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Cross CurrentsFamily Law and Policy in the US and England$
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Sanford N. Katz, John Eekelaar, and Mavis MacLean

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198268208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198268208.001.0001

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Child Welfare Policy and Practice in the United States 1950–2000

Child Welfare Policy and Practice in the United States 1950–2000

(p.546) (p.547) 25 Child Welfare Policy and Practice in the United States 1950–2000
Cross Currents

Martin Guggenheim

Oxford University Press

Although there has been a foster care system in place in the United States for well over 150 years, for much of that period—up to the 1970s—most children in foster care had been placed there by parents who were temporarily unable to care for them. Formal coercive state intervention to protect children from harm was left largely to the criminal legal system through prosecution for such criminal acts as homicide, assault, and endangering the welfare of a minor. Beginning in the 1830s, almshouses were built for the poor, the insane, and orphans. The few entities paying attention to children’s well-being in the United States were private associations, which were commonly affiliated with religious organisations. It was only in the twentieth century that specialised juvenile courts were formed. Outside of child labor protections, the federal government’s first venture into the child welfare arena was the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935. That law established the Aid to Dependent Children program, which offered cash assistance to enable poor, single mothers to care for their children.

Keywords:   United States, child welfare, foster care, juvenile courts, Aid to Dependent Children, homicide, almshouses, single mothers

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