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The island of the foster children

The Reformatory School of Prince Carl and its activities at Gålö 1830-1939 (Gålöstiftelsen and The Foundation of Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius 2007-2012)


This project concern the very unique history of an industrial school in Sweden. Initially, the industrial school of Prince Carl was run as an institution in Stockholm. Established in 1830, it was the first industrial and reformatory school in Sweden and it housed both orphans and juvenile delinquents. However, due to contestations about the future prospects of institutionalized children, the directors decided to buy real estate on an island in the Stockholm archipelago in 1860. The tenants living on the island were forced by their new landlord to accept the children of the institution into their families as foster children. Foster care was awarded by reductions in rents, the size of which depended on the number of foster children, their sex and age. Consequently, foster care was made a part of the tenant contract.

Children from the city of Stockholm were moved to this rural area and, instead of an upbringing in an institution, they now faced more ‘natural’ childhoods within families. As a result, the institution not only moved from the city to a rural area, but it also made manifest the idea that children ought to be brought up in a family. It became an institution without an institution. It became an institution within families. It became a hybrid of institutional care and foster care.

The Gålö system can be related to international trends of child migration which flourished in the nineteenth century. The idea of exporting children who were a burden or a threat in cities to locations where they could become an asset as agricultural labourers was crucial to this movement. One of the most famous child migration programs was the “orphan trains” which from 1854 to 1929 transported some 250,000 children from the cities on the US east coast to settlement communities on the western frontier. This coincides with the period when the industrial school of Prince Carl moved some 1,000 children from Stockholm to Gålö (1860-1939). Gålö became a community distinguished by many children, and foster children outnumbered children living with their birth parents in this local community.


Project duration:


Contact person:
Johanna Sköld
+46 13 28 29 10


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Last updated: Tue Nov 18 12:08:37 CET 2014