British Home Children
Most Frequently Asked Questions
click on the question to open the answer
Keep in mind, there was over 50 organizations so there are variations of every point!
what years did these programs run?
This particular wave of child migration into Canada ran from 1869 to 1948. It officially ended in 1938, just before the Second World War but Fairbridge Farms School was allowed to bring children after the War ended until 1948.
who was the first to bring children?
Maria Rye brought the first party of children to Canada in 1869 to Niagara-on-the-Lake
were home children sent to other countries?
Yes they were also sent to Australia, Rhodesia and New Zealand. The UK did not stop sending children out of their country under these programs until the early 1970's
where did the home children come from?
The Home Children came from various institutions and workhouses found throughout the United Kingdom. A Home Child did not necessarily have to be born in the UK in order to have been in care. Home Children could have been born anywhere and relocated to the UK before falling onto hard times. We have Home Children who were born in Russia, United States and even some born in Canada.
why were they taken into care?
In the beginning of the programs, in Victorian England, the streets of London were over run by impoverished children. Institutions were built to house these children as an option to the dreaded workhouse. The UK did not have social systems in place to deal with families in need, so as time progressed, these children came from families in need. Needs arising from things such as illness of a parent, death of a parent or parents or extreme poverty in the family.
Could the parents RETRIEVE their children?
In some cases, yes. In most cases it was very difficult. The terms of the 1891 The Custody of Children Act mandated that if you turned your child over, your parental rights were relinquished. If you wanted your child back you had to prove, in court, that you were a fit parent and the court could order you to reimburse the organisation the costs of the child's care while housed in the institution.
was this legal?
Yes, under the terms of the 1891 Custody of Children's Act, they assumed total control of the child and had the legal right to remove the child from the country without any further notice to the parent or family.
Were the parents/family told when the child was sent away?
In some cases yes. If the organizations considered the family to be morally good they MIGHT have notified them. However, it was standard practice by some organizations to send "after sailing notices" to family members once their child had already been sent to Canada. Some, if not most, families received no notification.
Were home children orphans?
By today's standards, only 2% of BHC were true orphans. Most had either one or both parents alive. Most had brothers and sisters.
did siblings stay together?
Not always. In fact, there was little effort to keep siblings together. Many factors came into play when placing children. Health and age would determine when a child was emigrated, causing the situation that one sibling would be emigrated and another one held back. Often siblings were sent to different countries. Placement of the children depended upon age, capability to work and needs of the farmer. These things came before consideration was given to siblings.
why are they called "home Children?"
Children who grew up in children's homes in both England and Canada were called "Home Children". Many years ago, Perry Snow added the term "British" to the children brought to Canada to distinguish them as a distinctive group of Home Children. The Home Children sent to Australia are commonly known as "Child Migrants".
Were these the war children?
No, these children were bought to Canada between June and September 1940. The reason for bringing the war children was to protect them against the war, they were suppose to be sent back to the UK after the war. Home Children were here to work, there was no intention of returning these children to the families. Child migration slowed down in the during the First World War, but began again after the war.
Why were the children brought to Canada?
The Home Children were brought to Canada as a source of cheap labour under the guise of protection and a chance at a better life. They were here to work. There was never any intention to return them to their families or to the UK.
did money change hands for the children?
Yes, there was a bonus paid to the organization from both the British Government and the Canadian Government for each child sent. It started in 1875 at the request of Rev. Stephenson of the National Children's Home's, paying $2 per child, matched by each government - totaling $4 per child bonus. Today's value would be $85 per child. Organizations, such as the Dr. Barnardo Homes, also charged the farmers an application fee to apply for a child. General charge was $3 per application, a value of $80 today. The Dr. Barnardo Homes had thousands of application and were not able to fill all requests for children. To put this in today's perspective, Dr. Barnardo immigrated about 33,000 children to Canada. At a bonus of $4 from the Governments and an application fee for each child of $3 - totalling $7 per child, in today's value, that was a potential income of $6,212,644.09. Barnardo's had stated that they had 7 applications for each child. In today's currency that was a potential income of $18,637,932.26 for just the applications. This does not include the children's unpaid, war gratuities which may have been paid to the organisations, beneficiary payouts from children's life insurance policies (children were encouraged to carry life insurance) or donations from the public. Fegan's encouraged the children to pay back their passages of £10, and by 1915 942 did. Considering the pound, in 1915, was worth about $4, the income from this was $3,768 or a value today of $90,070.87.
were the children paid for their work?
