This paper describes the origins of residential care services for children and young people in Scotland. It focuses on the early history of orphanages, children’s homes, industrial schools, and reformatory schools.
Starting with the establishment of Heriot’s Hospital for orphan children in Edinburgh in 1659, a small number of orphanages opened across the country. However, it was not until the second half of the 19th century that there was a more rapid expansion of orphanages and children’s homes. In the 19th century, there were also developments to remove children and young people from prisons. Industrial schools and reformatory schools were set up to accommodate young offenders or those on the edges of crime.
Care for children in these institutions was unbending, employing rigid rules and regulations. The main features of discipline were described as conformity, respect for authority through intimidation, and the widespread use of corporal punishment, as well as moral rectitude through religious teaching. While there are continuing tensions and issues in the provision of residential care, there have been clear improvements in quality and standards. The rights of children and young people are now central, and, for some children and young people, residential care can offer a positive, caring and loving environment.
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