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Raised by the Church: Growing up in New York City's Catholic Orphanages Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press (December 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823240223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823240227
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #948,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating and riveting story of how a boy grew into manhood despite family
alienation and the perils of institutional life."-William Seraile, Professor Emeritus, Lehman College, City University of New York

"I so enjoyed Ed's book. Having begun my career in social services, our paths have crossed for decades. Ed's touching and often humorous story offers a refreshingly positive look at the many truly good people in New York City's Catholic Church - people who are doing the good work in our society for no other reason than the fact that it's the right thing to do. Ed is the living result of these good intentions and, with his chosen career path, he is keeping the cycle of the good work going."-Jim McCann, Founder of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM and Celebrations.com

"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

"I have known Edward Rohs for over 25 years and I have never met a more compassionate man. Ed has helped hundreds of under privileged people survive and thrive despite all of the odds that they face. His story is compelling and motivational and a must read for anyone who has obstacles to overcome. That means anyone with a heart beat! Ed has overcome all odds in his fight to survive and if we are judged by the size of our deeds then Ed Rohs is the wealthiest man in the world."-Tom Penders, author of Dead Coach Walking

"Rohs describes how institutionalized life defined him. . .[His] tale is also that of New York City in his growing up years. He describes life in shifting city neighborhoods, as street gangs terrorized the orphan boys in what is now highly gentrified Brooklyn, and the wonders of life on the beach in Rockaway, Queens."-National Catholic Reporter

"[Rohs] 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

"The story of this one man supplies needed historical perspective on an American society that understood and acknowledge the community's need for a safe haven." -American Catholic Studies Newsletter

"Raised by the Church is the story of Brooklyn's post-war Catholic orphanage system. The book reminds us that every generation is challenged to find ways to take care of children whose parents cannot do so."-Catholic News Service

About the Author

Edward Rohs coordinates mental health service for the New York City Field Office of the New York State Office of Mental Health. He is a former psychotherapist and social worker for abused and abandoned children and their families. Ed's skill at interacting with people of all ages across cultures, combined with his irreverent sense of humor, has made him a much-loved role model and mentor to generations of children and their families.

Judith Estrine is a writer. She lives in New York City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rose Riley on February 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book from Amazon after seeing a review in a magazine This book was very educational for me. I become an adult in the fifty's and sixty's and did not realize we still had orphanages of this size. The Author gave a very vivid detail of his life as an orphan. It was interesting from the very beginning, I could not put the book down, I completed it in one sitting. The author did say that he thought foster homes were a better place to raise orphans
even if they were not perfect.That also surprised me. As a retired teacher I have recommended this book to many friends.I also recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the welfare of our young people.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By H. Arthur on December 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an amazing window into a world we know once existed in this country. A balanced and poignant look back at the well-meaning and vital Catholic response to the needs of abandoned infants and children, as experienced by one little boy, this book is a funny, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant portrait of resilience within an ever-evolving system.

I am a licensed social worker who has worked within the modern child welfare system, serving birth parents making adoption plans and families at-risk of foster care placement. Thankfully, open adoption has replaced orphanages for infants today, and even long term foster care has now been limited by the Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA). But Ed Rohs was born into abject poverty during a time in which a child could be abandoned to be raised, literally, by the Church. His reflections about the care he received and the limits of the system on which he relied are contextualized by the author's fascinating exploration of the history of child welfare and the nation's response to the needs of orphans from the earliest days. This history is brought to life through Ed's anecdotes and recollections of his childhood during the 1950s and 60s and then through his career as both an advocate for youth in the criminal justice system and then as a caregiver within the child serving Catholic system as an adult.

Given our evolving awareness of the predominance of horrifying child sexual abuse within the Church, it comes as no surprise that Ed experienced abuse within the multiple institutions in which he resided.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By b winter on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book very much. The history was very interesting, the book was heartfelt, and it was easy and quick to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sojourner on August 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not everyone will find this book as engrossing as I did. Because my father grew up in a Catholic orphan home in Brooklyn, I found it fascinating,even though the conditions described in the book were a generation later than his era. Despite the nuns' devoted and sometimes heroic care for their daily needs, children who lived in these institutional settings must have been lonely indeed. It wasn't until later that group homes were developed, providing a sense of sharing and community for youngsters without homes of their own. For anyone interested in this subject, this book was an eye-opener.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By RM on December 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book had a lot of resonance for me, looking back on the Church I knew in the 50s and 60s, and the kind and yet demanding nuns who taught me in grammar school.

The authors give us a fascinating inside look at the Catholic institutions and dedicated Irish nuns who took on the care of thousands of orphaned or abandoned children in Brooklyn from the 1840s through the post-World War II years. It's sometimes painful, sometimes inspiring to follow the life and times of this abandoned child--a sort of orphan Everyman--as he grew up and "aged out" of a series of institutional homes. Although he, too, encountered abuse, the kindness of a few individuals along the way made all the difference in a mostly benign, though rather impersonal environment. It was interesting to see how he struggled to achieve independence, both practical and emotional, and went on to develop a successful career helping others.
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