End of an Era

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State Laws Help Stop Trains

The number of Orphan Trains began to decline dramatically in the 1920’s. ¬†Many factors contributed to the decline and eventual ending of the placing out programs.

Perhaps the most significant road block for the orphan trains was the growing number of state legislatures that began passing laws to restrict or forbid the interstate placement of children.

In 1887, Michigan passed the first law in the United States regulating the placement of children within the state.  Again in 1895, Michigan passed a state law requiring out-of-state, child-placement agencies to post a bond for each child the agency brought into the state of Michigan.

In 1899, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota enacted similar but stricter laws which had the effect of prohibiting the placement of incorrigible, diseased, insane or criminal children within their state boundaries.

Using these state laws as models, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota passed similar laws within five years.

If you want to research possible state laws in your state that restricted child placement, a good reference is Laws Relating to Interstate Placement of Dependent Children, U.S. Children’s Bureau, Government Printing Office, 1924, Washington D.C. Compiled by Emelyn Foster Pick.

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