“Asylum children” are detailed as a social practice in two issues of the Fulton Journal in May of 1878.
Mr. E. Wright was an agent for the New York Juvenile Asylum and he arrived in Fulton on a Friday morning with six boys for whom homes were wanted. With little difficulty he found homes for the boys. They were taken by the following people: J.E. Jordan, Albany, one; Mr. Huffman, Garden Plain, one; Ira S. Burch, Garden Plain, two, one for himself and one for his mother; Hiram Parker, one; and one by a gentleman living in Albany whose name remains unidentified. The next Journal issue said that Mr. Wright was in Fulton again and Ira S. Burch of Garden Plain returned his boy to him because he was subject to fits. This time Mr. Wright brought with him a brother and sister who were taken by a Mr. Jordan living a few miles from Albany. Mr. Jordan kept the girl and was looking for a home for the boy.
The conditions upon which the children were apprenticed were:
1. Each child may be taken upon trial for a period of two weeks.
2. At the end of the trial period, both employer and child must meet the agent and if all parties were suited, the child was then to be apprenticed until of age, boys (21) and girls (18). If any of the parties should not be suited, the child must be returned to the agent, but all cases must be kept through the trial period.
3. The amount required to be paid towards the passage expenses of each child was $12.
4. The articles of indenture provide:
a) that the child be cared for in sickness and in health with proper medical treatment, food and clothing. b) instructed in some business, c) sent to school four months in each year until it can read and write and cipher through compound interest; d) trained in moral and religious precepts and habits; e) paid in money at the end of the term of apprenticeship, boys $100 and girls $50.
5. Each employer must make a written report concerning his apprentice semi-annually to the agent in reference to its health, conduct, attendance at school and advancement in the several branches of study and also to notify the agent in case of desertion.
The children from New York were generally under 12 years of age and had been put in the asylum upon the complaint of a parent or guardian. They were children on the “orphan trains” who were sent to the west to work on farms in hopes that their lives would be better. Since they were paid for their work, they were not considered indentured.
Some social scientists label this as the beginning of foster care.
Oh, the stories to be told…