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ORPHANAGES YESTERDAY – ORPHANAGES TODAY - HAVE THEY CHANGED?
“The best orphanage is nothing more than a good prison for kids”
Author, Roger Dean Kiser
Published author and Internet writer Roger Dean Kiser's stories take you into the heart of a child abandoned by his family and abused by the system responsible for his care. Through his stories, he relives the sadness and cruelty of growing up an orphan in the early 1950’s.
Today, Kiser lives in Brunswick, Georgia with his wife Judy where he continues to write and publishing most of his work on his Internet web sites: http://www.rogerdeankiser.com And short story index at: http://www.oocities.org/trampolineone/survive/noframe.htm
Since it’s beginning, "The American Orphan Web Site" has become one of the most read child abuse web sites in the world. At last count, it had a readership of about 11.8 million since November 1999.
It is through his writing that Kiser has begun healing the pain, suffering and sadness of the orphan within him. Unknowingly at first and by the power of the Internet, Kiser's stories have touched millions.
In the vain of Mark Twain, Roger Dean Kiser's collection of almost 700 stories has captured the drama and emotion of not only his childhood, but also his current day tales. Kiser's short stories carry with them strong images and feelings that search out and find that common thread which connects each of us to our own emotions.
Roger Dean Kiser is the author of the books "Orphan, A True Story of Abandonment, Abuse and Redemption," "American Orphan" and now his newest book titled "RUNAWAY, Life on the streets-The Lessons Learned."
Roger will never forget how he and about 300 other children were treated as though they were less than human while living at the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Child advocate and Chicken Soup for the Soul Author, Roger Dean Kiser, was raised at The Children's Home Society Orphanage, located in Jacksonville, Florida in the 1950s. His stories tell of the horrors that he, and many other children, experienced while living in that institution. His web site, “The American Orphan” has become one of the most read short story child abuse web sites in the world.
Although orphanages are generally, a better alternative to being
homeless or existing in an extremely abusive home setting living in an
orphanage is far from an ideal way for children to be raised.
Even though the living conditions in orphanages are much better today
than they were some years back. The fact remains that when these
children one day leave the orphanage. When they do, they will forever be
lacking in the emotional skills that it takes to stay in a loving
relationship and/or raise a normal family.
These children, though fed clothed and housed in a decent manner do not
realize that they are not getting the love and emotional support
that they will need once they become adults. They do not even realize
that these important elements are missing from their lives, because they
have no idea what the words “love” and “affection” even mean. Most do not even realize that they are unhappy. All they know is that they are not as “unhappy” as they were in their former abusive situation.
This is the problem: Orphanages have become a money making business rather than just a short stop along the way to helping these children to build a better life for themselves. Even reform schools try to rehabilitate the children before dumping them back out into society. Why don’t state reformatories hold onto the children for a longer period? It is because these children cost them money, rather than make them money. Orphanages do not want to dump their only product and their only means of support.
From what I have been able to find out the orphanage (Children’s Home Society of Florida) that I was raised in now has a reserve bank account of almost one billion dollars in both money and assets. I also noted that if there are about 150 children in their care yet the administrative staff consist of hundreds of employees, many are friends and family members.
Are the millions of donated dollars that flow, into these institutions each year for the sake of the children, or is it really for the welfare and the survival of the orphanage itself?
Author, Roger Dean Kiser
IMAGINE...a Spartan bedroom room. A bed, a closet and a window. The floor is beige linoleum and the walls are dull white. All is neat, organized, military and utilitarian. Everywhere is clean, spotless and antiseptic.
The bed appears a fastidiously made single bed. The closet reveals nothing. It is very empty, as the child owns nothing. The window is glassy clean and barren of a curtain. The floor is spit and shines clean. The walls display only the faint ticks and strokes of a brush.
Nowhere is there a television, or a radio, or a computer, or a play station or a cassette player. Not even a game of any sort. Nowhere is there a picture, or a poster, or a coloring book or a toy. Nowhere is there a letter or a
Photo-album. Nowhere a trace of candy wrappers, gum wrappers, half-eaten food, a plate, a cola can, glass or utensil. All is neat, organized, military and utilitarian. Everything is clean, spotless, and antiseptic.
ENTER...a little boy. He is only 6 years old. He is well groomed, dressed and clean-cut. He sits on the bed but makes no impression on the tight slab. He sits expressionless and begins to rock back-and-forth.
He has no earring in his ear, no jewelry around his neck, no silly ink drawn tattoos on his hands, no headband, no funky hair, no cool shades, no rock/punk emblems, no baggy pants, no scribbled notes from school friends.
No one calls out happily "hey, since when do you come in without giving me a hug?...so, what happened at school today? No one yells for him to get cleaned up as we're all going out for pizza. He does not even know what pizza is. Instead, he sits quietly on his bed and he waits, and he waits and he waits.
He has no past, no present, and no future. He has no reality. He has no hope. Nothing to call his own, nothing to gain, nothing to loose, nothing to exist for and no one to claim him. He has no friends and he is forbidden to have contact with anyone living outside the orphanage. Perhaps the cemetery would do him more justice than an empty place among the living. A little boy living in nowhere land.
It is called "putting in time" and it is an awful place to be. It is a fate which seems to make sadness his only friend. Another life, another time, another place...it is something to become preoccupied with.
Perhaps the above to some would sound ideal. If only their children could be so neat and tidy.
