STATE AUTHORITIES could force unfit or destitute parents to surrender their children to public orphanages, but they could not compel wholesome families to take them in. The households accepting homeless children accepted only the ones whom they wanted, and the consequence was that orphanages tended to fill up with the children whom nobody wanted. Mr. and Mrs. Turner had noticed the tendency at the Union County Children's Home, and Homer Folks called attention to it in his 1902 book on the care of dependent and neglected children. One of the shortcomings of the plans followed by the state schools of Michigan and Minnesota, he noted, was "the gradual accumulation of children who are not available for placing in free homes, such as crippled, unattractive, slightly diseased, and other cases." In Michigan, the institution's response was to return unwanted children to their home counties. In Minnesota, according to Folks, such children tended to accumulate at Owatonna. 1
The managers of the Massachusetts State Primary School at Monson had faced the same problem years earlier. Here too, healthy children big enough to do farm and household work were usually the first ones chosen for placing out. Those left behind were "too young to be taken as helpers" and those "so defective mentally and physically as never to be voluntarily selected." 2 Their labor was unlikely to offset the cost of
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Publication information: Book title: Building the Invisible Orphanage:A Prehistory of the American Welfare System. Contributors: Matthew A. Crenson - Author. Publisher: Harvard University Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, MA. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 171.