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When Harold left his foster home and moved to the London Foundling Hospital aged 5, he remembered that ‘there was no goodnight hug or kiss’ from the staff looking after the infants in the large dormitory that was now his home. Harold had come to expect some form of affection prior to his bedtime from his five years in foster care. Admitted into the Foundling Hospital shortly after birth, Harold was one of a large number of foundlings raised by foster carers in rural areas surrounding London, before being returned to the Hospital aged five, to begin their education. First-hand experiences of former foundlings have often been neglected. However, a project collecting the memories of former foundlings from 1900–1950 has been undertaken by the Foundling Museum in London, allowing an analysis of foundlings’ experiences of family within the first half of the twentieth century. 

This paper will analyse the experiences of foundlings with regards to their time in foster care and the ways in which they became part of the family. It will chart the feelings of the foundlings when they left foster care and were moved to the London Foundling Hospital aged around five, and will examine the bonds of family that they maintained whilst in the Foundling Hospital and beyond. This paper will argue that, despite only having the first five years of life with their foster family, foundlings maintained relationships throughout their lives, and often thought of them as their ‘real’ families.

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