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    Poughkeepsie Guardian Society

    Having decided that “the only true way to arrest the evils of poverty and crime would be to save the children,” the women changed the name of their organization to the Poughkeepsie Guardian Society for the Poughkeepsie Orphan House and Home for the Friendless. On April 15, 1852 a state charter was obtained and the society became incorporated. Although having no cash or endowment, the women committed to establishing “a temporary home for respectable females without employment or friends; also destitute and friendless children of both sexes, until they can be committed to the guardianship of foster parent, or worthy families, who will train them to respectability or usefulness.”

    A portion of local school taxes was to go to the Home, showing that local government was supporting this area of social reform.  In the spirit of the reform movement of the time, the goal of the Home was “to prevent vice and moral degradation, maintain houses of industry, and home for the relief of the friendless, destitute or unprotected females and for friendless or unprotected children.” The only other such institution in the country at that time had been established in New York City a mere three years earlier. Most homeless children were thus sent to almshouses.

    In the 19th century, the educational approach of the Home was strictly institutionalist. The children had to wear uniforms and attend school in the building. The building and grounds were fenced in and the gate remained locked from the inside at all times. The only time the children could leave school was to go to church. Individuals who agreed to adopt a child from the Home would receive a child for a “three month trial,” after which they could “either return him/her to the home, or have him/her indentured to me.” This was consistent with the times, when children were seen primarily as economic assets who could work and supplement a family’s income.