Boston's Wayward Children: Social Services for Homeless Children, 1830-1930

By Peter C. Holloran | Go to book overview

Introduction

The welfare of children ranks as one of the highest priorities and most pressing social problems facing Americans. Numerous legislative hearings, reports, and statistics in the media and articles in professional journals are striking evidence of the national concern for our children and the fate of the American family. In 1984, more than 3 million children were victims of child abuse and neglect, and 1.5 million children were subjects of juvenile court proceedings. Beyond the human misery involved, the financial burden is staggering. The child welfare and juvenile justice system costs $15 billion annually in direct costs and billions more indirectly. In 1985 taxpayers spent over $1.24 billion to house 49,000 juvenile offenders in 1,000 public institutions and an uncounted sum for 34,000 other juveniles in 2,000 private institutions. Despite our avowed concern for our children, something is wrong, and historians now wonder if it was always so.1

The child welfare problem was the subject of White House conferences in 1909, 1919, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1970, and 1980. There will probably be another in the 1990s. At each conference, our national leaders patiently listened to expert opinions by scores of specialists on childhood, adolescence, and the family. They agreed that the largely informal, nongovernmental, localist approach to child welfare should be abandoned, despite Americans' deep-seated fears of government encroachment on the basic values of voluntarism, individualism, localism, and family autonomy.2

Child welfare is a complicated subject that includes all the professional activities of individuals, groups, and communities to restore and enhance a minor's capacity for social functioning. The popular and professional literature on child welfare is as ancient as it is voluminous. But it offers agreement on one point, at least; that America fails to provide for the well- being of children and adolescents without adequate parents or guardians. Most experts claim that children have always been at risk of parental neglect, abuse, and exploitation in the family, and any surrogate family provided has been punitive and custodial rather than benign and wholesome. Although the field of social work lacks historical perspective, this is an accurate estimate. Images of harmonious American family life are not borne out by historical evidence, as I will demonstrate. Until recently,

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Boston's Wayward Children: Social Services for Homeless Children, 1830-1930
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations 9
  • Introduction 13
  • 1 - Boston Protestant Charity for Children 24
  • 2 - Boston Catholic Charity for Children 63
  • 3 - Wayward Girls in Boston 105
  • 4 - Separate but Unequal: Black, Jewish, and Italian Child-Saving 137
  • 5 - The Boston Juvenile Court and Clinic 197
  • Epilogue 247
  • Notes 255
  • Select Bibliography 303
  • Index 321
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