They're coming to take you away
April 6, 2009 11:14 PM   Subscribe

In the last 50 years of either British or American history, has there ever been a case in which the government has forcibly relocated a large percentage of the town's children for health, safety, or quality of life purposes?

When I say "forcibly relocated," I mean over the parents' wishes.

What I'm looking for are situations where (for example) a town was so small/far-flung, or where K-12 educational facilities were too minimal, or they were just considered so isolated that the state authorities (or whoever) deemed the place an unfit place to raise a child, and intervened on the childrens' behalf.

I'm also interested in situations where the town was deemed unsafe for children to live based on crime, poor drinking water, etc.

I remember there being an Irish island that was forcibly vacated by the government due to being considered too isolated, but I'm really more concerned with any cases that involved the children being relocated, if their parents refused to move.

Has this ever happened in the last 50 years, in either Britain or America? Thank you in advance.
posted by np312 to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
More along your secondary request, but clearly:

# August 2, 1978 Acting under wider powers, New York State Health Commissioner, Robert Whalen declares a state of emergency exists at the Love Canal and orders closing of 99th Street School and evacuation of pregnant women and children under the age of two.

# August 7, 1978 United States President Jimmy Carter approves emergency financial aid for the area so New York State can start buying homes of 236 families eventually relocated at a cost of $10 million.

and Times Beach:

Two years later, in 1985, the entire population of more than 2,000 residents had been evacuated, with the exception of one elderly couple who refused to leave, and the town was disincorporated by executive order of the Missouri Governor. The entire site was quarantined as residents moved on to other areas.

There's also this Navajo case:

In northern Arizona over 10,000 Navajo and 100 Hopi Indians were slated for forced relocation by the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act
posted by dhartung at 11:26 PM on April 6, 2009

Response by poster: Those are interesting cases, but I'm really looking for cases of the children actually being removed from the town, with or without their parents. Closing a school isn't big enough for my purposes.

But you're on the right track! Thanks.
posted by np312 at 11:32 PM on April 6, 2009

The town of Centralia PA is now abandoned, due to an underground coal fire that can't be extinguished. Most of the residents left voluntarily through a 1984 Federal buyout, but the holdouts were evicted by the state in 1992.

But like Dan's examples, this was a case of everyone being moved, not just the children.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:39 PM on April 6, 2009

Native American children were sent to state-sponsored boarding schools for years, often without the consent of parents.
posted by lunasol at 12:03 AM on April 7, 2009

Native American children were sent to state-sponsored boarding schools for years, often without the consent of parents.

Ditto native Australian kids
posted by mattoxic at 12:19 AM on April 7, 2009

The Australian Aboriginal examples mattoxic alludes to will be one of your better bets; Google around "Lost Generation" and go from there; this has recurred right up until the last years, with concerns around allegedly widespread abuse of children in Aboriginal areas of Australia becoming a political football into the runup to the last election there.
posted by rodgerd at 12:53 AM on April 7, 2009

I thought it continued up until 1965 but I am having trouble finding a cite but I immediately thought of Dr Benardo and the Home Children. There were children, sometimes orphans but shockingly often not, that were forcibly relocated to Canada to serve as servants (slaves really, as they received no wages). The parents or other relations of many of the children were not told their children were sent to Canada until well after they had left England and were not allowed to contact or reunite with their children. It was felt that taking the children from the lower socio-economic classes was actually a benevolent act giving them a "better life" then they would have had with their natural parents. Heartbreaking stories.

The Innu of Labrador have been treated abysmally. They are traditionally nomadic. "Officials believed that through education, the Innu could be "civilized" into mainstream ways of working and seeing the world. Within the village of Sheshatshiu in the early 1950s, Joseph Pirson, an Oblate priest, believed this could be accomplished by sending the younger generation to school, where they would be taught the same curriculum as children elsewhere in Canada. Pirson was aware that keeping children in school would force their parents to abandon hunting and settle down in the village. "

Sadly, the residential school system in Canada was operating until the 1960's, as were forcible adoptions of aboriginal children.

Just over fifty years ago the persucuted group the Doukhobors (promoting pacifism, community, nudism and non-materialism), specifically the sect the Sons of Freedom, had 150 chlidren removed to be be educated in public schools.
posted by saucysault at 1:10 AM on April 7, 2009

Googling "Stolen Generation" will get you better results for Aboriginal Australians.

There were also British child "migrants" to Australia, similar to the Canadian ones mentioned by saucysalt. Here is a link
posted by girlgenius at 2:16 AM on April 7, 2009

Googling "Stolen Generation" will get you better results for Aboriginal Australians.

Gah. Yes. Apologies.
posted by rodgerd at 2:34 AM on April 7, 2009

I'm assuming that you are familiar with the widely-publicized incident last year involving the western Texas sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? The relocation was definitely against the parents' wishes.
posted by amicamentis at 3:47 AM on April 7, 2009

The 1930 evacuation of the people of St Kilda island in Scotland is too old to fit your specific criteria - and does not specifically involve the separation of children from adults and all the members of a community from each other. However the story might interest you.
posted by rongorongo at 4:36 AM on April 7, 2009

Perhaps your project can't include Canadian history, but the Grise Fiord relocation of 1953 (bibliography here) was 56 years ago.

More recently, the relocation of Innu from Davis Inlet to Natuashish is an example of what you're after. A CBC report here.
posted by angiep at 5:45 AM on April 7, 2009

On a second look at your question, my examples don't specifically look at forcible separation of children. But perhaps they might have info that could help?
posted by angiep at 5:49 AM on April 7, 2009

From here

As bombing raids attacking Britain's cities increased during World War Two, thousands of children were uprooted from their families and sent to the safety of the countryside. Many found, however, that life away from home was no picnic.
posted by jourman2 at 6:36 AM on April 7, 2009

A couple of years ago I remember seeing something about some aboriginal kids in Canada with inhalant addictions. The Canadian or provincial government basically came in and took every kid in the town away and put them in social services or foster care. My googlenews-fu is failing me, though.
posted by charlesv at 7:47 AM on April 7, 2009

OK, found it. I was thinking of the Innu relocation from Davis Inlet that angiep refers to above.
posted by charlesv at 7:49 AM on April 7, 2009

I saw a documentary (sorry I can't remember the name) about kids, before during and slightly after the war, being shipped from London orphanages to Australia and Canada. One of the main points was that many of the children were not, in fact, orphans. They'd just been placed there temporarily by parents trying to scrape by in a tough economy. The "authorities" had assumed the power to ship these kids out of the crowded city and place most of them on remote farms, as little more than indentured servants in many cases..
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:37 AM on April 7, 2009

bonobothegreat: Are you thinking of The Leaving of Liverpool?
posted by rdc at 10:03 AM on April 7, 2009

That is a feature film, however the documentary Childhood Lost has been on Canadian TeeVee, it is about the home children in my first comment that bonobothegreat is talking about. CBC has also done a few smaller documentaries I believe.
posted by saucysault at 10:28 AM on April 7, 2009

Following on from jourman2's link, Operation Pied Piper saw millions of people, a large amount of them children (including my mother-in-law), evacuated from Britain during WW2. Wikipedia link includes information on the Children's Overseas Reception Board.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:42 AM on April 7, 2009

Yes saucysault, I missed that in your comment. I'm pretty sure the doc I saw had and added Australian element to it as well.The good old days, indeed.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:36 PM on April 7, 2009

For not just a town, but a whole island - Depopulation of Diego Garcia (the quality of life concerned was not that of the inhabitants.)
posted by w.fugawe at 10:09 AM on April 8, 2009

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