americans. A few orphanages provided for racially mixed populations, while some were established only for girls or boys.
During what is called the Progressive Era (1890-1929), superintendents of orphanages were graduates of social work education, specializing in the new field of child care. Many orphanages became overcrowded, some began to restrict admission to only full and half-orphan children. The majority of children in orphanages in the late nineteenth century had one parent living. Those who had both parents living had been placed in orphanages by the court, a welfare agency because of abuse and/or neglect, or by parents unable or unwilling to take care of them. Parents sometimes used the court system to declare their children delinquent or unmanageable.
Many orphanages did not admit young children, few had nurseries. Big cities had foundling hospitals. The death rate in all of those infant institutions were mind boggling, mostly because children arrived at the hospital starving and sick from exposure to the elements or because of a contagious disease like scarlet fever, diphtheria, and whooping cough. Foundlings who survived early childhood and not adopted were transferred to orphanages. Children in orphanages were cared for better with medical care, nutrition, hygiene, and fresh air than the neighborhoods and conditions they had come from.
Late 19th century reformers viewed children as a continuance of the republic producing educated and responsible citizens. It was these “child savers” that fought against child labor and pushed for compulsory education, playgrounds, and libraries in poor urban neighborhoods. Orphanages were a great part of that reformation. By early 20th century, many orphanages had playgrounds, libraries, athletic facilities, musical training, recreation, and vocational education – depending upon economics and philanthropic support. Children were either schooled inside the orphanage or attended local public schools. Students that attended high schools were encouraged to obtain a college education.
In the late 19th century, some orphanages were being attacked by reformers who thought that they were too regimented, sheltering children too long. Influenced by social Darwinism, Amos Warner claimed that clustering children and institutionalizing them did not prepare them for adult life. He was for dispersing children into families (foster care). The Progressive era brought criticism against orphanages, claiming they were not taught to be individuals, but instead became institutionalized citizens. Orphanages responded to the criticism by creating more a homelike atmosphere. They changed the large congregated bedrooms, bunk rooms a good description, into smaller units and built cottages where small groups of children lived with a home mother with a more relaxed discipline and intent upon cultivating children's individual talents. Orphanages that could not, or would not modernize were closed or consolidated.
Beginning in the 1920s, charities started to close their institutions and creating foster care agencies. Catholic charities resisted the change, but slowly did so eventually. During the 1930s, orphanages became overcrowded again – not from war, but an economic depression. The 1935 Aid for Dependent Children legislation forced them to place children in foster families.
The anti-institution movement of the 1960s, heralded by the Hippy cult, closed most of the remaining orphanages and Federal Aid for Families with Dependent Children legislation (AFDC) began, aimed at preserving biological families and preventing children being placed out. The number of children in foster care did not reduce, and by the 1980s, foster care once again was in the same crisis orphanages were in previously.
The Orphan Train movement began in the middle of the 19th century because of the estimated 30,000 abandoned children living on the streets of New York. Over the 75 years it was in operation, the train movement relocated between 150,000 and 200,000 orphans. Some children were true orphans: no parents, no other family, living on the streets, sleeping in doorways, fending for themselves. Many of the orphans had parents or only one parent who could not or would not take care of them. Some children were abandoned by both parents. Some were runaways because of abuse, et cetera.
Historical Background: Myths and Truths
In literary works of fiction, like Oliver Twist and Annie, administrators and managers of orphanages were depicted as cruel people. However, there were some who did not operate under the principles of why they were established. Orphanage scams where an orphanage front is set up to encourage visitors to provide donations as extended donor families, but instead of school they are sent to work, their wages going to those in charge. In the worst case scenario, children are sold into slavery. Some are purchased from their parents for very little and sold for a large adoption fee to westerners who want to help children from overseas. It has occurred in China and Cambodia. In Indonesia, orphanages are run like a business, attracting donations from the wealthy, but the orphans are not benefiting, living in poor conditions.
Wikipedia has an entry that provides information about orphanages worldwide.
A documentary entitled Children of the Grave concerns the dead children, in mass graves or graves with no names; whose death is questionable – an alarming amount of children dying in orphanages in early 20th century, Industrial Age.
In the 1920s, there was a problem with milk in that it was making children sick from spoilage and contamination, and the practice of mixing formaldehyde into the milk would keep that from happening actually made children horribly sick and who eventually died after much suffering. Milk was a good prevention of diseases like Rickets. It is good for promotion of health teeth and bones, especially during the growth years. Thus it is alleged that orphanages have become haunted, as the documentary points out.
