Orpan Train with Children being herded like cattle to Potential Parents
The Orphan Train
The piece of literature or excerpt that interested me most was the short story “Poe’s Life”. The second of three children born in the early 1800’s to parents who were traveling actors and who died when Edgar was just three years old. Edgar was separated from his siblings who went to live with other families while he was taken in by a wealthy tobacco merchant and his wife. Poe’s life as a struggling, yet successful writer of poetry, novels, textbooks, a book of scientific theory, hundreds of essays, and magazine articles lived a life mostly of poverty having little or no money. His story is one of love and loss and is truly heartbreaking and rarely heard of from a goal oriented, self-driven and successful individual like Poe who proved his ability to overcome obstacles and tragedies. As an adult by his peers, rivals and in death, his distorted image was recognized as a fortunate, drunken poet, writer, and womanizer with no friends or morals. In Poe’s mind, reality depicted a much more deserving 40 year existence. Since his death over 165 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe has been revered as a literary genius and inspirational poet.
The connection of Edgar Allan Poe’s life story along with my 15 year experience of being a Ward of the State and placed in multiple foster care homes brings my attention and hopefully yours to “The Orphan Train.” As we continue to watch the world turn in this 20th century, society is being affected by many things in many ways. One of the biggest tragedies that I have recognized is the rise in the number of homeless adults and children. This increase has come from loss of jobs from high income levels including senior staff members such as Presidents, Vice Presidents, CEOs, CFOs, Directors, managers, etc., to minimum wage and white collar workers. With these losses and reductions, people tend to seek out various forms of medication, illegal drugs and alcohol to mask their pain and to help them cope. Parents become unfit and unable to afford to feed, cloth and house their children and/or family members. Many individuals of our failing society have now lost their children to foster care, orphanages and group homes since the parents are in crisis, causing turmoil and forcing Child Protection Services and sometimes the state to get involved, in order to protect the children’s best interest and well-being. This increase in the homeless increases the number of displaced and neglected children of all ages needing to be placed in foster care, orphanages and other temporary housing in need of a “forever home". The hope and goal is to reunite these children with their families. However, statistics show that the numbers are staggeringly not in their favor; this reunion is rare.
“The Orphan Train”, initiated by the Children’s Aid Society, began relocating orphaned, abandoned, homeless and neglected children within the United States as well as Canada and Mexico to new homes in the mid 1800’s because they believed that the futures of these children could be changed. This train, which was little better than cattle cars, transported children who shared a common, grim existence ranging in age from four to eighteen, and sometimes younger, to towns where interested host families would gather to view, inspect things like muscles and teeth and interview the children to assist them in making their selection. For approximately 75 years this train helped an excess of 120,000 children find families that made them feel loved, wanted and to enjoy the sense of family again. This train was perceived to be an ambitious, unusual and even controversial experiment, but forced America to incorporate organized foster care. This movement also led to many child welfare reforms, child labor laws, adoption, public education, health care and even nutrition and vocational training. There were other agencies who became involved in placing children into foster homes such as the New York Juvenile Asylum, now known as the New York Founding Hospital, as well as the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York, now known as the Graham-Windham Home for Children.
Isn't it amazing how this event in history seems to be revealing its ugly head once more? I don’t believe there will ever be an “Orphan Train” again, but the need to find loving, safe and forever homes for children exists and is still considered a crisis. Statistics prove this need is even worse than during the Orphan Train movement. Millions upon millions of children and adults throughout the United States are in need of forever homes and housing.
Just as Edgar Allan Poe was stripped from his parents through their death, separated from his siblings (who went to live with people they didn’t know), lived with and was adopted by people he did not know, the children on the “Orphan Train” were also removed, abandoned, homeless and encouraged to completely sever ties, connections and relationships to their past. People on a daily basis are forced to abandon their homes or relocate for various reasons. Children are even placed with other family members or friends because of these decisions which include poorly made choices. Some families are forced to move back home with their parents to make ends meet. Unlike the 1950’s, when only one member of the household was required to work to provide, families now require either multiple jobs so that at least one family member can stay home or both family members must work. Due to the unaffordable rise in child care it is the children who pay the ultimate price.
Life is challenging, crazy, exciting, rewarding, fulfilling and a different journey for each of us. An ugly picture of the world’s crisis has been created by the leaders of our time in this journey called, “life”. The trend of all future events is determined by our future leaders (children). Let’s help take care of them and show them the way!