History 1302 PO3
April 16, 2013
Throughout the generations America has transformed and evolved drastically to become the nation it is today. Many can argue that several things have happened in America that are what shaped it to the country it is today industrially, socially and economically. A man by the name of Charles brace had a dream of getting underprivileged children off the streets and gave them the tools and opportunities to live great normal lives. Between 1854- 1929 an estimated 200,000 American children, some orphaned or half-orphaned, others abandoned- but all in need of families- traveled west by rail as part of a “placing out” program started by Charles, called the Children’s Aid Society.(Warren, 4) This dream exploded around the U.S into what is now known as The Orphan Train Movement; a movement that sparked opportunity and new life for underprivileged children.
Early on in American History, children who were left by their families were usually left to be cared for by their relatives or neighbors. There were very few services at the time to help struggling families in need, or to even rescue children. It was in the late 1800’s and even as late as the 1900’s where laws advocating children’s rights were being enacted. The only places where children could be left at the time were Orphanages and most were extremely overcrowded and uncomfortable. Children were not given much time or attention or even food. Adoption was not yet universally popular at the time, and there were not many laws protecting the rights of children. Often times in a lower to middle class household a family relied on its children to work in order to make ends meet. For many families it was a struggle but manageable, however, for others it was just too much and this lead to many children being left on the streets of major cities, like New York and Manhattan. Charles Brace originally arrived in New York City in 1848 to study Theology but could not help but notice the overflow of abandoned children living on the streets. Brace had made a trip to Europe, where he saw first-hand how orphans were being taken by charitable organizations to areas where they were better off with families that would raise them as their own children. After this trip Charles decided to take that concept and start his own. By 1853 Charles Brace founded the Children’s Aid Society, which was derived from the same principles he witnessed in an Institute during his time in Germany. Charles’ goal was to give children access to education as well as jobs who would not have had the opportunity otherwise. A quote from Charles Brace says “The best of all Asylums for the outcast child is the farmers’ home. The great duty is to get these children of unhappy fortune utterly out of their surroundings and to send them away to kind Christian homes in the country.” In 1854 Brace sent the first group of forty six children to Michigan. Within a week of arrival, they all had homes to live in. It was clear that his idea would be extremely promising. Pretty soon thousands of children were being placed out, from the streets, even from jail. Later, Charles derived a plan to be able to send kids where they could learn a skill, contribute to society, and (ideally) be a part of a family. This sparked a huge movement for the early stages of modern adoption. Charles Brace was the first to really come up with the idea of a “relocation program” on a major scale. The ultimate goal for Charles Brace was for the children to have the opportunity to be transformed out in the country as opposed to the desperate living conditions they would face in the City. It may seem as though Charles Brace just stole an idea he once saw in Europe and later made a fortune of it here in America, however this is not the case. Brace put in a lot of his own effort before placing out children in masses. Charles truly cared for the well-being of every child. In...