In the spring of 1835, at the pier of Buffalo's Canal District, the most dangerous square mile in developing America, 17 year old Ciara Sloane steps onto land, alone, save for her younger sisters, orphaned at sea on the voyage from Ireland. Turned away by her only family on this side of the Atlantic, Ciara is admitted to the almshouse, along with her younger sisters, as the nursemaid, charged with bringing order to the chaos that is the children's ward. With the help of the Christian Ladies Charitable Society, led by the formidable Mrs. Farrell, and the compassionate and charming Dr. Michael Nolan, Ciara is able to transform the children's ward from a place of loneliness and despair to one of optimism and hope. Orphans and Inmates is the first novel in a trilogy about the Sloane sisters and their experiences at the Erie County Almshouse and the Buffalo Orphan Asylum. The story explores the largely ignored origins of the social welfare system through the experiences of those who were most profoundly affected by poverty, namely women and children. It depicts the ruthlessness, depravity, compassion and hope experienced by those forced to seek institutional relief.