Did Anybody Care? The Death of John Wood Pledger
In this chapter, Musgrove and Michell present a microhistory through the story of John Wood Pledger who died in his foster home at just three years of age. In 1890s Melbourne, John’s 26-year-old single mother was left with few choices but to surrender him to the state. Tragically, a combination of individuals’ actions and systemic failings of the government’s foster care system led to the boy enduring shocking abuse, for which nobody was ultimately held responsible. The chapter considers how foster care systems responded to suspicions of physical and sexual abuse, particularly when ‘problem’ children were the victims, and identifies some disturbing parallels between the cases of John Wood Pledger (d. 1896) and that of another Australian foster child, Luke Anthony Borusiewic (d. 2009).
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