Raised by the Churchby Edward Rohs and Judith Estrine
" . . . couples a moving first-person account of coping with a system that separated orphans by age and gender with a historical perspective on child care in the 19th and 20th centuries."
-Sam Roberts, New York Times
". . .A real triumph-over adversity story" -New York Post
"Raised by the Church' is a dedicated memoir about the struggles of growing up an outcast, even under the kindness of charity, much recommended." -Midwest Book Review
"Judith Estrine's prose is outstandingly readable, setting this book apart from other orphans' stories."
–William Seraile, author, Angels of Mercy. Professor Emeritus, Lehman College, City University of New York.
"Edward Rohs' life journey takes him through the gamut of emotions–abandonment, confusion, loneliness, fear, discovery, appreciation, justice, and love. To his credit, he was determined not to let the circumstances of his life control his life and he succeeded."
–Fr. Paul Landolfi, SM, St. John's Home for Boys
Raised by the Church chronicles the extraordinary life of Ed Rohs, a bright, mischievous boy who was raised in five institutions of the Catholic orphanage system in postwar Brooklyn, New York, from infancy in 1946 until he was discharged as an adult in 1965.
Rohs was one of thousands of children taken in by Catholic institutions during the tumultuous post-WWII years: out-of-wedlock infants, children whose fathers had been killed in the war, and children of parents in crisis. Ed gives a brief history of each institution before describing that world–the Sisters and Brothers who raised him, the food, his companions, and the Catholic community that provided social and emotional support.
When Ed finally leaves the institution after nineteen years he has a difficult time adjusting. He slowly assimilates into "normal" life and determinedly rises above his origins, achieving an advanced degree and career success, working for years in child welfare and as volunteer strength coach for the Fordham University basketball team. He hides his upbringing out of shame and fear of others' pity. But as he begins to reflect on his own story and to talk to the people who raised him, Ed begins to see a larger story intertwined with his own.
Rohs's story showcases both sides of New York City's social welfare system, through his childhood in the system and his work as a social worker for abused and abandoned children. With original research based on interviews with clergymen and nuns, archival data from the New York Archdiocese, and government records, Raised by the Church tells the social history of an era when hundreds of thousands of baby boomers passed through the orphanage system.
Through the story of one man, this book gives us a much-needed historical perspective on an American society that understood and acknowledged the community's need for a safe haven.