Brother Boy

[This article brings back sad memories of the days when I worked with children in West Harlem while a divinity student and later a summer job with the Protestant Council of the City of NY. The latter organization was pretty much a fraud set up to do little more than to raise funds to support its employees (with the exception of the Brooklyn branch), but I learned of the uneven treatment of kids in need there.

In those days in the late 1950s adoptions and other arrangements for children in need were run on strictly racist and religious grounds. The upshot was a tremendous differential in the treatment that children received. Jewish kids were best served by the Jewish agencies. Second best were Catholic kids. The leftovers were classified as Protestants who had little or no agencies or other means of caring for children. Particularly excluded and placed in this category were African American kids.

One case that particularly got to me was a 12 year old, Brother Boy, with whom I had worked at the Manhattanville Community Center. I was there when a mad social worker threatened his mother to take away her children if she had another. So she tried to abort herself with a coat hanger and was hospitalized in serious condition, leaving her young children to fend for themselves. Brother Boy wanted to escape to his grandmother somewhere in the South — where he was not sure. So I tried to get agency help for him. I was told that the only facility available was the Orangeburg State Mental Hospital which was housing several hundred such kids. So I drove Brother Boy there where a riot in the men’s violent ward had just broken out. A psychiatrist told me that they were terribly understaffed to care for the kids, but they did the best they could.

A few years later Brother Boy contacted me and expressed his regret that he had been rejected from military service because he had a mental hospital on his record. Still a few years later the FBI contacted me to locate Brother Boy, now considered to be a draft dodger (the military had gotten desperate enough to take mental hospital grads). He had given my name and address as his contact point. I wrote the FBI and explained the circumstances, but got no response.

Some years later I learned that Brother Boy was one of the members of my little gang of kids who had died violently as had 3/4 of them.

And so it went for minority kids in the not too distant past. Ed Kent]


De-emphasis on Race in Adoption Is Criticized
A report says that minority children in foster care are being ill-served by a federal law that plays down race and culture in adoptions.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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