EuphemismI wince when I hear the word "orphanage." The...

the Forum

January 11, 1995

Euphemism

I wince when I hear the word "orphanage." The institution, which actually was a euphemism for poorhouse, was established as a haven for children deprived of support by parents who died.

In providing shelter and sustenance these facilities undoubtedly fulfilled a need. But for the most part children led a regimented, sterile lifestyle, particularly in orphanages funded under public auspices.

The vast majority of orphanages were founded in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many came under religious auspices: Associated Catholic Charities, Methodist Board of Child Care, Baptist Home for Children in Bethesda, the Episcopal Home in Easton.

Others came about through the generosity of private benefactors: The Egenton Home and the John Frederick Wiessner Home in Baltimore, for instance.

During the past 40 or so years, the function of these homes changed dramatically. Social Security, federal and local assistance programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children and survivors' benefits enabled children to remain with their families.

Instead of orphans, we began hearing about dysfunctional families and of neglected, abused, abandoned children, including many with severe emotional problems.

Meeting the needs of these youngsters, who could adjust neither to their own families nor to foster care, required a drastic change in institutional functions and programs, including better trained staff, psychological and psychiatric services and experienced administrators.

It also required increased funding in order to provide with some degree of adequacy the kinds of settings required by the increasing number of troubled youngsters spawned by the changing cultural lifestyles of our society.

As a result, a number of smaller institutions found it necessary to close their doors. Others, like the Woodbourne and the General German Home, revamped their services in order to meet the newer challenges.

Associated Catholic Charities and the Methodist Board of Child Care closed their existing institutions and moved to new facilities better suited to the more demanding requirements of the troubled children coming to their doorsteps.

Maryland's experience is not unique. Other states have undergone the same trend. In fact, the state has referred some of its more troublesome youths to out-of-state facilities with specialized programs.

If Rep. Newt Gingrich, or anyone else for that matter, thinks it's economically advantageous to pack kids off to orphanages, he is whistling in the wind.

Group care far exceeds the cost per child of maintaining a youngster at home -- perhaps as much as 1,000 percent.

Even more problematic is the fact that orphanages in this country are mostly non-existent. And orphanages never were equipped to handle infants. What would happen to very young children under Mr. Gingrich's proposed Contract with America?

Resolving the problem posed by teen-age motherhood is a daunting undertaking. When actresses, the famous and not-so-famous all give birth to out-of-wedlock babies, why should we expect more from those far less advantaged?

When we became foster parents for pre-adoptive infants in 1966, babies were languishing in area hospitals. If an infant left our home for adoption in the morning, a replacement arrived that afternoon.

Sixteen years later the supply of infants is practically exhausted, primarily because unwed mothers are now, with society's tolerance, taking their babies home.

Denial of assistance would have minimal impact on this trend. As many teen-agers have stated, they want babies in order to have someone to love and who loves them; this is a relationship absent in their own lives.

Instead of a punitive approach, why not undertake something more positive: education, counseling and long-range planning to improve the economic stability of impoverished families.

Abner Kaplan

Baltimore

The writer is former chief of the Division of Child Welfare Standards in the Maryland Department of Social Services.

What Sauerbrey should learn from her loss

This letter is in response to Ellen Sauerbrey's crying and bickering because she lost the Maryland gubernatorial race.

Let's examine this entire scenario. As long as Ellen Sauerbrey had a 2 percent lead throughout election night, she never once alleged fraudulent activity at the polls in Baltimore City.

It was only after all the votes in the state were counted and revealed she had lost the election that Ellen Sauerbrey cried fraud.

Also, have you noticed Mrs. Sauerbrey is not claiming fraud in the areas of the state where she won, but only in those she lost?

If she wanted to be fair and say it's the principle of having an honest election, why didn't she examine all the votes?

Does Ellen Sauerbrey believe blacks are that naive? Well, blacks now know how she thinks.

Blacks in Baltimore City have always voted Democratic. If Mrs. Sauerbrey and her campaign manager had done their homework, perhaps she would have been elected governor.

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