Foster Care: Background and History
The history of foster care can be traced back to the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, caring for dependent children is referred to as a duty under law. According to early Christian church records, the church paid the widows with whom orphaned children lived. In the 1500s the English Poor Laws provided for placing poor children into indentured service till they reached the age of majority. This practice was adopted by the United States. Although children in indentured serve were often exploited, it was much better than the having them stay in unsanitary conditions in shelters where they learnt nothing and were under the care of abusive caretakers.
Charles Loring Brace founded the Children’s Aid Society in New York City in 1853 after seeing numerous immigrant children spending the night on the streets of the city. He placed these children with families who were willing to provide free homes for them. These families often required the children to work for long hours in exchange for a place to sleep. This is seen as the first step in the development of the foster care system in the United States.
In the 1900s, foster parents started receiving payments from social agencies who also supervised them. Foster homes were subject to periodic inspections by the government while efforts were made to enable the child to return home. Today foster parents are considered part of the team effort to care for dependent children.