UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Protective services for children : changing patterns in children's protective services in the United States and Canada, 1874-1954, and in the Children's Aid Society of Vancouver, B.C., 1901-1954 Smyser, Martha Marbury


This study is concerned with protective services for children as they have been developed in the U. S. and Canada over the past eighty years. An effort has been made to discover general trends amidst variety. Canadian developments are compared with those in the U. S., and one agency, the Children's Aid Society of Vancouver, B. C, is reviewed as an example that lends concreteness and meaning to the broader picture. Questions are raised in regard to future operations of the Vancouver society, but are not answered. The history of protective services in the U. S. and the analysis of trends has been developed from an examination of the literature on protection and related topics. Canadian children's aid societies are an integral part of the developing protection movement, and writings of early leaders in the Canadian CAS movement have been consulted. The account of the Vancouver agency has been developed from an examination of various records of the Society, and has relied heavily on a history written by Anne Margaret Angus. Interviews with former executives and board members were another source of information. The writer was employed for three years as a staff member, and this, too, contributed to an understanding of the Society. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the first social machinery created for purposes of child protection, was organized in 1875. The idea spread rapidly. In the 1890s and early 1900s, Canadian communities began organizing children's aid societies to act as protection agencies. Although trends are similar to those in the U. S., there are some special characteristics. Canadian children's aid societies made extensive use of placement in free family homes while protection agencies in the U. S. were depending almost exclusively on institutional placements. In Canada, from the beginning, there was an integration of protection services with other services in behalf of children that was longer delayed in the U. S. Canadian protection agencies have been given continuing guardianship responsibility when the courts have deprived parents of their children; other patterns have been followed in the U. S. The Children's Aid Society of Vancouver, B. C. is a representative example of Canadian protection agencies. When it was organized in 1901, the protection of children was the primary motivation. Later, as the burden of caring for children increased, the original purposes of child protection were somewhat forgotten. During World War 1 and the early 1920s, as problems multiplied and the quality of care deteriorated, a ferment of new ideas in child welfare was at work. Eventually, difficulties of the Society and disagreements as to its future course contributed to a decision that the community should take a look at itself and its child-caring practices. Thus the B. C. Child Welfare Survey of 1926-27 was brought about. Extensive changes in the functioning of the Vancouver CAS were recommended. During the years from 1927 to 1931, recommendations were carried out and the agency was effectively reorganized. In the succeeding years there has been no radical change in direction or focus - only growth in size and a refinement of practices. Recently questions have been raised regarding the future functions of the Society and future provisions for the protection of children in the Vancouver community. Various changes have been advocated, and a careful consideration of alternative possibilities and of future directions will be needed.

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