Child Welfare League of America

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The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) grew out of child welfare advocates' demands for better communication and regulation among agencies and institutions serving children. Its development over more than a decade reflected the gradual professionalization of social work in the early twentieth century and paralleled a period of growing emphasis on the issues of dependent children, child protection, and related problems. During the 1909 White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children, delegates cited the need for a national child welfare agency. At the 1915 National Conference of Charities and Corrections, Christian Carl Carstens delivered a paper on the need for standards in child welfare work. In response, delegates from fourteen child welfare organizations founded the Bureau for the Exchange of Information among Child Helping Agencies (BEI). Initially, the BEI operated with funding from the Child-Helping Department of the Russell Sage Foundation. It became an independent agency in 1917.

In December, 1919, attendees at an annual child welfare conference decided to establish a national organization and to seek funding for the project. In 1920, the Commonwealth Fund agreed to provide at least $25,000 per year for four years. The BEI accepted the grant and the mission to establish a national child welfare organization to improve children's services and distribute literature. The Bureau's members adopted the first article of a proposed constitution in 1920, calling the new organization the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). Carstens was appointed executive director in 1920, a post he held until his death in 1939. The CWLA officially began operations in January, 1921. Organizational details were completed at that year's National Conference of Social Work. Sixty five organizations, representing a wide range of principles and practices, became charter members. Ida Curry of the State Charities Aid Association of New York was elected the first president.

In 1923, CWLA adopted a statement of purpose and formalized the services it would provide. These included: studying child welfare in order to develop better standards and methods; providing information and assistance to social welfare agencies and non-social service groups; and promoting community planning for children's work. The organization took a position on the long-standing debate over institutionalizing and "placing out" of dependent children. Standards promulgated by the CWLA stressed temporary rather than permanent institutional care for dependent children and the preservation of the family. At the same time, the CWLA recognized the continuing need for children's institutions in the total child care system. In order to improve the institutional system, it conducted surveys of child care facilities and developed standards and guidelines. In 1924, CWLA established a children's case work department and, by the end of the decade, it was conducting regional conferences for workers in the field and holding training institutes for executives and experienced staff workers.

Following Carstens' death in 1939, CWLA went through a period of self-evaluation. It established a Special Committee on Reorganization to study its mission in light of emerging government programs. The committee also studied whether the League should disband. In 1940, CWLA affirmed its commitment to national work in all areas of child welfare and stressed the importance of maintaining a major non-governmental agency. The reorganization committee proposed continuing the league's information exchange, as well as its accrediting and consulting services. It also recommended: establishing a personnel placement bureau, preparing materials for social work training in child welfare, setting standards, promoting child welfare legislation and advising agencies on legislation, and advocating for child welfare issues. Howard W. Hopkirk succeeded Carstens as executive director and served until 1948. Continuity in leadership remained a hallmark of the League. Hopkirk's successor, Joseph Reid, was executive director from 1953 until 1978. Major reevaluation of League activities accompanied administrative transitions in 1939 to 1940 and in 1953 to 1955 as the CWLA reshaped its program to meet members' needs and changes in child welfare programs.

CWLA operated on an increasingly national level throughout the 1930s and subsequent decades. The league developed ties with governmental agencies, such as the United States Children's Bureau, and added new program areas, including adoption, minority children, and day care. During World War II, it assumed the work and concerns of the National Association of Day Nurseries in promoting day care for children of working mothers. Work in this field continued to grow after the war, often in concert with the Children's Bureau and with organized labor. A Ford Foundation grant in 1959 underwrote an important nationwide study of day care. A CWLA study of adoption culminated in a conference in 1955. In the late 1950s, the League worked with member agencies to find adoptive homes for Native American children. In the mid-1960s, it developed a clearing house that subsequently became the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America (ARENA). It continued to promote foster care and emphasize the need to avoid placement in an institution, particularly of young children. Research became an increasingly vital part of the League's total program, as indicated by the creation of a separate research department in 1963.

The institution of Aid to Families with Dependent Children and other federal welfare programs during the 1960s and 1970s resulted in an enlarged research, program development, and advocacy role for CWLA. A committee studied needed improvements in public child care agencies. The League also took particular interest in Aid to Dependent Children, investigating a 1960 incident involving Louisiana's administration of the program and later joining in an amicus curiae brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case. The CWLA also played an important role in the development of child protective services and in federal legislation aimed at child abuse and neglect. .

During the early 1970s, the CWLA and the Family Service Association of America investigated the possibility of a merger, but, ultimately, decided against the plan. In 1976, CWLA merged with the Florence Crittenton Association of America, a federation of maternity homes and services for unmarried parents. From this merger, the Florence Crittenton Division of the Child Welfare League of America was formed. The League was also instrumental in founding the Council on Accreditation for Services for Families and Children (COA) between 1973 and 1976. The COA, which operated briefly as a joint body of CWLA and the Family Service Association of America, became an independent entity in 1977. CWLA continues to produce standards and other resources, conduct research, facilitate information sharing, and influence public policy and legislation in virtually all areas of child and family welfare, juvenile justice, and children's behavioral health

Child Welfare League of America Records, 1900-2003, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries. Romanofsky, Peter, ed.Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions: Social Service Organizations. Westport: Greenwood Publishing, 1978. pp. 224-230. Gardner, Emily. "The History of the Child Welfare League of America, Inc., 1915-1987" Unpublished manuscript in the Child Welfare League of America Records, Box 93. Additional information was obtained from the Child Welfare League of America website (http://www.cwla.org)

