In 1853, a minister named Charles Loring Brace, decided to address the urgent problem of immigrant children who were homeless, on the street, or living in deplorable conditions. This film doesn't say it, but these children were not just begging, or singing for donations. Many of them probably were being used for sex or sex trafficked. Many of them were orphans or the children of unmarried women. His Children's Aid Society moved 150,000 of these children to the Midwest, usually to farms, between the years of 1854 and 1929. Some of the people who were moved to homes this way were still alive to testify for this documentary film. Overall the film presents both sides. Stories of a child who was worked to death like a slave and lived in fear, children who became the beloved adoptees by excellent parents. Children who stayed in one place and came to appreciate that they had been given a chance that saved them. Others who moved from one place to another, who were hard to place. Other charities followed this example of placing children who had no real home to go to.
While watching this film, I couldn't help but think of all the children today who are awaiting foster homes or adoption or who are homeless and living in vehicles or motel rooms. Today I do not think this system of putting children on trains, having them get off at a stop, being chosen or rejected, and then putting them back on to another town until someone wanted them would be allowed.
PBS ORPHAN TRAIN SITE
Are you researching to find more out about someone who did or may have been adopted this way? My advice is to find that person on a census at as young an age as possible. Then inquire at the county they lived in to find out if any legal adoption was necessary. I've found that adoption was often not a legal or formal procedure and the text to this program suggests that. However, the Childrens Aid Society did ask any locatable parent to sign paperwork in which they agreed not to contact the child or interfere in their life, until they were an adult.
CHILDRENS AID SOCIETY NEW YORK still in existence.