In 1935, when my mother was ten years old, she was taken from her parents and placed in what she called “the county home.” Its full name was the New London County Temporary Home, a facility for neglected and uncared for children. The county home was not an orphanage, because the goal was not to put the children up for adoption, but to eventually return them to their own families. In Mom’s case, she had been taken away from her parents because her mother had been admitted to Norwich State Hospital and her father was deemed physically and mentally unfit to raise her on his own.
Each county had its own temporary home for neglected children over the age of six. The one Mom was sent to happened to be only a short distance from Norwich State Hospital. This meant that she was able to see her mother once in a while, although usually no more than a couple of times a year. Her father would also sometimes visit, although after a few years he stopped coming, which was heartbreaking for her.
Mom lived at the county home for about six years, which was ironic, considering the word “temporary” in the name of the county home. One reason for the length of her stay was her chronic lung disease and allergies. Potential foster parents may have been reluctant to take on a child with medical issues. Another reason was that her stay there coincided with the Great Depression, when there was a greater demand for services to neglected children. A 1937 report of the Public Welfare Council of the state of Connecticut described the problem.
“Due to the limited number of home finders in the Bureau of Child Welfare we have been obliged to spend most of our time in providing homes for the under-six group and for those children committed to the County boards of Management but placed immediately in foster homes. Since this under-six group has increased so rapidly we have not been able to render the placing service to the children in the County Homes to an adequate degree.”
In 1941, about the time that Mom finished her sophomore year at Norwich Free Academy, she was finally placed in a foster home. Not long after that, the county home closed. The building was sold to the state of Connecticut, along with its school and isolation cottage, in 1944. Five years later, after significant renovations, it was reopened as a ward for senile patients of Norwich State Hospital. It was dedicated as the Bryan Building, in honor of Dr. William A. Bryan, who served as Superintendent of Norwich State Hospital from 1940-1944.
I would love to know more about the New London County Temporary Home. If you have any family history connected with the county home, please feel free to let me know in the comments. Thanks!
Connecticut. Office of Commissioner of Welfare.; Connecticut. Public Welfare Council. Report of the Office of the Commissioner of Welfare for the biennium ended June 30th, 1937. Hartford: Published by the State, 1938. State of Connecticut public document, no. 28.
“New Hospital Structure To Be Dedicated: W. A. Bryan Building At Norwich to House 130 Senile Patients.” The Hartford Courant, May 19, 1949. pg. 4.