Child Protection From the Colonial Period to 1875

John E. B. Myers

in Child Protection in America

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780195169355
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199893348 | DOI:
Child Protection From the Colonial Period to 1875

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This chapter describes the era before organized child protection, which began in 1875. Prior to that date, many abused and neglected children went without protection, although there was never a time when children were completely bereft of help. Criminal law always punished brutal physical abuse and sexual assault. Early in American history, a clear distinction was not observed between child maltreatment and poverty. Local officials had authority to apprentice dependent children, some of whom were maltreated and others who were simply poor. America's first institution to care for large numbers of poor and maltreated children was the almshouses or poor house. Beginning in 1729, an alternative to the almshouse emerged, the orphanage. During the 19th century, orphanages grew in number and spread across the nation. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, reformers argued that dependent children should not live in orphanages, but should live instead in foster homes.

Keywords: almshouse; dependent children; orphanage; foster care; poor children; Charles Loring Brace; New York Children's Aid Society; orphan trains

Chapter.  6478 words.  Illustrated.

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