I feel bound to agree—as any priest must—with some of the remarks made by Miss Oddie in her letter to the Ceramic: HERAT when she refers to the (abstract) desirability of any child being reared and loved in a real home rather than an "Institution".
I must also fully agree with her that much more could be done. especially by certain Local Authorities, to help suitable people to foster children, even children with physical handicaps.
I do, however. feel that her idea that it is possibly "wrong to cootribute to the cost of Catholic children in Catholic Institutions" is more than a little wide of the mark. The only effect of closing the many excellent Catholic Homes and Institutions would he to relegate Catholic children to the already overcrowded State Institutions.
In our Diocese. and elsewhere, many Catholic homes are showpieces for the Local Authorities themselves, and these Authorities describe their own Homes as our 'poor relations', aiming in their ten-year development plans to reach the point in child training and care which we have often already achieved or passed!
All homes which are registered have the 'safeguards of Local County Council inspection' anyway and although many of the local authorities whom we deal with in the South of England are really excellent, some most definitely are not and seem positively to hinder any effort to place a Catholic child in Catholic care particularly, from our own painful experience, where that child is handicapped in any way, and even where the child is in need of care owing to exposure to very grave moral dangers.
Miss Oddie raises many points in her letter, covering as she does questions about the fostering of normal and of physically handicapped children, their care in Homes and Institutions, and related points. The problems of child care cannot he solved by her "foster-the-lot" philosophy though.
If her main point is that the day of the big Institution as a place for the care of children is largely over, then of course we all very much agree (but she is shooting at an extremely dead duck!) If she claims that the days of Catholic Homes are over then I am afraid that she is being at least rather "starry-eyed", particularly in the case of the care of the handicapped child whose lot would in practice be very much worsened by any move to do other than increase the present Catholic provision for specialised care, an increase which is now taking place very largely because of the support and encouragement of many Local Authorities and non-Catholic organisations who admire and wish to help in our work.
(Rev. Fr.) D. A. Paterson.
B.A., M.I.Biol., Southwark Diocesan Director for Handicapped children and Director of the Society of St. Bernadette.