Friday, 2 February 2018

Twice as many Home Children were in Good placements as Poor.

Treatment of young immigrants, orphaned or abused in Britain, in their placements in Canada is a matter of sometimes heated debate. What's the reality?
In 2010 the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa published British Home Children: Their Stories. It includes information on 39 young immigrants who arrived in Canada from the UK between 1873 and 1938. Their average year of birth was 1893, age on arrival 12 years with a range of 4 to 17.
I reviewed these stories trying to discern their situation in their Canadian placement. In many instances there were two or more placements with an indication the earlier were not satisfactory, although it may also be that the first host's circumstances changed—including death.
Two of the stories omitted any mention of the treatment in the placement. The rest I categorized as either poor, fair or good splitting the assignment 50/50 where the situation in more than one placement was given.
Eight placements (21%) I judged to be poor; 12.5 (32%) fair and 16.5 (42%) good.
While acknowledging that this is  just a handful of the 100,000 or so young immigrants, for this sample twice as many were in good placements as poor.
Even a good placement often involved hard work and long hours—the nature of farm life—and the legacy of unfortunate childhood experience in the UK.
It's well to remember that a large percentage of the young immigrants were beyond school leaving age and considered as workers, not children. For much of the period childhood was regarded as preparation for working life which started as early as possible.
Times change. Those who think it's appropriate to judge actions in the past by today's standards should expect to be judged themselves by tomorrow's standards.


Mike More said...

Thanks, John. Good to see some analysis.

Carolyn Lumsden said...

I agree with your analysis. I especially like your last sentence. We spend too much time wallowing in the worst scenarios and not enough time on the sucesses people gained from their new homes. It seems to carry over to other situations i our world too.

Susan said...

Shame on you, John. You KNOW this is not an appropriate analysis and would never pass muster in the Social Sciences. You cannot possibly make some of the conclusions, nor use the title you have used, to represent the 100,000 or so children, based on a sampling of so few children; but I appreciate that you acknowledged the small sampling. To obtain 90% confidence within a 5% accuracy (for 100,000) requires a minimum of about 238 accounts, based on the same or similar information; thus, I cannot accept your conclusions, nor your misleading title.

I do appreciate, however, that you have taken a look at these personal accounts in this one book. I do know there are many other first hand accounts, in other books, that are also worthy of recognition and review; so, I am of the hopes that at least 238 accounts can someday be located and then used as a further basis for analysis and conclusions.

Anyway, John, as much as I cannot fully agree with you, I did enjoy reading your views. Thanks for reading mine. BHC discussions are often interesting and lively. :-).

Rick Roberts, said...

As an historical publisher, and with British home Children on both sides of our family, I have come to recognize that horror stories of the treatment of British home children sell a lot more books than positive outcomes. With that said, and based on absolutely no reliable statistical data (non available), I suspect that those home children who suffered as a result of the British Home Children movement are greatly over represented in published accounts.

JDR said...

Thank you for your informed comment Susan. I agree that the number of cases in the sample is woefully small. If all the post and the provocative headline does is encourage others to find the additional cases FROM UNBIASED SOURCES it will have been worthwhile.
Unfortunately there is much anecdotal evidence around which is not unbiased, produced by those with preconceived notions selected to make their case. That's not difficult if, sadly, 20,000 of the young immigrants were put into poor placements.
Does the focus on the poor situations demean the endeavour of many more Canadians who were good hosts and employers?

Shirley Farrar said...

I cannot agree with your posting. Few of these children were orphans , They were poor and often had an absent father but also had a very loving mother who was likely desperate. Few mothers gave their children up willingly. The children were taken away from the mother because neighbours judged the mother unfairly.

Dates of birth were altered by the receiving agency and the mothers were not told when their loved children were being sent to Canada and other Colonies.

In Canada they were largely considered Britain's trash. They were more often not invited into the family but were relegated to the barn where some froze to death or escaped.

The horror of being torn from their mother and separated from their siblings to inhabit in one of the profiteering "homes" must have been horribly traumatizing .

Most Canadian Home Children suffered from low self esteem, feelings of shame and a very large sense of pain and loss of self identity.. Many were distant in their married lives and their children had difficulty relating to their parent because of all the shame, trauma and heartbreak that their Home Child parent had endured. Most never spoke of their family history because it was too painful and also because they felt that they were Britains trash and were and are scarred by it.

Ed Murphy said...

Hello everyone... I a decedent of a British Home Child, although I never knew that until fairly recently as I searched for genealogical records for my grandfather. His birth, arrival and death dates of his mother never made sense to me as he arrived here in Canada as a child in 1890 and his mother died years later on the Isle of Man. I always thought it was an error until I found the records detailing how and why he was sent here. In fact he was 1 of 4 children that were removed from their home and sent to Canada. "Someone" was looking out for them somewhere along the line as all 4 ended up in the same area of Eastern Ontario (Lanark County), in fact the lone girl was eventually adopted by the host family which gives me some indication that that placement was a success. The fact they were BHC was never known to my generation (maybe my mother knew but i doubt it) so it was only in my research that it was discovered. Two of the boys went on to trades locally, all married and had families,The oldest boy left the area moving for work in the mines in Northern Ontario. It has been interesting learning the details of their placements. I am now trying to sort out the details of the host families to give me some sort of backstory on their lives with them.