By Rachel G. Fuchs

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Extra resources for Abandoned children: foundlings and child welfare in nineteenth-century France

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The precise number of children who were housed in these institutions is not known; estimates range from one hundred around the beginning of the eighteenth century to over eight hundred at its end. 21 Despite the multiplicity Page 10 and expansion of institutions, greatly increasing numbers of abandoned children were left at the Hôpital des Enfants Trouvés in Paris. Admissions to the Hôpital grew from 312 in 1670 to 7,676 in 1772, a twenty-five-fold increase. 22 The increase in the population of Paris played only a small part in the growth of the numbers of abandoned children.

Other factors in the growth of admissions are (1) an increase in poverty, (2) increased shipments of babies to Paris from the provinces, and (3) the great ease of abandonment of a baby at the Hôpital des Enfants Trouvés in Paris. Illegitimacy rates in Paris and in all of France more than doubled from the middle to the end of the eighteenth century, burgeoning from one to two percent before 1750 to five percent of registered births by 1800. Causes of the rise in illegitimacy* have been discussed by others,25 but this positive relationship between rising abandonment and rising illegitimacy suggests that most abandoned babies were illegitimate.

As the century progressed, the state was becoming more centralized, rationalized, and bureaucraticized. State provisions for abandoned children reflected a change in the whole culture. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, attitudes changed. While still concerned with the proliferation, immorality, and criminal tendencies of the working classes of the day, social reformers no longer strove to curtail abandonment, but felt that the state, by means of social welfare programs, could do a better job of creating ideal working-class citizens than could biological parents.

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