The Orphan Trains

Orphan Train AdLearning about the orphan trains was one of the experienced sparked my passion for orphans. In case you’re not familiar with them, the orphan trains were the brain child of a New England minister who wanted to help the thousands of destitute children populating eastern cities. He knew that children were valued by western farm families and decided that shipping the children west to be fostered would be mutually beneficial to both the children and the families. His idea caught on and started a practice that lasted from 1854 to 1929.

The movement of orphans in such a way was made possible by the looser laws of the day. Children weren’t as closely monitored and families weren’t closely checked for suitability to foster or adopt. This led to some children falling into negative situations, but it also lead to many children finding suitable families.

It’s a very interesting part of American history to learn about. Especially for a history buff like me. It’s also interesting to compare the days of the orphan trains to modern methods of handling orphans. Many people applaud improvements in the protection system that helps keep foster children out of abusive homes and trafficking situations. Other people condemn practices that make it harder for children to be placed in permanent families.

What do you think? Was the end of the orphan trains a good think that helps protect vulnerable children? Or would it be better to snip away some red tape and make it easier for families to accept “wards of the state” into their homes?

Personally I think the ideal lies somewhere in between. Checks and balances are important to make sure ill-meaning people don’t take advantage of kids, but the processes could definitely use some streamlining.

If you’d like to read more about the orphan trains, check out the Orphan Train Depot. Also, we’re currently celebrating reaching 200 followers on Leah’s Bookshelf (my other blog) by hosting a giveaway of a fictional orphan train story. Check it out and leave a comment for your chance to win.