The Dozier School for Boys, a notorious Florida state-run institution gave such institutions a bad name that finally closed in 2011. Of course, it was not an orphanage, but the largest juvenile reform center in the United States. As told by Greg Allen in October of 2012:
Known as the "White House Boys," these 300-some men were sent as boys to the reform school in the small panhandle town of Mariana in the 1950s and 1960s. They have joined together over the years to tell their stories of the violence administered in a small building on the school's grounds they knew as the White House. Some 81 boys are known to have died there, but where their remains are buried is a mystery that researchers are now trying to solve.
The school opened in 1900s and until the the 1980s, it was an open campus of 1400 acres without any perimeter fencing. It was originally divided into two campuses – Number 1 was for white students and Number 2 for colored students, segregated until 1968. A cemetery was located on the north side that contained graves of more than 50 deceased students. In 1990 (1991), the North Side campus (Number 2) was permanently closed.
In 1929, an 11-room concrete block detention building that contained two cells – one for white and one for black students – was constructed to house violent or non-conforming students. It would become known as the White House. Corporal punishment was abolished in 1967, so the building was used for storage.
According to the 2010 abuse investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the school was first organized under an 1897 act of the legislature, but did not operate until 1900. Soon after opening, the commissioners were replaced by the governor and cabinet of Florida, acting as Board of Commissioners of State Institutions. In 1914, the name was changed to Florida Industrial School for Boys and in 1957 to the Florida School for Boys. In 1967, the name of the campus changed to Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in honor of the former superintendent.
An inspection in 1903 revealed that children at the school were commonly kept in leg irons. A fire in a dormitory in 1914 killed six inmates and two staff members. A 13-year-old boy sent to the school in 1934 for trespassing died 38 days after arriving there.
In 1968, Florida Governor, Claude Kirk, after a visit to the school, saw how overcrowded it was and how the juveniles lived under such poor conditions. At the time, the school housed 564 boys, some for offenses as minor as skipping school, running away from home, or just behavior problems. The boys ages ranged from ten to sixteen years old.
In 1982, an inspection revealed that boys were “hogtied and kept in isolation for weeks at a time”. The ACLU filed a lawsuit over that and other mistreatment. At that time there were 105 boys there from the age of thirteen to twenty-one.
In 1994, the school was placed under the management of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, which operated the establishment until 2011 when it closed. At that time there were 135 inmates, many who had been convicted of rape or committing “lewd acts with other children”.
In a 2010 published report by the US Department of Justice, 11.3% of the boys surveyed had been subject to sexual misconduct by staff using force in the last twelve months, and 10.3% reported that they had been subject to it without the use of force. 2.2% reported sexual abuse by another inmate.
It the former inmates who had been incarcerated at the school in the 1950s and 1960s, describing themselves as the “White House Boys”, prompted a special report published in the St. Petersburg Times in 2009. Allegations claimed that in the 1960s one room was used for whipping white boys and another for black boys. A 3-foot leather and metal belt was used for whipping and was so vicious that the victim's underwear would become embedded in their skin.
One former inmate claimed he was whipped eleven times, receiving over 250 lashes. Others alleged they were whipped until unconscious, punishments being harsher if boys cried. Some former inmates claimed there was a “rape room” where they were sexually abused. Some of the victims were as young as nine years old. A class-action suit was brought against the state by the White House Boys, but was dismissed by a judge in Leon County, Florida, stating that the statute of limitations for such a lawsuit had run out. A bill introduced in the 2012 session of the Florida Legislature to provide compensation to victims of abuse at the school failed to pass.
None of the graves were opened in the 2008 investigation to determine cause of death of those interred. A forensic examination of the white house revealed no evidence of blood on the walls. The former students insisted that corporal punishment was administered in the white house. It was hard to determine over the course of fifty years, no evidence was found to support physical or sexual abuse.
Between 2012 t0 2014. Erin Kimmerie, a forensic anthropologist, University of South Florida, was curious why there were no records of where those who died were buried. She gathered a team and used ground-penetrating radar and excavations to determine where bodies were buried. However, in order to exhume bodies for determination of cause of death, a family member must request it. The researchers had discovered there were at least 50 graves on the grounds and a second cemetery probably existed.
Glen Varnadoe's uncle was sent to the school for boys in the 1930s and died there a month later. Varnadoe wanted to exhume his uncle for burial at the family cemetery. The state limited an area of where he might be found and restricted the USF team to that area. Then the state announced plans to sell most of the Dozier property, so Varnadoe filed suit and a judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the sale until Thomas Varnadoe's body could be exhumed. State officials then granted the university team permission to search all areas of the former facility for possible burial sites and requested federal funds to pay for a forensic examination of all graves on the grounds. Bones, teeth and artifacts from grave sites were sent to the University of North Texas for DNA testing. As of January 2014, excavations have produced the remains of 55 bodies, twice the number in official records. The white cemetery was separated from the black, so there is probably more bodies, a spokesman estimating at least 100.