Foundlings, asylums, almshouses and orphanages: early roots of child protection
Schneider, Dona Susan M. Macey
Middle States Geographer, Vol.35 (2002)
Today, the United States has entire industries devoted to clothing, educating, feeding, and amusing children. While most Americans agree, at least in principal if not with their pocketbooks, that the physical and emotional health and welfare of children should be a national priority, such concern was not always the case. Society’s interest in the plight of children, including their very survival, is a relatively recent phenomenon. To appreciate this phenomenon and the concomitant rise in the number of facilities devoted exclusively to the care of children in the contemporary United States, this paper explores the earliest roots of institutions for child protection. It begins with events such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity and proceeds through changing economic and social expectations as exemplified by the rise of cities and the early part of the Industrial Revolution. Future research efforts will expand on this theme and time frame.