The lives of local orphans were never all tragic. Happy memories and great achievements marked some of their lives, often because of the intervention of their extended families or the kindness of people in the community.
From the beginnings of the orphanage, the generosity of Clark County’s ordinary citizens meant that parties, holiday festivities, and treats made up a regular part of orphanage life. In the private Holt Orphanage, set up for the orphans of Masons around the state of Indiana, children’s lives seemed to approximate the lives of their peers. Masonic orphans belonged to clubs and organizations. In addition, children placed in the local orphanages often married and raised families. Several local orphan’s grandchildren recall that their grandparents were loving, accomplished people who had fond memories of the people who showed them kindness as children.
In the twentieth century, increased government services and recognition of the needs of children improved the lot of orphans. Whether placed in an orphans’ home or with a family, by the end of the Depression Era, Clark County orphans could expect to attend school and defer work until they reached adulthood.
A number of local orphans were adopted. Prior to the mid-twentieth century, child adoption was frequently a path to securing child laborers that might be pushed out on their own when they reached adulthood. However, the newspaper sometimes noted that couples sought to adopt children “as their own.” In addition, grandparents and other relatives played a large role in the upbringing of orphaned children, and often provided refuge for widowed daughters and their offspring. Then as now, familial care arrangements seem to have worked well for many families. In the early twentieth century, the law and public opinion increasingly viewed adopted children as part of the family, rather than small adults responsible for working off the cost of their upkeep. Children placed with people who intended to treat them as part of the family seem to have had better outcomes, with some obtaining the longevity, love and respect that eluded orphans like Belle and Frankie Moore.