Poverty is present

The New York Foundling Hospital opened in 1869 in response to the alarming infant-mortality rate and is one of the oldest social service agencies in North America. It was designed to address the needs of women in poverty. In 2013, we hope we have a gentler, more caring society. But do we really? Our child poverty statistics continue to be appalling; so tragically, not much has changed.

When Lisa Lipkin was asked by the Foundling Hospital to write about its history, she anticipated wading through moldy committee reports, financial statements and yellowing photographs. To her surprise, she also found five leather bound volumes titled “Letters Left on Babies by their Mothers.”

In one letter, a physician asks the Sisters of Mercy to care for a newborn baby, of who the mother who was raped and who could not care for her child. In another, a mother with a newborn baby was deserted by her husband and couldn’t manage to raise the child.

The sad conclusion is that the more things change in our society, the more they remain the same. On our side of the border, Canada’s poverty rate stands at about 21 per cent. The highest it has been in nearly 15 years, and poverty trends indicate that there are increasingly more young people, under 25 who are at a greater risk of living in poverty. Clearly, poverty has more dire implications for children than for any other segment of our population.

It is not an issue that affected our population in the 19th century but something that is ever-present in our modern day.

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