Boarding Out

The practice of ‘boarding out’ orphaned, neglected or abused children was common in Glasgow in the 1950s. It was seen as a way of taking children out of slum conditions and giving them a better life than they would have had, either in their family home or in a care home. In practice, the experience of the children was mixed. Some were treated as members of their foster families, but many were used as child labour and were physically and emotionally abused. Siblings were sometimes separated and they were never given an opportunity to reconnect with their birth families.

One Children’s Officer who was working in Scotland in the 1950s and ‘60s, Katherine McKenzie, said “Glasgow in particular boarded out children all over the country. It was said that they would fill a van with children and take them up to the Highlands and knock on doors and say ‘how many can you take?’” (The Times, 2/11/2017). See also this article in the Daily Record from 2014, which includes the heartbreaking reminiscences of a survivor.

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