Phones ringing off the hook, music blaring, chat rooms, emails, dancing and jumping around fake playing the guitar, oh, and that GOTH look! Always dragging in stray animals to say nothing of stray friends...yes sirrie, nowhere to go? Nothing to do? Somehow they all know YOUR children and they all manage to arrive at YOUR house at any given time of the day or night. Damn, can't they turn that noise down...Oh, no! Their in the kitchen again....they just fixed pizza...now what??? Oh, just great...now its Cheerios in a bowl with a cold sprite poured over it and a half carton scoop of Lime ice cream!! Just can't understand how on earth 42 kids can cram in that pig sty room...clothes everywhere, posters, just look at this place!!!!!!! That is not music that is screaming! Every kid in town is over here WHO IN HELL can they be talking to on the phone non stop....
Then one day it happens...they are grown and gone. They always manage to send cards at appropriate times, call often and they do come home for Christmas.
The earrings, ink tattoos, love notes, jewelry, crazy dress, funky hairdos, and strange behavior are all gone. Rooms have long been cleaned up. The silence is sort of eerie without them around now. Yeah, you actually miss them and some of the fondest memories are of those long gone years.
And when they come home it's funny how the conversation always moves to all those years of craziness when they were young, what ever happened to what it's face, photos albums are lovingly lingered over, even the pictures which show them at an awkward age or an embarrassing moment, "look, here is your mom at your age...see, you look like...don't let mom hang you up about your room just have a look at this picture of her room...and TA DA...their kids (yes, your grandchildren) who now are in all the throws of doing exactly as they did! You know when that weak moment came across you and you wished upon them to have a child exactly like them?
Well, you have lived to see it!
There is something about it all. Guess is, it is in their eyes. Their smile, the demeanor...they thank you for the love, support, indulgence, patience, belief in them and sense of humor with which you raised them. You have done well. All the time you thought you were flying by the seat of your pants and coming in on a wing and a prayer! There were times when you worried about what you birthed BUT can you believe it? They are now part of the” establishment"...hey, lawyers, doctors...not bad! Successful, contributing members of society. What happened? You gave them the tools to become adults. Not sure, but maybe all that silliness and ridiculous behavior and bazaar music had something to do with it after all.
Maybe, just maybe, all those children (including yours) dressed as strange creatures with odd personalities, all the outrageous music, all the clamor...just maybe...you taught them it was alright to express themselves within the bounds of acceptable behavior...just maybe...you taught them to accept others...all that incessant laughter?.. Just maybe taught them to laugh with others instead at others...somehow, they get along so well. Maybe it is because you have taught them to live and let live because you lived and let live.
However, the most important thing you taught them is all we have in life is each other.
But, what about that little boy sitting on his bed? He waited, and he waited and he waited. Life just passed him by.
I waited on the end of my bed until I was fourteen.
The orphanage had taught me nothing about "real" life outside the fences. I did not know how to get a job, a driver’s license or even how to catch a city bus. I knew nothing about money. How could I? I had never had any. I knew nothing about banks, other than that is where all the money was kept for safekeeping. Whose money was it anyway and how did it get there? Do soldiers bring money to the bank every morning and take it away every night? What is this "check" thing that people write on? And why is a paper as good as real money? Can I just write on a paper and buy food? I knew absolutely nothing about surviving outside the orphanage.
How do you cook food when you get hungry? I know that you get food from the store but how do you cook it once you get it. If I ask; will a policeman tell me how to cook food? Where do you get a job in order to make money and how do you get there everyday? Where do you stay, and how do you eat until you make some money to buy stuff? How do you make friends, and am I allowed to talk to girls now. Am I allowed to ask why a girl's chest is bigger than mine without getting into trouble anymore? How do clothes get clean and who does that kind of thing anyway? I ain't never seen no clothes get clean before. They was just always clean when we lined up to get them every morning at the orphanage.
For me, unlike you and yours, I never had anything to miss. No one at the orphanage even realized that I had missed it all. Either that or they did not care about me. However, to me I did not realize that I had really missed anything because I guess you have to have to learn what life actually is about before you can miss it.
I lived such a life for most of my childhood. For ten years I was secretly drawing pictures on the window glass with my wet finger. The rest of my time was spent cleaning toilets and raking the orphanage grounds. One time I did find a broken roller-skate which I kept hidden in a very special place. Oh! The hours of fun I had watching the one wheel as I would spin it, faster and faster, with my finger.
Once I left, I tried to build a life for myself based what I had learned while living at the orphanage. What did I really know? Other than the spit painted pictures that I drew on the window glass, and that one roller-skate wheel. I did not know very much about life or about interacting with others. I guess I must have appeared to be an idiot to almost everyone that I met. I did not know anything except how to be taken care of while living inside “a cage”.
For years, I traveled from place to place trying to fit it. I always seemed a bit different from other people and I could not figure out why. Was it me or was it them who didn't really understand the way that life was supposed to be lived?
Others could smile and laugh at almost anything. I did not know what I was suppose to laugh at. Why would being alive be fun or even funny? I guess I had never learned what was, or was not, suppose to be funny. Everything was the same to me. I looked at everything as bland and course. Everything was just plain and simple, black and white and cut and dry.
I guess you have to be able to feel “happy” before you can laugh at something funny. I had never felt “happy” before. After five failed marriages, I am still trying to figure out what the funny part of being “happy” is all about.
I am not saying that orphanages are not better than living on the street, or living with parents who abuse their children. What I am saying is that the children in these facilities must be given some of the freedoms that are affored to children who do have parents. These institutional fences must be torn down and the orphan children's rearing must be subjected to what "real life" is all about. A life that they wil be expected to live once they are released from the orphanage.