The Roots Of Browndale

The tremendous success of Alex Haley's book and the TV series "Roots" which followed has increased awareness of searching personal origins. I would like to attempt to look at the roots of an organization called 'Browndale1. Stated in the barest organizational sense, the roots of Browndale are derived out of Warrendale in 1966 and Warrendale derived out of St. Faith's Lodge in 1952. I would also like to give some general structure and meaning to these dates and names.

In order to place the beginning of St. Faith's Lodge in historical perspective, it was sponsored by the Anglican Church as a 'home for wayward girls', dealing with first offenders from Court. For it's time it was a progressive step to avoid the jailing of young women who had been declared antisocial or delinquent. Correctional and legal facilities for women were in a very poor state at that time in Canadian society.

This period of social history may be regarded as the 'pre-psychological' period in the treatment of social problems. Again if one can identify with the pre first world war period, it marked the beginning of urban life and the lessening of the extended family in Canada. Thus removal of a child from his family because of antisocial behaviour was one of the three major reasons for intervention by the state. By the turn of the Century, there were two other major reasons for residential or institutional child care. First was the most debilitating and handicapping of physical disorders such as crippling birth defects, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, etcetera and second was the problem of early parental death or abandonment thus creating orphans.

Out of these medical problems came children's wards in hospitals and a hospital type of residence for 'incurables and feebleminded'. The medical model tended to dominate this type of problem, even though anything medical science could do for these problems was limited. There was much concern for physical care and the medical aspect of the child. The other major intervention of child residences was the orphaned and abandoned child. Middle age death rates of parents were considerably higher then, and various religious orders were generally in charge of these needy children. The moral model of care was the dominant issue here. Concern for the souls of the children and a concern that they receive a religious upbringing was a major theme.

The anti-social child was eventually separated from the adult system of justice and incarceration, separate facilities were developed in Ontario following the first world war. The British Borstal Training School model heavily influenced the development of training schools and farms. Here the model was slanted toward a military type of discipline, combined with education and vocational expectation. As long as Canadian society was so heavily rural, the farm with discipline seemed logical. Difficulties arose as Ontario became more urban and industrial. In the 1920's one sees an expansion of these kinds of children's institutions and residences.

Except for a few pioneering efforts in Europe (notably in Vienna with August Aichorn, in 1927), the impact on psychological theories and practice had little impact. The beginning of such thinking was mainly in medical private practice, in small private casework agencies and in some mental health clinics.

The 'pre-psychological' rationale for removing children from their families was mainly based on anti-social behaviour, gross physical defects, and the death or abandonment of parents. Where you may ask, were the children who were psychologically and emotionally disturbed? The answer is that all the services which developed from the above social problems had a proportion of the mentally and emotionally disturbed children among them. Even though the child's problems may have been predominately psychological or emotional, he could be held in any of the above services, depending on the nature of the intervention and how his institutionalization could be rationalized.

With the 1930's the impact of psychological approaches to human services began to have a major influence in social work and mental health services. The increasing success of adoption and foster home approaches and the decline of parental death rate, the major re-examination of the effects of institutionalization was already begun in the years prior to the second world war. 

The war, however, interfered with this process and it was not until the post war period that the methods and possibilities of a psychological approach to children's residences began. The research of John Bowby and Rene Spitz on maternal deprivation had a major impact in the reconsideration of the 'institutional' approach to child care. 

Thus Warrendale in 1952 reflected these trends and changes in thinking. St. Faith's Lodge had changed its focus from court cases to referrals from other agencies. The Lodge experienced considerable difficulties in child management, probably because of the lack of philosophy and technique of care to match the problems they were dealing with. The Lodge was struggling with a mixture of outdated moral and discipline vocational models of thinking. But even more to the point, the theories of care were not available at that time. These theories and practices were not developed until the late 1940's and early 1950's, which witnessed a burst of psychological activity and analysis that moved psychological theory and practice out of the realm of the laboratory and consulting room. We have Fritz Red! and his work in Pioneer House in Detroit, Bruno Bettelheim and the Orthogenic School in Chicago and in Great Britain, persons such as Melanie Klein and Maxwell Jones who also influenced theory and practice. 

Likewise the study of groups was a major development after the war. For example, the National Training Laboratory with such theorists as Kurt Lewin and Ronald Lysett, were emphasizing leadership styles and influences of peer group. The social psychology of Irving Goffman started a trend to the examination and analysis of institutions from the 'inside out1. Worthwhile books along this line of thinking would be Asylums, by I. Goffman; Street Corner Society by William Whyte, and Introduction to Group Dynamics, by Malcolm Knowles. 

The push and pull of these new ideas and practices were part of the questioning of the purposes and goals of St. Faith's Lodge, which after the second world war was finding it difficult to find a basis for its work. It was closed, and after a study was done, it was reopened as Warrendale in 1952 in a large mansion in Newmarket.

The basis of this move was not only geographical, but philosophical. Although the population group was the same as before (adolescent girls, 12-15 years), the treatment style was much more toward the humanist, psychological approach, rather than the more traditional moral, disciplinary approaches. The development of this approach only began with the first director who stayed one year. The next Director was John L. Brown, who studied with Fritz Redl in Detroit and whose temperament, as well as training, suited the innovative challenge Warrendale offered. The transition from St. Faith's Lodge to Warrendale, represented one more indicator that the era of psychological humanism in institutional and residential life had begun. Two books by Fritz Redl worth studying in this regard are 'Children who Hate', and 'Controls from Within.

written by 

Al Cutcher May 3, 1978