From the guide to the Child Welfare League of America records, 1900-2003, (University of Minnesota Libraries. Social Welfare History Archives [swha])

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. Child Welfare League of America records, 1900-1981. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
creatorOf Washington (State). Dept. of Social Security. Washington State Department of Social Security's collection of the file copies of some the social services studies and reports, 1936-1947 1940-1944. Washington State Library, Office of Secretary of State
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America records, 1900-2003 University of Minnesota Libraries. Social Welfare History Archives
referencedIn Alexander W. McAlister Papers, 1886-1946 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Children's Home Society of Florida. Children's Home Society of Florida collection, 1886-2000 1902-1997. University of Central Florida, UCF
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1959-1972. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), b. 1891. Papers, 1870-1978 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Milton Caniff Collection, 1805-2007, 1910-1988 The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
referencedIn Additional papers of Mary Steichen Calderone, (inclusive), (bulk), 1914-1989, 1960-1989 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Elmer L. Andersen papers., 1948-1989. Minnesota Historical Society
referencedIn Wickenden, Elizabeth, 1909-2001. Elizabeth Wickenden papers, 1885-2001. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Christian Carl Carstens papers, 1919-1939 University of Minnesota Libraries. Social Welfare History Archives
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. Report of a study of the Children's Bureau of Delaware. University of Delaware Library, Hugh M Morris Library
referencedIn Emma Octavia Lundberg Papers, 1834-1971 Columbia University. Rare Book an Manuscript Library
referencedIn Richard Allaman Papers, 1919-1968 Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives
referencedIn Papers, 1898-1975 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. Child Welfare League of America microfilm [microfilm], 1914-1955. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Harleigh B. Trecker Papers., undated, 1921-1981. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Barrett Day Care Center Papers, 1942-1995 Special Collections, University of Virginia Library
referencedIn Child Welfare Administrators of New Orleans. Child Welfare Administrators of New Orleans records, 1966-1975. Tulane University, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library
referencedIn Children's Home Society of Florida Collection, 1886-2000, 1902-1997 Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries,
referencedIn Children's Friend and Family Services, Inc. (Salem, Mass.). Children's Friend and Family Services, Inc. (Salem, Mass.) Records, 1839-2003. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Unitarian Service Committee. Executive Director. Records, 1941-1951 Andover-Harvard Theological Library
referencedIn Administrative Records, 1941-1952. Andover-Harvard Theological Library
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. General report, Oregon child welfare survey, circa 1949. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. Child Welfare League of America books 1910-1980. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Carstens, C. C. (Christian Carl), 1865-1939. Christian Carl Carstens papers, 1919-1939. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. General report of the survey of services now rendered to dependent, neglected and delinquent children of Delaware : with recommendations / made by Child Welfare League of America, Inc. University of Delaware Library, Hugh M Morris Library
referencedIn Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. Papers, 1892-1990 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Andersen, Elmer L., 1909-. Elmer L. Andersen papers, 1948-1989. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
creatorOf Child Welfare League of America. Child Welfare League of America records, supplement 1, 1919-1994 (bulk 1970-1990). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Allaman, Richard. person
associatedWith Andersen, Elmer L., 1909-. person
associatedWith Calderone, Mary Steichen, 1904-1998 person
associatedWith Carstens, C. C. (Christian Carl), 1865-1939. person
associatedWith Children's Bureau of Delaware. corporateBody
associatedWith Children's Friend and Family Services, Inc. (Salem, Mass.) corporateBody
associatedWith Children's Home Society of Florida. corporateBody
associatedWith Child Welfare Administrators of New Orleans. corporateBody
associatedWith Delaware Citizens Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Delaware Citizens Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), 1891-1978 person
associatedWith Florence Crittenton Division of the Child Welfare League of America corporateBody
associatedWith International Union for Child Welfare corporateBody
associatedWith Lane County (Or.). Public Welfare Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Lundberg, Emma O. (Emma Octavia) person
associatedWith McAlister, Alexander W., 1862-1946 person
correspondedWith Milton Caniff person
associatedWith National Association of Day Nurseries, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith National Association of Services to Unmarried Parents corporateBody
associatedWith National Children's Home and Welfare Association corporateBody
associatedWith National Council on Illegitimacy corporateBody
associatedWith Oregon. State Public Welfare Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. person
associatedWith Trecker, Harleigh B. person
associatedWith Unitarian Service Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Federal Security Agency. corporateBody
associatedWith Universalist Service Committee. Executive Director. corporateBody
associatedWith Washington (State). Dept. of Social Security. corporateBody
associatedWith Wickenden, Elizabeth, 1909-2001. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States 00 US
Delaware DE US
Lane County OR US
Subject
Child welfare--History--Sources
Adoption--History--Sources
Foster home care--United States--History--Sources
Child welfare--United States--History--Sources
Child welfare
Institutional care--United States--History--Sources
Day care--In infancy and childhood--United States--History--Sources
Social work with African American children--United States--History--Sources
Day care--In infancy and childhood--History--Sources
Institutional care--History--Sources
Social work with African American children--History--Sources
Foster home care--History--Sources
Abused children--Services for--History--Sources
Children--History
Juvenile delinquency
Child welfare--History
Adoption--United States--History--Sources
Family violence--History--Sources
Occupation
Activity

Corporate Body

Active 1909

Active 1972

Americans

English

Information

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