Could You Adopt a Baby ?
ETHEL M. CHAPMAN
HAVE you ever gone into an Infant? Home and seen the tragedy of the institutional child? If you haven’t, imagine a room filled with cots and the cots filled with babies on a day when a mother would have them out in the sun —some crying with special little miseries of their own, for the attendants can only make their rounds at certain hours—the others, who haven’t any particular grievance, sitting staring dully about them like little caged animals. They don’t even look like other children. No wonder. They have been sitting like this a good deal of the time since they could sit at all, and there isn’t any reason why they should have the happy, interested, optimistic twinkle of the child who is loved and petted and surrounded by the warmth and affection of a home.
There was little Duffy, who cried incessantly a weakening, fretful wail. Her face was like a famine picture, and her body a pitiful, knobby little skeleton —a case of malnutrition, the doctor called her, but it was worse than that. One of the unwanted children, she had been starved and probably drugged before she was born, but the spark of life had persisted and Duffy came into a hostile world. No wonder she cried.
“Duffy’s always hungry,” the nurse explained, and assuredly she looked it. But someone picked her up and the crying eased off until finally, feeling her aching little anatomy held against something soft and human, she settled down with a succession of contented little grunts and began to look about her v’ith a new interest in life. Duffy wanted mothering.
This is why the people interested in neglected children, the Social Service Commission, the Department for Neglected and Dependent Children, the superintendent of institutions are trying to get the children out into real homes where they will have individual care and affection and all the other blessings that go with a good family life. They know that this is something which the best institution cannot give—its best service is to be a go-between, to provide a shelter for the child whom nobody wants until someone can be found who does want it.
This brings us up to the problem of adoption which, according to the popular opinion, is of all risks and responsibilities possible to human experience, the most appalling. Babies keep you awake nights for one thing—at least they have been known to. They tie you at home terribly, and the care of a baby—well you can imagine what it would be to have someone depending on you day and night. But the woman whose children have grown up and left her thinks with a tug at her heart what a short time they were babies, after all, and sho knows that they paid their way in a hundred little ways of their own from the day they were born.
Then someone wno isn’t afraid of the “trouble” a child would be says: “But what if they wouldn’t turn out well? What about their parents and their ancestors for seven generations back?” It’s natural that they should be anxious about this—people think quite a lot about the heredity of their own children; so when a child is offered for adoption a thorough search is made of the health, mentality and morality the parents. Just now there are a lot of “flu OT_ phans” of the best stock in. the country waiting for homes. One little girl
was adopted whose father was a denti:r ¡and whose mother had been a High
School teacher. They wore young, and
they didn’t have any money ahead. They died within three weeks of each other and there was no friend to take the six weeks’ old baby, so she was sent to the Infants’ Horne. What her mother must have felt at leaving her, any mother can understand—and if there is such a thing as those who have gone on sending a blessing from Heaven, the foster-mother must be receiving one every day. ...
But there are children m institutions whose birth has not been what it should be—conditions sadder even than the case of the illegitimate child of the unmarried boy and girl. We might naturally fear for the future of some of these children, for which very reason they need help and guidance and protection even more than the others. There are cases where it takes some courage to give your home and your name to other people’s children. Always it needs, as the soldier’s song says, “a little bit of patience and an awful lot of love.” This is why authorities should be infinitely careful about where they let a child go, and it is why some people hesitate about actually taking out adoption papers. Others who do not feel that they can take a child permanently would like to give one a home for a short time.
In order to make the most of these opportunities for the children a plan has been arranged' by which a family may take a child for a month or two. This is entirely different from the boarding or “baby farming,” carried on by women who use it as a money-making business and which has sometimes gotten children into most undesirable places, as recent investigations in Montreal have shown. The woman who boards babies for money may or may not be a good person to have them, but the woman who takes a baby out of sympathy and love is a pretty safe risk. And even a few weeks of home life sometimes works miracles with a child, as anyone will understand who has taken an institutional child out for an hour or two. The listless, almost stupid look that usually comes from the routine existence of the ward disappears like magic when he gets away from it.
It frequently’ happens that when a child has been in a home it so attaches itself that the family feel they cannot give it up and they either adopt it outright or the visit goes on indefinitely’. In many ways these free adoptions are the more satisfactory. No one is under any obligation, the authorities can keep a closer jurisdiction over the child, and it seems probable that this plan will get more children out of institutions and into good homes, if even for a few months at a time, than the system of regular adoptions alono could possibly do. It may also be that a family who couldn’t adopt more than one child could take two or even three and perhaps give them a summer in the country. Even in the case of adoption, people who take one child not infrequently discover that they want a family’ and come for another, which helps the Department to keep brothers and sisters from being separated.
One day I met a man something past middle age coming out of the office of the Neglected Children’s Department, carrying a three-year-old girl. We were entire strangers to each other but he was in that state of elation when one
has to talk to someone, ile
“People may think it strange for us to be taking a little girl,” he said. “My brother and I are bachelors—we live on a farm in - county, but we have a
good housekeeper. Last month we came and got a boy, but he had this little sister down here and we didn’t feel right to separate them, so I’m taking her back with me now.”
