Budgeting charity: a historical perspective on the Kansas Orphans' Home
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Orphanages are relatively new, unusual creations in human history. They have existed in significant numbers for less than 200 years, and though now largely defunct in Western societies, the concept was adopted by modern industrializing nations, where many orphanages are still in operation. Whether publicly or privately funded, orphanages put extremely private matters of family structure--child-rearing practices, and the identification and obligations of kin--into the hands of non-kin individuals who have been granted, by the community or government, power over private families. While most total-institutions were established for populations unable to care for themselves due to physical or mental disability, or convicted of criminal behavior, orphanages are unusual because they were created to care for minor children who, through no fault of their own, could not receive adequate care from within their family or kin network. In this case study, I combine James C. Scott's (1998) theory of high-modern social engineering with economic and evolutionary theories of altruism and reciprocal altruism to analyze and interpret both the text and quantitative data in reports spanning 1887 through 1963 from the Kansas Orphans' Home. I supplement official records with personal interviews from former residents and staff, and discuss actions and motives for each of the parties involved. I found conflict between the State and local administration before 1930, and decreasing conflict after 1930, correlating with rising interests in professional child welfare practices and scientific diagnostic methods. Along the same time-frame, I found a transition from humanitarian-based perspectives to economic-based perspectives. This case study supports Scott's (1998) theory of conflict between local and distant administrators. It also supports the evolutionary and economic theories that contend people's decisions and actions, including those nominally altruistic, typically have a reciprocally altruistic component.
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