In twenty-first-century America, orphanages might seem like relics of the past. Because research in human attachment has taught us that children need close and lasting human connections, when those with disrupted lives need new homes, every effort is now made to place them in families rather than institutions. Sometimes, however, this isn’t feasible—due to shortages of foster or adoptive parents, or behavioral issues and special needs beyond what most substitute parents are equipped to handle.
The default option is to send such youngsters to state-run group homes. Many of these are miserable places. Thanks to private philanthropy, though, a number of high-quality residential homes and schools exist across the country as alternatives for children with severe challenges. One of the most iconic is a Christian residential school called Crossnore.
Crossnore was founded by Mary Sloop and her husband, Eustace, two young physicians anxious to serve as medical missionaries. In 1911 they moved to an impoverished mountain county in North Carolina and began offering medical, educational, and economic aid to local children. Their project gradually evolved into a boarding school for orphans and other needy children. Adjoining the school, the Sloops set up a weaving workshop and a working farm where the children could learn skills and personal disciplines. This, along with resources donated and raised by the Sloops, allowed the school to be largely self-supporting.
Crossnore currently houses about 100 kids at any one time, ages one to 21, who have been severely neglected or abused, and whose needs aren’t met by the foster-care system or public schools. They live in cottages, supervised by couples, and attend classes and intensive activities that promote healing, faith, and self-improvement. The school has its own K-12 charter school that is also open to children from the surrounding community, a special program to help residents ages 17 to 21 transition gradually to independent living, and a scholarship program that pays tuition of alumni who go to college. There is also a special effort to assist the adoption of Crossnore kids into families.
Impressed by the good results achieved with difficult children at this facility, a loyal cadre of Christian donors has provided financial support over more than a century. A recent capital campaign raised $20 million for the school’s private endowment. Similar facilities in other states include the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries; Hope Village for Children in Meridian, Mississippi; Safe Harbor Boys Home of Jacksonville, Florida; the Hendrick Home for Children in Abilene, Texas; and 11 homes operated across the country by Youth Villages.
- Crossnore School, crossnoreschool.org
- North Carolina Encyclopedia entry on Mary Sloop, ncpedia.org/biography/sloop-mary