25Past,Present,and Future Roles of Child Protective Services
public responsibility for the poor in thehands of local townspeople.
The doctrineknown as
, or the ruler’s powerto protect minors, was viewed as justificationfor governmental intervention into theparent-child relationship, either to enforceparental duty or to supply substitute care forthe child.
The attention of community lead-ers, philanthropists, and social reformers who were concerned about child abuse andneglect focused primarily on the children of the poorest families and on those who wereorphaned, abandoned, or unsupervised.Children of the “unworthy poor” were savedfrom developing slothful ways by separationfrom their parents through indenture orplacement in institutions.
Actions taken onbehalf of those children were typically justi-fied on moral grounds, but they also servedas potent instruments of social control.During most of the nineteenth century,destitute children were sent to institutionsoperated by private, charitable organiza-tions. For instance, foundling hospitals tocare for unwanted babies opened in somecommunities in the early nineteenth century.Many more poor or abandoned children were sent to live in almshouses—facilitiesestablished in the 1800s in many largecities to house the very poor of all ages. Almshouses provided a minimal standard of care to orphaned or needy children and toimpoverished, insane, or diseased adults.
Typically, when the children reached 9 or10 years of age, they were either indenturedto families as servants or apprenticed out tolearn a skill and pay for their care by theirfree labor.
The second half of the nineteenth cen-tury saw increasing criticism of the impactsthat the unsanitary, chaotic almshouses hadon children, especially the very young, whosuffered high mortality rates there. Privatecharities and religious groups establishedorphanages or children’s asylums to sepa-rate needy children from adults and protect them from the disease, maltreatment, andexploitation that faced them in almshouses. A number of states passed laws requiringthat children be moved from almshouses tosuch children’s institutions. The care of needy children was considered a publicresponsibility and so was financed withpublic dollars, although private agenciesprovided the care.The demands that urbanization, indus-trialization, and immigration placed on poorand working-class families in the latenineteenth century left many children unat-tended. Child vagrancy became an increas-ingly visible problem. In 1853, a youngminister named Charles Loring Braceresponded to the huge numbers of home-less, ragged, hungry children prowlingthe streets of New York City by forming theChildren’s Aid Society to rescue those chil-dren. During a span of 75 years, theChildren’s Aid Society sent more than150,000 orphans by train to live in Christianhomes in rural areas, often in the Midwest, where their labor was valued by farm fami-lies.
Rural states also relied on family place-ments to care for their own homeless ordependent children. For instance, between1866 and 1899, the state of Ohio established50 homes in which farm families cared for wards of the county at a cost of one dollar per week per child.
These homes can be seen asprecursors of today’s foster care system.In the eighteenth and nineteenth cen-turies, poor and immigrant parents wererarely treated with compassion. Those facinghard times received little help. When there was a lack of supervision, a home was unsafe,or a family was not economically viable,the children were often removed. Someresourceful families escaped detection by the authorities, and others received helpthrough ties to religious communities, assis-tance societies for ethnic immigrant groups,or the nascent political machines in urbanareas. Most families, however, faced theirtroubles on their own because help was not readily available, or because they wanted toavoid the risk of losing their children.
1877 to 1920: AnticrueltySocieties
The forerunners of the child protective ser- vices (CPS) agencies that today investigateand respond to child abuse and neglect wereprivate associations known as “anticruelty
Children of the “unworthy poor” were saved from developing slothful ways by separation from their parents through indenture or placement in institutions.