Author of “America’s Youngest Hostages” comes to Springfield for book signing

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The man who wrote a book about Springfield’s landmark child adoption program, came back to the city where it all began on Thursday. 

Australian author Ian Keldoulis came back to Springfield Thursday to sign copies of his new book, “America’s Youngest Hostages.”  The book recounts the creation of “Downey Side,” a national adoption agency dedicated to finding loving homes for special-needs children in foster care. 

“It’s a story where the entire community really got motivated and worked together and solved a big problem all on their own, and I think that’s a great story,” said Keldoulis. 

Thursday’s book signing event took place at the Bishop Marshal center at St. Michael’s Cathedral. Retired Hampden county sheriff Michael Ashe opened his home to “Downey Side” orphans in the early 1960s. 

“Be a house parent for eight homeless children,” Ashe said. “They were 13 and 14 years old and my wife and I along with my four kids moved into Dartmouth Terrace in Springfield.” 

Jim Minelli was among the homeless boys living in the Ashe household more than 50-years-ago. 

“Stability prepared me to realize the consequences, you’ve got to follow the rules it takes you a while to learn,” said Minelli. 

Since the start of the group homes in the 1960s, Downey Side has arranged hundreds of adoptions in Western Massachusetts. Father Paul Engel founded Downey Side. 

Engel told 22News, “Well, I thank God I could help a few people and I would hope to continue as good as I can.” 

“America’s Youngest Hostages” details Father Engel’s conviction that all children have the right to a loving forever family. 

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