With the racist foundation of the child welfare system established, Module Three presents the origins of the modern child welfare system, which following the Orphan Trains in the early 1900s, evolved from a system of support for white families living in poverty to a system of surveillance and punishment of mostly poor Black families by the late 1960s. 

This evolution included changing public sentiments towards “welfare,” the “discovery” of child abuse in the early 1960s, and the racial unrest that accompanied the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. 

These events culminated in the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 1974, an early piece of child welfare policy that established the concept of “neglect” as “child maltreatment,” permanently associating poverty with child abuse, and significantly shifting the direction and purpose of the modern child welfare system.

From Support to Surveillance

How Racism Shaped the Development of Child Welfare Policy

The Harm That Results

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