Foster Care Drifting Crisis

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Perhaps the most memorable orphanage in pop culture influences society of today is from the Broadway musical and multiple movie remakes of Annie.  We, the viewers, are enraptured by Mrs. Hannigan, Punjab, Daddy Warbucks, the singing and dancing orphans, and of course, Annie.  We know there is a happy ending, so watching the sorrows and suffering of the children with a hard knock life is not unbearable.  Imagine, however, if the end of their stories were not set.  In reality, the “Annies” of the world do not often find their “Daddy Warbucks.”  Further still, their hard knock lives are not just the lyrics to a song.  It is, in some cases, an actuality. It is because of these realities that I, adoptive and foster mother of 16 inter-racial and special needs children and advocate for abused and neglected children, will take an inside look at the crisis in the foster care system regarding out-of-home child placement and the options available to the well being of these orphaned or abandoned children.

Interestingly, it was in 1881 that the first orphanage was founded. The Diskin Orphan’s Home was created due to the large amount of Russian orphans that, at that time, had recently immigrated to Jerusalem[1].  This, essentially, was the reason for the erections of many orphanages.  Due to the Jewish immigration of World War I, and the continuous death of those on the battlefield, the number of orphans grew.  And, due to the lack of scientific advancement during the 1920’s, cholera and typhus also contributed to the large numbers of orphaned children.

As a result of the orphaned growth, child welfare projects developed during that time; and due to the Palestine Orphan Committee, 12 orphanages, caseworkers and diagnoses for social disabilities, family-oriented dependant child care, developed model for the first children’s village, and the beginning of healthcare, education, and vocational training in orphanages grew.  The history of child welfare and the caseworkers needed for these institutions to function is important knowledge as well as the effects, both negative and positive, of these early child welfare developments and the effects the Palestine Orphans Committee had on the modern orphanage and childcare.

The ideas of child welfare and the Palestine Orphans Committee and some of the earliest and best-known orphanages sprang from immigration.  Of the institutions, Hutton Settlement, an orphanage on the National Register for Historical Preservation in the city of Spokane, Washington State, is of the Jacobethan revival style design, with a “Whitehouse and Price” feel to the four large house, 319 acre complex.  Here, Levi Hutton, founder of the settlement, is introduced.  His wife and children are discussed, as well as the influence the Hutton Settlement had on the Spokane, and on the Shriners.  The Complex showcased the region’s first underground power cables and telephone lines.  As restated on the Shriners website, “if one man could build and do for children what Mr. Hutton has done, what could 500,000 Shriners do?” was the figurative conception of the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children.

Noting a fast history of orphanages country wide is not my only intent; rather, laying out a theoretical and physical blueprint of various orphanages, the political histories of these orphanages, the educational abilities along with the statistics accrued by the facilities, and the moral obligation we have to the welfare of children, are the issues needing to be focused on today.  Reasonable options will to stop or at least effectively reduce the amount of children forgotten in the system and left to age out into an adult world they are hopefully prepared for.  Explanations of the various choices society will help support and reunite families both for the families and for the budget, as it costs to keep children in out-of-home services.

With all background information laid out, what then can we do to create a more stable environment for the more than 143 million orphaned children?  There are options available to get the over half a million children in the dead end programs out.  The fact remains that over 39% of white orphanage alum have 39% higher rate of college graduation than any other white American.  But, orphanages are expensive, due to the stigma that causes workers to have the mindset that other forms of childcare are more efficient and higher quality than other facilities.

As a foster and adoptive mother as well as a court advocate for the rights of neglected and abused children, I have first hand knowledge of the living environments in both foster homes and modern orphanages.  Some argue that orphanages send out more fully developed and prepared young adults.  Others say the one on one-ness of foster care is more effective for a healthy child.   I wish for all to have the opportunity to hear all sides of the same story, bringing my own personal thoughts into the equation.

[1] “Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin: The ‘Rav’ of Brisk.”



About the Author

Karen Jean Matsko Hood is a Guardian ad Litem and Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer (CASA) for abused and neglected children in the juvenile court system, a women’s and children’s rights advocate, and foster children advocate. She runs For the Love of Children International, is partner with her husband in the James and Karen Hood Foundation, promotes literacy for adults and children, volunteers for the Social Justice Committee, has a pastoral ministry, is a member of her church choir, is a 4-H leader and volunteer, works in lay ministries, and is a Girl Scout and Campfire leader.

For more information, you can contact the author at her office below:


Karen Jean Matsko Hood

507 N. Sullivan Rd. Suite LL-7

Spokane Valley, WA 99037 USA

Phone: (509) 924-3550 Fax: (509) 922-9949



Leave a Reply