I chose this photo because my cousin told me her mother (the half-sibling closest in age to my mom) had picked cotton to earn money for school clothes. A friend was sharing a sad story of his childhood with me. He told me that his mother had been overwhelmed and so he had been farmed out to relatives. That reminded me that my mom’s half-siblings (the children of her father’s left after their mother died) had been farmed out to relatives as well. The two boys were actually put on farms. My cousin’s mother was sent to wealthy relatives who bought things for her she never had before or after. Another sister was working and had an apartment in a nearby town, if memory serves me accurately.
I can’t help but believe when children are sent away from the family of their birth, there follows some sense of abandonment. My friend did not have a happy experience when he was in his childhood family home. Maybe it was the times. People were not quite as gentle when punishing their children as they have become in modern times. Since my friend also brought up that much later his family took in foster kids, he shared that he was able to see a broad diversity of outcomes. From a very young baby who quickly went back to its mother to a teenager. He notes that teenagers seldom find parents because people want very young children. He mentioned that he came to know many foster kids from visiting a group home and that boys and girls react differently to those circumstances. He also felt that the foster scene is not good for any of them. From what little I know – and none of it from direct experience – I would still agree.
I brought up feelings of abandonment with him and he said that he was not sure if he felt unwanted back then, more like unwelcomed. I’m not certain there is much difference.
In looking for an image, I found one that linked back to a JSTOR article – LINK>When Foster Care Meant Farm Labor. The subtitle read “Before current foster care programs were in place, Americans depended on farmers to take care of kids in exchange for hard labor.” Really, back in the day, it was normal for children to be expected to work hard for their family. Modern foster families get a small payment to offset the cost of caring for children. The article notes that has been a central part of child welfare programs for the past century.
Back in the day, authorities viewed the farm placements as a win for everyone involved. Farmers got affordable labor. Governments and philanthropic organizations were relieved of the expense of running orphanages. And children got the chance to learn valuable work skills while living in a rural setting, widely seen as the ideal place for an American upbringing. Even though the children worked hard on the farms, that was no different from what farmers expected of their own kids. But sadly as well, some farmers exploited the child laborers, beating them, denying them schooling or medical care, and sometimes overworking them for a season before sending them back to an institution.
The Simpsons had a similar episode that my family re-watched recently. It is from Season 1 Episode 11 and is titled “The Crepes of Wrath.” Maybe there is no actual point to today’s blog and maybe it is that progress continues to occur. Maybe it is just the meandering rambles of my mind this afternoon.