CHILDREN WHO STAND AND WAIT . . .
By ELISABETH FITZROY
HOSPITALS and homes up and down the country are closing down, not because of lack of staff hut for lack of patients.
At lirsi hearing this may Stem satisfactory nees. Wider medical knowledge, the success of welfare schemes such as school meals and cheap milk, and the benefits provided generally by the National Health Service—are having an effect on the health of the nation. T.B. and heart cases in children are becoming more rare.
'Then there is a finite tendency amongst local author kiss to place children in need of care and atter', tion in foster homes rather than in institutions; and the same trend is apparent in the recent report of the Royal Commission on Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency in which it it advocated that even mental patients should live in their own or foster homes,
So far so good. We can be thankful indeed that in this latter half of the 20th centurs, we becoming less institution-minded, when it is remembered that only 50 years ago children in mental institutions were batten and bullied, and made to work like
DOESN'T WORK OUT
BUT what is worrying many of us, engaged in the placement of Catholic children unfitted for home life, is that while,
on one hand, we hear of Catholic homes and hospitals being considered redundant, on the other the waiting lists for mental colonies grows longer.
As secretary of the Catholic Handicapped Children's Fellowship, I ern constantly being asked by parents and he the diocesan rescue societies to find vacancies for children, suffering with varying degrees of mental and physical defect; and in spite of th© extensive work undertaken by the Religious Orders in this field, it is a thought-provoking fact that there are not enough such vacancies to meet the present tragic demand.
Where, for example, can I find a Catholic Home for an epeptic. mentally defective boy over 12 years of age? Or a low-grade mentally defective little girl who screams at night?
However cinch ee nuts support the theory that parents are responsible for their own children. handicapped or otherwise, and should be prepared to care for them in their own family circle, in practice it just does not work out that way.
THE NEED CONTINUES
WE cannot blind ourselves to the fact that there are children born so grievously handicapped -the good God alone knows silly—that it is im
possible for them to remain at home. The most devoted parents are worn °tit at last; health and the unity of the home, and the welfare of the other children must be considered. let alone the handicapped child himself who is often less frustrated amongst children of his nen kind.
No Royal ommission can alter this state of ^affairs. As a mental health worker said to me the other day: " Until there is a law preventing mentally defective children front being horn into this world, the need for Homes will continue."
Is it impossible for those Catholic homes and hospitals which now find themselves with a steadily decreasing number of inmates to open their doors to that pathetic queue of handicapped children who have waited so long, overlooked by Authority, shunned I by the generel community, denied, almost, the right to exist 7 Mentally defective spastic children, mentally defective blind and deaf children; epileptics, helpless cripples. idiots: to talk of foster homes for such as these is arrant nonsense. Sootier or later these unfortunate children, members of the Church, wilt be flung on the
n 01 e Slate, and must end
idass in a Government insti idass in a Government insti tution, deprived of all the benefits of their Faith.
THE SAME ,RIGHT
that to the low-grade mental defective, a Catholic environment is of no importance. Indeed we may be certain that the soul of a baptised idiot child is assured of salvation, but who are we to dress the line between the low-grade mental defective incapable of benefiting from the practices of the Faith, and those others a little higher up the intelligence scale ?
Are they not all God's children and have the same right to receive
the blessings of the Church, to ehatever extent it is possible for them to benefit theleby ?
Yet until Met e are mare Catholic homes, anti especially for the lower grade mental defectives an] for those children with mental and physical handicaps—many of our children will inevitahls remain cut off from Catholic ministrations.
Doubtless It will be contended that prieete visit non-Catholic. institutions. Thank God they do. But if your child was a mental defective doomed to spend the rest of his life in a State institution, would it console you very greatly to know that a. priest visited once a month ?
It must not be thought that I am under-rating the great work carried on in the existing Catholic homes, such as Lisieux Hall and St. Raphael's Mental Colony. In fact It is just because 1 have such good reason to know what is being done by the Brothers of Charity, the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God, and the good Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Miry, and others, that I want to plead to those who find themselves with empteing beds in homes ad hospitals to remember our handicapped Children who can never Jump the queue.