But is it worth whale ? Will they ever be anything but “home children?” This question is sure to come from those to whom the doctrine “Inasmuch',” does not seem to go far enough. Anyone who is skeptical on this point should visit Mr. Kelso, Superintendent of the De-
f01Neglected and Dependent rbihiren ;n Ontario, and hear the stories of some of the children who have passed
He=e"children not worth sav• _*?>’ he says. “Why we’re mixing pvervda'v with men and women who were adopted children and we dont Lnow it The difference between the instTtu t i o n a I cuHd and the child in its own home is only a difference of environment. When I want people to adopt a babv 1 don’t let them see it in the Infants’ Home, I bring it to our house and wife dresses it up in some of our habies’ clothes and curls its han, and the foster-parents see it in our parlor in my wife’s arms and theY Y°
don’t mean that we can have that baby Then he will produce pictures of children photographed at the time they were discovered by the Children’s Aid, later ifter their adoption into a good home and again when they have grown up, ?rd he knows each individual personally_a child is something more than a
ca^e to him. _ , .
There is a picture of a handsome young man that any parent would be nroud of. Something over twenty years Leo he was a deserted baby and in order to find a home for him Mr. Kelso had hi* picture taken and seven hundred Points distributed at the Toronto Exhibition * with the explanation that he was for adoption. A visitor at the Exhibit,»« took him home.
4. report was sent in to the department that two little girls m the No™ country needed protection and Mr. Kelso took a day’s journey to find and bring them back. Soon after he found homes for them. That was about twenty years ago. He has another picture of one of the girls now’, a sweet-faced, happylooking woman taken with her ^^band and baby. They live on an OntarV -. farm and a few weeks ago he visitóu them They met him at the station with an automobile and took him home to a chicken dinner, and he says they have one of the neatest, happiest farm homes in the Province.
One day I eJ a noticeably attractive well-dre 1 woman coming out of the DTpar.tr offices. “That woman is looking 1 little girl, Mr. Kelso
said. “Four years ago they adopted a boy They a è wealthy people and are «ending him to the most expensive boys college in Canada. His education alone costs a thousand dollars a year and he should have a bright career ahead of
hl And again there is the boy taken by a noted guide and hunter of the North country and his motherly wife. This boy is not going to any expensive college but he has learned w’hat honesty and affection and unselfishness mean in a Christian home. He attends the best school there is in the district and if that isn’t all we might desire of it, he is getting an education in Nature, and building up a physical perfection that will contribute perhaps as much to his happiness and usefulness. _ And fo mW" inohis foster-fathers footsteps m Hie hunt and on the trail he should grow into another trusted guide and man influence in the North country.
''jpHERE are many bright stories like
these but there are many other* children who are not finding hoi?e;Tr who see nothing but institutional life ahead of them, and who must go out into the world branded as Home children.” The Women’s Institutes have sent donations to local Children’s She»-) ters and in other ways showed their interests. One district at least is cor centrating on this line of work r year a most valuable undertaking i -Children’s Shelters we must haveleast until the world becomes a lot nv
sympathetic and happier in its (
of living. But the new ideal :n hel i the homeless children is to make Shelter more and more a clearing-*5 trying to get the children out into/ homes as speedily as possible. A There are other ways too, in ,■ ■
those who have had the health o. , own children cared for through 4
Tncnoptinn and clinics M. '
School Inspection and clinics especially ir crested. In Wiy short time agro a baby was t club feet, which, added to the misfortune of being thrown on the mercy of charity, is pretty serious. The matter was brought to the attention of a women’s organization, who approached the best surgeon in the city to find what it would cost to have them straightened. The cost of the operation, he said, was ordinarily three hundred dollars. He would donate half of that himself and if they couldn’t raise the balance not to worry; he would perform the operation anyway. But the woman got at least some of the money together and enough extra to see that the baby got proper after care in an orthopedic hospital, and by the time the boy is old enough to use his feet, he will be able to walk and run and live like other boys. But what if no one had bothered about it? A few years ago someone told Mr. Kelso about a girl in Muskoka suffering from the cruel disfigurement of hair lip. It was one of the worst cases possible, as it had never had any attention and the girl was sixteen years old. He raised money from private sources to pay for an operation, and the girl brought to Toronto for treatment and she \vent home with little perceptible trace that there had ever been anything wrong. Cases like this needing financial aid are coming up every few weeks ; if we cannot offer homes to these unprovided for children we may be able to help furnish money to have cases like these taken care of.
There is also the problem of the child, who has been adopted into the wrong kind of home. “Little orphant Annie” is. sometimes up at five o’clock in the morning and busy till dark at night. And a man sometimes sends to the Home for “a boy to do chores and go to school” v/hen it’s really a hired man he wants. If there is an overworked or ill-treated Home boy or girl in your neighborhood don’t nes-lect to notify the Superintendent of Neglected Children for the Province. Your evidence will be treated confidentially.
\ ND don’t fail to keep the warmest A place in your sympathies for the child that nobody wants—the homely, the delicate or the unfortunate in some other way. We mentioned the case of little Duffy, the baby who cried all the time, who was so thin that an amateur would scarcely dare to pick her up at all. Yesterday on the street car I met a trim, red-headed girl with this unmistakable bit of Availing misery wrapped in a faded pink institutional blanket in her arms. The passengers were staring and the girl’s face was redder than her hair, but she was a social service worker—she had carried other babies on the street cars and she didn’t really mind.
“Duffy’s being made a ward to-day,” she said. “I’m taking her to the City Hall to have the papers made out. Miss -, one of the richest women in the city, is taking her. Isn’t it great?”
Certainly there are some rare Christians in the world.