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Child Advocacy in Colonial Times

Children have long been the smallest victims of society’s social problems.  In early times, children were seen as property, either of their father, or  caregiver, if the parents were deceased, or unwilling to care for them. This led to many orphans being cast into inappropriate settings, such as poor houses, or living on the streets.  Another alternative for orphans was indentured servitude. Many children were brought to the new world via ship and many did not survive the voyage to the new world.  It is estimated that most children under the age of seven  died from sickness, starvation/thirst,  or from accidental causes, such as drowning.  Many were thought to be sent to the new world after being stolen from their homelands and placed into life as an indentured servants (Bloch, 1974). In the early 1800’s, orphanages were created with help from religious and charitable organizations.  This concept gaveway to the practise of placing orphans to live with foster families.  This proved to have problems of its on due to lack of proper screening of prospective foster parents  and rarely, if any monitoring for the well being of the children placed within these homes (pewtrusts.org).

Children frequently lived in poverty, with inadequate food, clothing, or housing.  Since children were seen as property until roughly 1874, many endured beatings, at the hand of their caregiver.  Child Abuse was brought to the forefront of our nation when in Mary Ellen Wilson, an eight year old foster child who was beaten daily while at her foster home.  Since there was no organization in place to protect children from abuse during this time, the responsibility was taken by attorneys whom provided services for ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  With the assistance of these lawyers, Mary Ellen’s abuser was convicted to a one year prison sentence.  This led to the formation of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to children (Http://www.enotes.com/family-law-reference/child-abuse-child-safety-discipline).  Thanks to these concerned lawyers, action was taken to finally protect our smallest citizens!




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Growing Awareness of Children in Need

AC3_dutchcostumesIn 1832, the New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and other Workingmen expressed concern with children working relentlessly in factories without any time for play and by 1842, states had set ten hour work daylimit for children (The Child Labor Education Project). Many children were illiterate because they worked so many long, hard hours. I found an interecting video clip while researching this topic at http://www.history.com/topics/child-labor/videos#history-of-labor-day).

The first public school was opened in Chicago, during the 1830’s.  The “successful implementation of a birth certificate program and a growing labor movement in Chicago and Illinois focused enforcement on child labor regulations” (Children and the Law).  This allowed stricter enforcement of school attendance thusincreasing the childrens’ opportunity to better themselves by gaining an education.

Jane Addams was was the first American women to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  The efforts she made by opening Hull House and a life long fight to help those in need, earned her this honor (Childhood Lost-Child Labor During the Industrial Revolution).  We should be very grateful to those such as she, who led the fight for our children’s rights, which have been established today.




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Social Reform’s Effect on Children during the 19th Century

children of progressive eraChildren  were found laboring along side women in many of the Nation’s factories.  Times were hard and working conditions within these factories were unacceptable.  The influx of immigrants seeking a better life  filled the labor market.  During the Gilded Age, industrialization grew at a rapid rate (Jansson, B. S. (2012). The Reluctant Welfare State. Brooks Cole).   Nearing the end of the 19th century, scores of children worked long, hard hours in these factories, as farm laborers and other jobs as well.  In 1836, Massachussets’s efforts entailed a law passed that encouraged children to receive at leat some education during the year. This resulted in a ten hour work day effort being encouraged for children (http://Massaflcio.org/1843-Massachussets-legislature-passes-firts-child-labor-law).  Children were thought to be “more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike” (Child Labor Public Education Project).  Due to rising concerns with the this, many factories were relocated in the American South.  There was no specific law in each state to protect children and if there were any laws pertaining to this at all, it was not always strictly enforced (Child Labor Public Education Project).  Society had cast a blind eye to much of the injustices happening to children within unsafe working condtions.

The Orphan Trains were initiated in 1869, by Charles Loring Brace, due to many children roaming homeless and neglected.  He sough to help these children by placing them with “morally upright farm families.” This is understood to be the first movement of Foster Care (The Orphan Trains).  Child Abuse was recognized in the case of Samuel Fletcher, who was abused by his parents, and they were fined for this (http://0101.nccdn.net/1_5/03a/170/389/LEADERSHIP-timeline-timeline.11×17.pdf). Advocates, Jane Addams and Ellen Starr, established the nursery care, kindergarten and special interest groups for young boys and girls, through the creation of the Hull House, in 1889 (THE SOCIAL WELFARE HISTORY PROJECT).   Strides to improve childrens’ quality of education were made through efforts of John Dewey, who thought education should provide the opportunity for  childrens’ growth and better prepare them for adulthood (http://www.faqs.org/childhood/co-Fa/Dewey-John-1859-1952.html) .




