“Adoption—remembering the Orphan Trains”

Conscripting or enslaving children into armies and labor pools often occurred over the centuries as the consequence of war, pestilence and natural disasters when many children were left parentless. Abandoned children then became the ward of the state, military organization, or religious group. When this practice happened en masse, it had the advantage of ensuring the strength and continuity of cultural and religious practices in medieval society.

The largest migration of abandoned children in history took place in the United States between 1854 and 1929. Orphan trains, or baby trains as some called them, were highly popular as a source of free labor. Mothers simply abandoned their newborns in a special basket at the door of the hospital and rang a special bell, then disappeared. Their homeless and orphaned children were then transported from New York and Chicago and crowded Eastern cities of the United States to rural areas of the Midwest. Over two hundred fifty-thousand orphans were forced onto railroad cars and shipped west, where any pioneer family desiring their services as laborers, maids and servants often used and abused them. Children were unceremoniously lined up in train stations and town squares and given to the first bidder. Siblings were frequently separated from each other. Some pro-slavery advocates viewed the social welfare program as part of the abolitionist movement, since the labor provided by the children helped to make slaves unnecessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sheer size of the displacement and degree of exploitation that occurred led to new agencies and a series of laws that promoted adoption rather than indenture. Almost all children without parental care in the United States were in orphanages or foster arrangements until President Theodore Roosevelt declared the nuclear family was best able to serve as primary caretaker for the abandoned and orphaned. Inspired by his leadership, forces against institutionalization gathered momentum, and the practice of formal adoption gained popularity. Eventually, adoption became a quintessential American institution, embodying faith in social engineering and mobility. By 1945, adoption was formulated as a legal act with consideration of the child’s best interests. The origin of the move toward secrecy and the sealing of all adoption and birth records began when Charles Loring Brace introduced the idea to prevent children from the orphan trains from returning to or being reclaimed by their parents. Brace feared the impact of the parents’ poverty and their Catholic religion, in particular, on the youth. Progressive reformers later carried on this tradition of secrecy when drafting American laws.

The National Orphan Train Museum is located in Concordia, Kansas. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the stories and artifacts of those who were part of the Orphan Train Movement.

Judith Land

 

Abandoned Children | Adoption Story | Adoption Detective

http://www.adoptiondetectivejudithland.com

Judith Land | Adoption FAQ’s | Adoption Detective Book

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About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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7 Responses to “Adoption—remembering the Orphan Trains”

  1. Reblogged this on Sharliebel's Blog and commented:
    This documentary [https://judithland.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/orphan-trains/] is worthy of reading as well as a novel by Judith Land called ‘Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child’ = EXCERPT FROM BLOG: ‘Almost all children without parental care in the United States were in orphanages or foster arrangements until President Theodore Roosevelt declared the nuclear family was best able to serve as primary caretaker for the abandoned and orphaned. Inspired by his leadership, forces against institutionalization gathered momentum, and the practice of formal adoption gained popularity.’

  2. Pingback: Sharliebel's Blog

  3. Hello Judith… I think this is a fantastic Blog and hope it will get lots of attention. Apparently, WordPress.com has a new feature! I happened to PRESS the notice to ‘Reblog’ and my message to you and portions of your Blog appear on my WordPress account pages. If this is unaccepted to you, please let me know and I will remove it.

    Be sure to join the acclaimed website of http://www.Goodreads.com for more exposure to authors and readers.

    I have Tweeted your Twitter Page, your book, your WordPress page, and hope to see your wonderful book and Blog get lots of traffic. I helped in the promotions of another Orphan Train Author and am interested in the stories.

    Best wishes,

    ~Charlotte M. Liebel

  4. Hi Judith! I found the Orphan Train Movement fascinating as well when I first learned of it a few years ago. So much so that it inspired one of the characters in my book. So many people I talk to had no idea what the Orphan Trains were and that they were such a big part of the Midwest history. Such a great topic and I hope that it keeps getting more attention. The Orphan Train riders need to have some redemption for what they went through, regardless if they ended up in a loving home or not.

    • Judith Land says:

      You may also want to investigate “Home Children” refering to the child migration scheme founded by Annie MacPherson in 1869, under which more than 100,000 children were sent to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa from the United Kingdom based on ignoble and pecuniary motives. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UK, made a formal apology to the families of children who suffered in 2010. Australia has apologised for its involvement in the scheme. Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney issued a statement that Canada will not apologise to child migrants in 2009. These 4-15 year old children worked as indentured farm labourers and domestic servants until they were 18 years old. Siblings were separated from birth parents and each other when they were sent to Canada. Most never saw each other again. Many spent their lives trying to identify their parents and find their siblings. Most were unsuccessful. Judith Land

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