• November 2000
  • Vol. 1, No. 7

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Study Considers History of Children's Bureau as Children's Advocate

The definition of childhood and the role that the Federal government has played in advocating for children has changed over the last century. Author Kristie Lindenmeyer provides an historical overview on these issues in an article for the Benton Foundation's Connect for Kids website.

Lindenmeyer's study examines the role of the Federal government in protecting the interests of children as a separate and distinct group.

Lindenmeyer reports that the Children's Bureau was established in 1912, making the United States the first nation to create a national agency mandated solely to investigate and report on the needs of children. The Bureau's "whole child" philosophy was promoted as a means to protect the right to childhood.

"Despite its weaknesses, the Children's Bureau significantly contributed to the growing idea that childhood was a time of special need and that society, not just families, had a responsibility to protect the rights of the 'whole child' for all young people," writes Lindenmeyer.

The Bureau focused on reducing infant mortality, the prevention of childhood diseases, child labor reform, and juvenile justice, among other issues. Despite strong popular support, the program was controversial among political leaders, and was greatly weakened during the Truman administration.

Lindenmeyer concludes that it may be a good idea to try a single agency approach again at the Federal level to address the changing needs of America's children in the next century.

To access this article online, visit: http://www.connectforkids.org/node/129.

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