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How the Progressive Era affected Child Advocacy

child-labor-coal-mines1The Social Reform movement dubbed Progressivism sparked change in how America felt about providing “outdoor relief” for those Americans in need.  Mothers’ Pensions was the beginning of this change.  It was a modest start to reform, with few pensions granted by 1919.  This was a breakthrough in child advocacy because it addressed how many long hours widowed mothers spent away from their children when working and the increased likelihood that some of the children would be placed out of the home due to inability to care and provide for them (Jansson, B.S. (2012). The Reluctant Welfare State. Brooks Cole.

The Juvenile Court System was also established during this time.  Per Jansson, Judge Ben Lindsey, among other social reformers, felt that children should not be placed with criminals of adult age  and that the incarceration of children with adults did nothing to address underlying causes of their misconduct.  Any underlying problems within a child’s family life or school, was not receiving attention, therefore it was not being addressed (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/341932/Ben-B-Lindsey) . Due to lack of resources and adequate training in this area, the National Committee on Child Labor was created, in an effort to address these issues (http://www.nationalchildlabor.org/history.html).  This commitee’s purpose was to address concerns with child labor and its lack of regulations.  By 1912, it finally became a reality and was given a exceedingly modest budget.  Not known to embrace hot topic issues of concern, its Sheppard Towner legislation did bring much needed resources to expectant mothers and “young children” (Jansson, B.S. (2012). The Reluctant Welfare State. Brooks Cole.  This legislation had support from well known reformers such as Julia Clifford Lathrop, Grace Abbott and Jeanette Rankin.  This legislation was enacted in  an effort to reduce maternal &  infant mortality rates within our nation (http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Re-So-/Sheppard-Towner-Maternity-and-Infancy-Act) . By 1929, support for this program had declined and it ended due to this (http://womenshistory.about.com/od/laws/a/sheppard-towner.htm).  Upon looking back at our Nation’s history during this Era, one can see the progression of child advocacy efforts and like now, more efforts are needed to protect our Nation’s children.

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Today’s Children within our Social Welare System

royalty-free-school-children-clipart-illustration-1098854Efforts at protecting America’s children have come a long way since Colonial times, yet still more needs to be done.  The Social Security Act of 1935 enabled grants to be given to States to provide aid to dependant children through Title IV provision. The Title V provision allowed funds to be paid in order for States to broaden its program of services to children and mothers who were hard hit by economic trouble.  A second portion of this provision enabled federal funding to assist states provide broadened and better services for disabled children, and funding to aid child welfare services to enable better care to be provided for children in need (Jansson, B.S. (2012).   The Reluctant Welfare State. Brooks Cole.

I would like to take a look at child advocacy efforts within the last fifty years.  Perhaps one of the most significant contributors to this effort is Dr. C. Henry Kempe.  He, along with his co-workers were trail blazers  in identifying child abuse and the naming of Battered Child Syndrome.  This work helped people to better understand what child abuse is and how to recognize it.  He is a tremendous advocate for all children and a his work continues today through The Kempe Center (http://www.kempe.org/missionhistory) which is located within the University of Colarado’s Department of Pediatrics.

On a more local note, I would like to mention Patricia Wolfe, a  North Carolina child advocate,  who served the community of Mecklenberg County, in an effort to help children who were in need.  Through Ms. Wolfe’s efforts, Pat’s Place was opened  as a child advocacy center which has a special focus on helping children who have been victims of sexual abuse (http://patsplaceac.org/History.aspx?sid=13&pid=15&red=yes)  and over 2,300 children have been assisted through this agency since it’s opening.  Sadly, Ms. Wolfe passed away in in 2000 (Pat’s Place child advocacy center).

I was saddened when I read some of the National statistics concerning child abuse.  According to Pat’s Place website “a child is abused or neglected in the United states every 40 seconds” and “The national rate of child abuse (physical, emotional, sexual and neglect) is ten times greater than the rate of cancer.”  Some North Carolina statistics include “Every five minutes a child is abused or neglected in North Carolina.” Even more disturbing, “in 2011, Child Advocacy Centers (23) in North Carolina, such as Pat’s Place, investigated 6,463 new child abuse cases ( a 26% increase over 2010) (http://patsplace.org/Local-Statistics.aspx?sis=39&pid=14&red=yes).

While searching for information on child advocacy efforts, I ran across numerous websites with lots of pertinent information, statistics and links to efforts being made for Child Advocacy within our country today.  I would like to list just a few of theses links for those who might be interested in looking more closely at this issue, which continues to affect our children.

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Hello world!

Hello.  This is a class project for my American Social welfare class.  I hope you are able to gain knowledge from it!