Awakening from the dream: The experience of childhood in protestant orphan homes in Australia, Canada, and the United States
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This article is based on data from interviews with Americans, Canadians, and Australians in their thirties, forties, and seventies, all of whom spent part of their childhood in institutions of care through no fault of their own. Whilst no claim is made that they are representative, their experiences in care and later life suggest that similarities in institutional care transcend the management and location of the institution. These experiences can also challenge the “certainties” (or “accepted cultural truths”) of the child welfare system. Entering the institution was confusing and traumatic, and little was done to ease the transition. Life was characterized by discipline and corporal punishment, though this was tempered in recent times. Household chores dominated daily routines. There was little possibility of love and affection, and children retreated into solitary pursuits. Many of the respondents found difficulty in developing close personal relationships after leaving care and had to work through anger or confusion. Their advice to future child care workers laid emphasis on the need for genuine love and affection, stability, and reasonable limits. The effect is to reinforce the suggestion that the knowledge and skill of child care workers must be synthesized with their approach, style, stability and capacity for emotional support.
KeywordsChild Care School Psychology Recent Time Emotional Support Child Welfare
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