The farmers had to pay for the children's work. Indenture contracts were introduced to ensure children were paid. This money was typically held "in trust" for the children and released once they turned 21 years of age. Not all children received their pay. There was no payment if they died before the age of 21 (many children did, including many who died in the Wars) or if they were unaware they were to be paid. There were penalties put against the children's wages, typically if they left a work situation early a certain amount would be deducted from their earnings. Also deducted was the cost of clothing, hair cuts, life insurance premiums were deducted (the children were strongly encouraged to carry life insurance) as some examples.
Did the children have to stay at their placements?
The children were legally bound by the terms of their indenture contracts to stay at their placements. Boys were released at 18, girls at 21.
how were their placements CHOSEN?
Many factors came into play when determining a child's placement. Some organizations were not structured at all and gave children out to whom ever wanted them. Typically, their placements were determined by the child's age and how much work could be expected for a child of that age. Simply put, a 5 year old would not be expected to do the same work as a 14 year old. Fee's charged for the child by the organization was based on the amount of work the child could do. The farmer would be the one to decide how much they were willing to pay for a child and what level of work they were expecting. The fact that a child might have a younger or and older sibling did not matter when determining the placements, unless the farmer wanted more then one child that fit both the age restrictions of the siblings.
why did some children have more then one placement?
There were many factors which caused a child to be moved to more then one placement.
- If abuse was discovered the child could be removed
- The child's cost of their labour increased as their age increased (it was determined on an age scale), the farmers often returned them to get a younger and cheaper child.
- If the farmer was unhappy with the child for ANY reason, they could be returned. One girls records gave the reason for return being she was hampered by her plain looks. This young girl was moved over 20 times in 8 years!
- If the child kept running away, they could be returned.
where in canada were the children placed?
Children were place across Canada in most of the provinces. The vast majority of the children were placed in Ontario, central Ontario having the largest population of Home Children. The city which received the largest number of children was Toronto (baring the immigration ports, of course).
how many children came? who brought the most?
Over 100,000 children were brought to Canada. The Dr. Barnardo Homes was the largest bringing about 33,000 children.
why didn't the home children tell their stories?
Most Home Children faced stigmatization in Canada, made to feel worthless, told they were nobodies. Many, if not most, never even told their close families about being a Home Child, not wanting to face their shameful past, and/or avoiding speaking of painful experiences they may have endured.
why do we only hear about barnardo's?
We do not endeavor to only teach people about Barnardo's. The fact is, they were the largest organisation bringing children and the best known both in the past and now. Many Home Children were known as "Barnardo's" despite the fact many were not. Dr. Barnardo was controversial and therefore, he was mentioned more in the press and various documents, books and magazines.
why do we not know about this in canada?
Being a BHC was something the children themselves were ashamed of, so they didn't tell. Over the years we allowed this part of Canadian History to be swept to the side. We do NOT have enough voices in Canada yet sharing this story. Tell everyone you know!
What countries have apologized?
Australia was the first country to offer a government public apology in November of 2009. Britain's Prime Minister gave a public apology in February of 2010. Canada declined to apologize at that time, the then Immigration Minister Jason Kenny stated in 2009 that there was no need for Canada to apologize for abuse and exploitation suffered by thousands of poor children shipped here from Britain. In 2017 the Canadian House of Commons finally offered an apology in the form of a motion passed in early February. To date, the Canadian Government has not issued a public apology from our Prime Minister in the same vein as Australia and England's Prime Ministers.
Were children placed in the united states?
Not that we have official record of. Many Home Children as young adults migrated on their own to the United States. We have many descendants who are American.
Did the children attend school in canada?
In the terms of the children's indentures the farmers were to allow for the child's attendance at school. However, in most cases, this was poorly enforced. Many children did not receive a proper education.
where can we find information for the children?
There were many records kept on the individual children. The British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association created a page with some of the leading sources of information to help families seeking their histories:
Were children allowed to visit siblings?
In some cases yes, in other cases no. There does not seem to be any set standard which determined if siblings could stay in touch. It just seems to be dependent upon where they were placed, if they knew they had siblings, or just plain luck of the draw.
Did the children ever go back to the uk?
Some children did as adults. Some children were returned to the UK by the organizations. Generally there was no intention to return the children to either the UK or their families.
Did the children ever see their families again?
Some children did reunite with their family. Generally this was done through their own efforts and not the sending organizations. Many/most children never saw their parents or siblings ever again.