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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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