The foster care system has been around for quite a while. While it didn’t start out as we know it today, it had similar goals and motives. You may be surprised at how United States foster care all began and how it has progressed since its earliest days.
English law established in 1562 allowed children from poor families to be placed with wealthy families—as indentured servants. Once the children became of age, they were allowed to go and live their lives as their own. While this type of servitude was an upgrade from its predecessor, it obviously wasn’t the best situation for the child. Previous to this arrangement, orphaned children were placed in almshouses. There, they did not learn a trade—which was critical for later survival. One of the reasons that these setups weren’t ideal was that it opened up the children to abuse and exploitation.
A minister from New York—in 1853—started the free foster home movement. Charles Loring Brace saw a need, and acted. At that time, a large number of immigrant children were without homes, shelter, or food. Many children were sleeping on the streets each night. Brace then advertised the need for families to willingly provide these children with free homes and free food. Even though it had progressed from early indenture in the 1500s, it still had a long way to go. At this time, it was still considered that the child was indentured.
Slowly, the foster care program began to take shape. The government became interested and involved themselves in finding and providing homes to these homeless children. Soon, licensing was required to make sure the children were taken care of in a respectable, responsible, and loving manner.
Starting in the early 1900s, these social and governmental agencies began to monitor and supervise foster parents. The time of placing a child with any willing family was over. These agencies began taking the child’s welfare and needs into account, and started to create reports and records.
The foster care system has come a long way. With such humble and heartfelt beginnings, it has grown to be more about the child’s needs. Modernly, the foster care system all started with Charles Loring Brace and his aching heart for the homeless children of the New York streets.