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The Evolution of Child Welfare


As part of our research into child welfare reform in Nebraska, we felt it would be helpful to put the current action in historically context.  As a result, Voices for Children has compiled a timeline of the Evolution of Child Welfare – both in Nebraska and Nationally.  The timeline appears as an appendix to the LR 37 Report from the Health and Human Services Committee released today.

From the introduction to the timelines:

Formal, governmental structures for protecting and providing for vulnerable children are relatively new in the history of the United States. For years, private agencies provided these services and there was no precedent for providing resources to families, removing children from dangerous situations, or prosecuting adults for child abuse or neglect.

It was not until the Great Depression of the 1930s, when many nonprofits went out of business, that the government began to address child safety in a systematic way.  In 1935 Douglas Falconer, a social worker, wrote:

“For many years responsibility for child protection was left almost entirely to private agencies. […]Great sections of child population were untouched by them and in many other places the service rendered was perfunctory and of poor standard. […] The belief has become increasingly accepted that if children are to be protected from neglect the service must be performed by public agencies.”

With no other entity to step in, the federal government passed the Social Security Act of 1935 and began to provide resources to states to provide for child welfare.


Download the Child Welfare Timeline

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