child welfare

child welfare, services provided for the care of disadvantaged children. Foundling institutions for orphans and abandoned children were the earliest attempts at child care, usually under religious auspices. At first the goal was to provide minimum physical subsistence, but services have been expanded to include social and psychological help. In the late 18th cent., a movement developed around the idea that children should not simply be regarded as small adults, and such educators as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Froebel were discussing children's special needs at the same time that the Industrial Revolution intensified the nonagricultural exploitation of child labor. In the 19th cent. many religious and private institutions were organized to take care of children who were orphaned, destitute, or handicapped. In child-welfare legislation, the British Children's Charter Act of 1908 and the Ohio Children's Code Commission of 1911 marked a new era. The idea that it was the responsibility of the community to provide children with the advantages that their parents could not supply is a 20th-century development. In this category are free school lunches; medical, dental, and psychiatric services and child guidance clinics in schools; playgrounds; children's courts; special schools for handicapped children; and care in foster families for children of broken homes. Infant and child clinics are often provided by municipalities. Many social welfare agencies finance summer camps for both healthy and handicapped children. In the United States child welfare services are administered through the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. A series of new child welfare programs were passed by Congress in the 1960s. These included the Child Nutrition Act, the Head Start Program, and the Foster Grandparent Program. The International Union for Child Welfare (1920) organized relief for child victims of major international and national disasters. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF, 1946) targets malnutrition and helps reestablish children's services destroyed in war. Current child welfare concerns include child abuse and child care (see day nursery).

See J. Packman, Child Care Needs and Numbers (1968); D. Zietz, Child Welfare (2d ed. 1969); L. Costin, Child Welfare (new ed. 1972); A. Kahn and S. Kamerman, Social Services in International Perspective (1980), Helping America's Families (1982), and Child Support (1987); V. Zelizer, Pricing the Priceless Child (1985); A. Kadushin and J. A. Martin, Child Welfare Services (4th ed. 1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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