The National Children's Home Story
Instructions and Advice to House-parents (1869)
The object of the Institution committed to your charge is to rescue poor children who, through the death or vice or extreme poverty of their parents, are in danger of being led into a life of crime, and to train them for the service of the Church and the nation.
For this purpose it is believed best to surround them with all the influences of a Christian home. To realize yourselves, and to make them realize, that you all form one family and one home, should be your constant endeavour. He who has revealed Himself as the God of all the families of Israel will surely bless an Institution which truly embodies the idea of a Christian home; and you, so long as you try, from love to Christ, to supply the place of father and mother to your charge, may surely in some measure count for your own the promises made to the fathers for the children.
You should, therefore, constantly think of yourselves as heads of a family, and endeavour so to act as to lead the boys to treat you with all the respect, confidence, and affection which children should feel for their parents. The titles by which you should encourage the children to think of you, and speak to you, are 'Father' and 'Mother'; and it should be your constant endeavour to act with the mingled firmness and wisdom and love which alone will justify the assumption of such titles.
In performing your duties, it will be well to have special regard to the following particulars:—
1. You will have to care for the boys, to teach and train them rightly, and to correct them if correction be necessary. Any flagrant case you will report to the Director, and will not inflict serious punishments without consulting him.
2. You will have family prayers with the inmates of the Home morning and evening. The Scriptures should be read, and each boy should have his own Bible, and follow the reading as far as he can. After dinner it is desirable that a hymn should be sung; and it would be well to encourage each boy during the week to learn a text of Scripture, to be repeated at family prayers on Sunday morning.
3. On you, with such assistance as the Committee may decide, will devolve the purchase of all articles needed for the Home, as well as the cooking of the food and the making or mending of the boys' clothing.
4. As put in the position of parents to these children, you will sit at table with them. Dinner you will need to take separately, but then one at least of you should sit with the boys while they have theirs. At their meals let them be merry and cheerful, but repress rudeness and boisterous conduct.
5. Each boy should make his own bed and clean his own boots. Help in the housework, in cooking, and in waiting at table will be given by some of the boys. selected from time to time by the Director. But the duties of such boys must be so arranged as to allow of a proper amount of attention being given to their school duties.
6. Strict attention should be given to the hours for rising, for school-work, and for industrial occupations. They will be fixed from time to time, as circumstances may indicate. In a household like yours nothing can be done without regularity. When the boys are getting up or going to bed, you should take care that a proper time is secured to them all for private prayer.
7. It will be your duty to keep a journal, in which any unusual event is to be recorded, and in which you can report upon the general condition of the Home. It will also be your duty to keep strict accounts of household expenses, of the receipts and expenditure in the industrial department, and of the boys' earnings and deposits in the Penny Bank. The Visitors' Book also should be at hand for entries.
8. Sunday must be observed as a day of rest and worship. The whole family will be expected to attend chapel twice. During the rest of the day you should supply the boys with illustrated books, some of which will be for use on Sundays only; or you might sing hymns with them, or tell them suitable stories; and in the afternoon they should have a Bible lesson. Try to make the day the most attractive of the seven, while taking care that it is reverently observed.
9. In all your dealings with the boys keep a watch on your temper, on your words and deportment. You will have much to try you, many annoyances, and some occasions when firmness alone will save the discipline of the Home. But love will be your greatest strength in all your dealings with the boys.
10. Above all things, give heed to personal piety. The children will be apt to catch your tone in this as in all other things. Be much in prayer for them and for yourselves. Remember, you are not doing this work for the sake of a liveliehood, but out of love for Christ and His little ones. Not in your own strength can you fulfil your task. Ask wisdom from Him who giveth liberally, and seek to be clothed with the Spirit's might. Do not be disappointed if your highest wishes are not met all at once. Labour in faith. Remember that 'bread cast upon the waters' shall be found, even though it be ' after many days.' And if you only act as in the sight of God, and under the constraint of the Cross of Jesus, you shall one day receive a bright crown, as you present yourselves before the throne, saying, like your Master, 'Behold, I and the children which God hath given me.'
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