Monday, 3 October 2016

Guidance on choice of Foster Home in the 1890's

The Bromley Poor Law Union handbook for Lady Visitors in 1894 see previous blog contains both national guidance and local Union guidance of choice of foster home.
Article 4 of the Local Government Board guidance specifies that "not more than two children should be boarded out by the Guardians in the same house unless all such are brothers and sisters and do not exceed four in child should be placed in a home which would result in five children."
Those who had received Relief from the Poor Law Union in the preceding twelve months were ineligible to be considered as prospective foster parents.
Article 5 of the Local Government Board specifies that the creed of the foster parent should not be different to that of the child.
There are within the Bromley Union Ladies Committee minutes examples of the need to face these circumstances. In many examples of large family groups of orphaned or abandoned children the local practice is to try whenever practicable to place siblings in homes to enable them to attend the same school; there are changes of foster carer to bring about such circumstances.
Bromley Union Guardians do however encounter difficulty when Roman Catholic children need to be accommodated. The problem vexes local Roman Catholic clergy and Guardians alike despite exhaustive attempts to attract Roman Catholic foster parents over nearly twenty years  and children who might be boarded out are admitted to a Roman Catholic orphanage in Orpington rather than foster homes. In some cases clergy accept non-Catholic foster parents but organise Roman Catholic schooling in efforts to meet the child's interests and provide Roman Catholic education.

  • Child over seven years of age should never be allowed to sleep in the same room as a married couple
  • No child to be boarded out in a house where an adult lodger is accommodated "this rule is often evaded after the child has been some time in a home"
There is an example in the Bromley Union of the admission to the household of two teenage male lodgers who the visitor interviews and finds "most respectable Gentlemen" nevertheless the foster parent who claims not be to aware of the rule is required to cease the lodging arrangement or have the child removed.

Bromley Union Guardians require reports to them to reflect:

  • The moral character of prospective foster parents
  • that sleeping accommodation be inspected for future as well as present
  • income of the family should be quite sufficient for the child's maintenance without any payment for foster care
  • age and health of foster parents not only for present but for as long as child remains
  • "young couples with increasing families are not as a general rule good foster parents as the children become nurses or drudges"
  • boys should not be placed with widows or single women "they usually grow out of control of women"
  • country homes are as rule to be preferred for girls
Whilst some of these rules seem quaint to the 21st century reader the experience of failing or inadequate foster care contained in the pages of the Committe Minutes reflects the challenges that foster parents faced. The male foster parent who loses employment is faced with a dilemma as to claim poor relief would lead to removal of foster children;the Guardians tend to be pragmatic and make every effort to secure him employment to avert alternate arrangement for foster children.
Sleeping accommodation can be a difficulty as a small child at the beginning of foster care can by age 13 be large and strong enough to enter naval Training and a number of "large strong lads" are considered by Committee.
There are certainly failures in fostering which arise from foster parents inappropriately requiring the child to nurse or perform heavy domestic duties usually associated with declining mental or physical health of the foster carer or introduction of young children.
The presumption that a widow or single woman acting as a foster parent and being unable to control boys is confounded by the experienced foster carers who are widowed and cope with children with special needs or develop serious health problems. There are exceptions to the assumption but there are equally failures to be able to control the excesses of dishonesty including thefts from both foster parents by some children. Young women beyond control of foster parents are also evident and several young women require admission to institutions which are described as strict. In one case detention in hospital for danger to herself and others is described by visitor involved in after care visits.
The Bromley Union certainly began in 1885 with a policy of recruiting in the "country" parishes;however the development of housing in the Bromley Common and growth of the town lead to a rise in foster care in and near the town itself.
The introduction of the Lady Visitor's Committee and reports to Guardians forms a social history of the development of social work and regulated boarding out of orpans and abandoned children by Bromley Union. We are fortunate to have surviving Union records which by the 1900's also compromise a case note for each child recording both their foster care history and after care reports. I will blog about this history as work on this period progresses.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016