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Child and Family Service Agencies.

1. Child welfare activities in the US began with provisions for homeless or neglected children. In the colonial period such children were either placed in mixed almshouses (public institutions in which the mentally ill, epileptic, alcoholic, aged, and others were also housed) or in families as apprentices or indentured servants. In the early 1800s the number of homeless children increased as a result of wars and epidemics of cholera and yellow fever. The inherent evils of almshouse care led to the establishment of children's institutions or orphanages, primarily under religious and nonsectarian auspices. Pub. provision was greatly expanded after the Civil War with the creation of homes for soldiers' and sailors' orphans and of state schools for dependent children. From the beginning, most state institutions placed children into family homes as soon as possible. In 1853 the Children's Aid Soc. of New York City became the first special agency for child placement in the US In subsequent decades many such agencies were est. under private auspices. Beginning with the 1909 White House Conf. on the Care of Dependent Children, there was concern for keeping the child at home, even if the home was poverty-stricken. Beginning 1911 with Illinois, most states soon est. a system of pub. aid for children in their own homes. These programs were superseded by the act entitled Aid to Dependent Children, inaugurated 1935 by the federal Social Security Act. This program and other provisions of the Soc. Security Act have greatly helped prevent child dependency.

2. Pub. agencies are concerned largely with financial assistance to dependent children and families. Private agencies, religious and nonsectarian, concentrate primarily on placement and counseling services. Most child welfare agencies originally operated by or affiliated with denominations have become nonsectarian either in effect or in fact. Exceptions include the RC, Jewish, Luth., and Episc. agencies.

3. Child welfare was first undertaken by Luths. in Am. 1737, when refugees from Salzburg, resettling in Georgia, set up an asylum for the needy. That yr. a plague of fever left many orphans who were cared for at Ebenezer, the first Prot. orphanage in Am. Later developments in Luth. welfare are noted in the following hist. and analysis of child and family services offered by agencies related to the LCMS

4. The first structured concern for dependent children in the Mo. Syn. was a fruit of faith of the Luth. Charities Assoc., an agency composed of congs. in the St. Louis, Missouri, area. The assoc. was est. and incorporated 1863 under leadership of C. F. W. Walther* to plan, structure, and coordinate the health and welfare ministry of the ch. Under guidance of the assoc. the first orphanage in the syn. was est. 1868 at Des Peres, Missouri. By 1900 eight orphanages had been est. in various sections of the country, primarily in the Midwest and Great Plains states. For almost 30 yrs. institutional care was the predominant form of service offered by Luth. agencies to dependent children.

5. A significant development occurred 1896 in the founding of the Children's Friend Soc. of Wisconsin, the first syn. agency concerned with placement of children in foster families (either private homes in which children would be cared for till reunion with parents could be effected, or homes in which children would become permanent members of families through legal adoption). Ten more agencies for foster care were created in a decade. Then building new orphanages ceased. While institutional care was to remain the primary service rendered to dependent children for many yrs., foster care programs of all agencies steadily increased in significance. The turning point was reached in the early 1940s, when for the first time the number of children in foster care exceeded those in congregate care. Increased awareness of the prime importance of the Christian family as the major influence on the soc., emotional, and spiritual development of children led to this change in emphasis.

6. Out of the awareness that no single service program could meet the needs of every dependent child, multifunction agencies began to arise in the late 1930s. Some were created through merger of previously separate orphanages and foster care agencies, others through broadening the range of agency services. All child welfare agencies affiliated with the syn. and est. since 1943 have offered a wide range of service programs.

7. The first child care programs of Luth. agencies tended to focus almost exclusively on children rather than on the family units of which they were part. This emphasis was understandable and realistic because most children served were orphans either in reality or in effect. Rehabilitiation of the family unit was impossible in most cases. This has changed dramatically. In 1951 less than 1 percent of the children in the care of Luth. agencies were either full or half orphans. Since the Great Depression of the 1930s the primary reasons for acceptance of new children into agency care have included severe marital discord, parent-child relationship problems, and similar social-emotional factors. Parental death and desertion have been insignificant factors since WW II. Thus today's dependent children do have families; Luth. agencies minister to the whole family. Family casework (counseling services designed to strengthen family life and help family mems. with their problems of adjustment) is now an integral service of almost all Luth. welfare agencies.

8. The typical Luth. agency offers these services: temporary foster care for children, adoptive placements, unwed mother services, and family counseling. In addition, some children's services offer institutional care for severely emotionally disturbed children. A few Luth. agencies also maintain group-care facilities for emergency shelter of dependent children, pending placement in suitable foster homes. Institutions or orphanages for long-term care of stable, healthy dependent children no longer exist in the Luth. Ch.

9. The ministry of Luth. agencies to dependent children operates on these principles: (1) the primary service focus is to rehabilitate the family unit, restoring the home to maximum spiritual, social, and emotional effectiveness; (2) prevention of the need for placement of the child away from the family unit wherever possible; (3) provision of a placement situation appropriate to the child's special needs, if placement proves to be necessary; (4) permanent adoptive placement of a child in a Luth. family when his own home cannot be restored. All Luth. agencies are family focused (primarily on the child's own family, and on substitute family experiences when these resources become necessary).

With rare exceptions, all Luth. welfare agencies are directly related to the welfare ministry of the congs. under whose auspices the services are rendered. The purpose of the agencies is to render services that the congs. are unable to provide because of state law requirements, extent of financial needs, professional skills required, or demands of confidentiality. Luth. welfare agencies supplement, but never supplant, the welfare ministry of the cong.

10. For a complete and current listing of Luth. child and family service agencies consult latest ed. of Lutheran Health and Welfare Directory (Nat. Luth. Soc. Welfare Conf., New York, New York); latest ed. of Lutheran Annual (CPH, St. Louis, Missouri). For information concerning trends and developments in these welfare fields consult latest ed. of The Social Work Yearbook (Russell Sage Foundation, New York, New York), issued in odd-numbered years. JCC

See also Charities, Christian, 5; Inner Mission.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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