orphanages

Greek: orphanos, deprived of parents

Institutions dedicated to the rearing of orphaned children. The Jews and Greeks (apparently not the Romans) made the support of orphans a part of their recognized social order. The early Christians undertook this as a practical working out of fraternal charity. In the 4th century, orphanages as we know them, were fostered by Saint Ephraem, Saint Basil, Saint John Chrysostom and other bishops. The greatest figure in the history of the care for orphans is Saint Vincent de Paul. Work for orphans was one of the great parts of his apostolate of charity, and for this work he established the Sisters of Charity, whose orphanages exist to this day in all parts of the world. Two modern reforms may be considered as valuable changes. The first is the recognition that whenever possible the orphan should not be left permanently in the orphanage, but should be given a place in the normal family life of some foster home. The second is the attempt to make the orphanage as much as possible like an ordinary home. The “cottage plan,” when financially possible, carries this out in much detail. Instead of one large building in which all the orphans live a common life, a number of small houses are provided, and the children are distributed among them in groups containing different ages and different types, supervised by an adult who should strive to fill the role of a parent to them.