According to American cultural dogma, a stable, two-parent home with a few biological children is the ultimate ideal and the foundation of a thriving society. Hence, U.S. policymakers have opted to enroll children without suitable caregivers in a foster care system that provides pseudo-idealistic families rather than rely on state-sponsored supervision like orphanages. In fact, the formal orphanage system has been completely disbanded within America since the anti-institution movement of the 1960s. Recently, there has been a collective effort towards re-instituting American orphanages on the grounds that the foster care system is overtaxed, ill-suited to more vulnerable subsets of children, and has questionable outcomes for the success of “aged out” adults. The purpose of this study is to reevaluate the orphanage system as an option for American youth since the child welfare literature reveals widespread dissatisfaction with the instability of the foster care system despite its emphasis on permanency planning. In the end, these destabilizing effects do exact penalties from foster care alumni in the realms of criminal justice, housing, and education. There is therefore ample reason to more critically consider the merits of orphanages in the context of contemporary American society.
Stacey Harrison, ’16
Sponsor: Erin Davis