More than a century has passed since the infamous Orphan Trains traveled from New York to Florida, unloading young passengers carrying little more than a cardboard “suitcase,” all holding on to hope that someone with a kind heart would choose to take them home and give them some type of family stability.
In the early 1900s, older, stronger kids and teens found homes quickly, yet the young children were often overlooked. Few families wanted the responsibility of an additional mouth to feed if they wouldn’t reap the benefit of an extra set of hands to help with chores. Times were certainly tough, yet Florida’s compassionate citizens refused to let economic hardship interfere with helping children in need. Thus, in November 1902, Children’s Home Society of Florida was formed to care for and find homes for orphaned children in desperate need of loving families.
It seems fitting that, 93 years later, our country began to recognize November — the very month of Children’s Home Society of Florida’s founding — as National Adoption Month, a time to celebrate families woven together through adoption, and a time to remember the many children still languishing in uncertainty and holding on to hope that they will soon join a “forever family.”
These waiting children have been living in foster care for months or even years. Through no fault of their own, their worlds, however dangerous and unstable they may have been, have been subjected to a painful and confusing upheaval. Though finally safe, they struggle to understand what’s happened in their short lives. They struggle to cope with the uncertainty they face daily, wondering if they’ll ever find a place to call home. While most have found love and encouragement with caring foster families, they know their time together is temporary.
Like the children who boarded the Orphan Trains at the turn of the century, our children today continue to hold on to the hope that this is the year they’ll be welcomed into a family eager to embrace their challenges and potential; eager to give them the unconditional love they’ve never before known and yet are so deserving of.
At Children’s Home Society of Florida, we have spent more than a century working on behalf of these children, dedicating our careers to helping more children find the love, acceptance and guidance they so desperately need. In honor of National Adoption Month, we celebrate the many families brought together, we thank and honor those who have made this possible, and we remember the wonderful children still waiting for a place to call home.
Jackie Gonzalez, executive director, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Miami-Dade