The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 53, Issue 2

Article 3
Youthfulness as a Disability: Poor Relief, Children’s Labour and the Maxfield Park Children’s Home, 1918–1938

Shani Roper


Under the Poor Law, parochial boards assumed guardianship of children categorized as abandoned, abused or orphaned. They received admittance to industrial schools and orphanages as a form of relief. Throughout the 1880s and 90s, the colonial government and religious organizations opened industrial schools as well as orphanages to target destitute and delinquent children in Jamaica. As guardians, both the colonial state and parochial boards saw industrial schools, and later orphanages, as central to harnessing children’s labour. In the twentieth century, continued concerns about labour and economic development continued to shape the treatment of children in state care. Using Maxfield Park Children’s Home as a case study, it is argued that economic concerns as well as the rhetoric of age and being able-bodied coloured administrators’ perception of destitute children and ultimately shaped how children in state care were treated.