Topic:  ReligionSources below:https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html Source 2.pdf Rites of Passage to Death and Afterlife in Japan.pdf In the Final Research Paper, you will examine your own culture from an etic (outsider’s) perspective and another culture from an emic (insider’s) perspective to demonstrate your understanding of cultural relativism and examine misconceptions and ethnocentric beliefs concerning each of these cultures. In doing so, you will demonstrate a culturally relativistic perspective, in order to understand why different groups of people do what they do, without expressing a positive or negative opinion of their cultural practices. Keep the distinction between cultural relativism and moral relativism in mind as you write your final paper. Even if you do not personally agree with a cultural practice, demonstrate your understanding of the practice in its cultural context. Avoid opinionated or judgmental language in your paper.Your Final Research Paper will consist of two main parts, framed by an Introduction and a Conclusion. See the flow chart for a quick overview of the assignment.IntroductionBegin with an introductory paragraph that has a thesis statement at the end. The introduction should set up your topic, giving a preview and summary of the analysis you will present in the body of the paper. The thesis statement is the last sentence or two of the introduction and states what the main point structuring your paper will be.Here is an example of an Introduction.Part IUsing the Miner (1956) article and the feedback you received from your instructor on your “Summarize Your Sources for the Final Research Paper” assignment in Week Three as a guide, describe one aspect of your own culture from an etic perspective. See the appropriate sections in the textbook, based on your chosen topic from Week Three, for information on how to approach your paper from an anthropological perspective. You can describe American culture in general, as Miner does, or you can describe an American subculture, such as a specific geographical group (e.g., New Yorkers), a particular ethnicity (e.g., African Americans), or an age-related category of Americans (e.g., millennials).Use reputable statistics and/or scholarly research to support any factual statements. Do not rely solely on personal experience or opinion. Here is an example of how to properly support your statements. Potential sources you can use to support your analysis are listed below. You can also conduct your own research to find other sources.United States Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/)Gallup (http://www.gallup.com/home.aspx)Pew Research Center (http://www.pewresearch.org/)Important: see additional instructions in Part I under Final Paper Requirements.Here is an example of Part I.Part IIRefer to the article you chose for Part II of the “Summarize Your Sources for the Final Research Paper” assignment in Week Three and describe an aspect of another culture from an emic (insider’s) perspective. You do not have to do research beyond reading your chosen article; however, if you do choose to conduct additional research make sure to use reputable statistics and/or scholarly sources to support any factual statements. Do not rely solely upon personal experience or opinion.Important: see additional instructions in Part II under Final Paper Requirements.Here is an example of Part II.ConclusionEnd with a concluding paragraph that reinforces your thesis. Summarize and tie together your main points for the reader. Provide a brief self-reflexive analysis of what you learned while writing this paper.Important: see additional instructions in Conclusion under Final Paper Requirements.Here is an example of a Conclusion.The Final Research PaperMust be five to six double-spaced pages in length (excluding title page and references page, meaning it will be seven to eight pages total), and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center (see the APA Essay Checklist for Students).Must include a title page with the following:Title of paperStudent’s nameCourse name and numberInstructor’s nameDate submittedMust begin with an introductory paragraph that has a succinct thesis statement.Must have well-structured body paragraphs with clear transitions from one topic to the next.Incorporate in-text citations from your scholarly sources to support your analysis throughout the paper.Must describe an aspect of your own culture from an etic perspective for Part I.Must describe an aspect of another culture from an emic perspective for Part II.Must demonstrate a perspective of cultural relativism throughout, avoiding judgmental and opinionated language.Must end with a conclusion that that reinforces the thesis and provides a self-reflexive analysis.Must use at least one scholarly resource in addition to the textbook, the Miner article, and the article chosen from the list in Part II of the Week Three assignment.Must document all sources in APA style in the body of the paper and on the references page as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.Must include a separate references page that is formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.Parenting, Policies, and
Practice: Christian Influence
on Child Welfare in America
Jill C. Schreiber
Christianity has been integral to the development of America’s child
welfare policy in two ways: Christian beliefs have influenced evolving
American cultural norms about parenting, and Christians have responded
to children whose needs were not met by their parents, both by creating
institutions and agencies and by influencing policies. Christian influences
were explicit when Protestant Christianity was the cultural norm, but its
influence is still present in the secular child welfare systems today.
Since cultural norms are slow to change, changes are more apparent
when taking a broad scope. To portray the variations in the role of Christianity in child welfare policy, this article compares three changes in centuries
in American history: the Post-Colonial Era (late 1700–early 1800s), the
Progressive Era (1890s–1920s), and what I refer to as the Modern Era
(late 1900s–early 2000s). In colonial times, children were perceived to be
the property of their fathers, and harsh physical punishment was deemed
religiously necessary for successful child rearing. Over the past three
centuries, mothers and children have developed more rights, limits were
placed on physical discipline, and cultural values of self-actualization and
independence have gradually replaced those of unquestioning obedience
to authority.
The first societal responses to poor parenting focused on poverty, and
with time they evolved into child protection. Christians founded the first
institutions that were focused on children—orphanages. Currently, state
public child welfare systems assume primary responsibility for child welfare, and are necessarily nonreligious. However, religious issues are still
relevant. For example, many religious child welfare organizations receive
public funding for their work through subcontracts.
Social Work & Christianity, Vol. 38, No. 2 (2011), 293-314
Journal of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work
Social Work & Christianity
294
Private charity is always commendable. It is of ancient
origin, and has blessed the world and sweetened dependent
child life alone for ages. Public charity, more modern, is
stronger in its power, when fully and properly exerted. Both
are to be encouraged and continued. And yet out of them all
cannot there be matured a system which should include both
private and public, and which should be brought to a higher
perfection, under which all children should be protected
from ill treatment, should be reformed if delinquent, and
should be cared for if dependent, all being restored to the
kind and elevating influences of good home life? (Randell,
1893, p. v).
C
hristianity is a factor in child welfare today for many
reasons. Most individuals in America are Christians (Pew
Forum on Religion in Public Life, 2008), and this would include children, biological families, and professionals in child welfare.
Many child welfare institutions and service providers also have ties to
the Christian faith (e.g., Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Social
Services). Christian values have also grounded many legal and policy
decisions.
Because the United States was initially an overwhelmingly Protestant country, it is not surprising that the norms held for parenting were
Protestant ones. Christian values and ethics also guided responses to
situations when these parenting norms were not being met. Christian
involvement in child welfare is motivated by a variety of Hebrew Bible
(Old Testament) scriptures to care for widows and orphans and by a
familiar passage from James: “Religion that God our Father accepts as
pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their
distress” (James 1:27, New Revised Standard Version).
This review begins with a summary of the Post-Colonial context and
then considers the Progressive Era, when the needs of children became
more of a concern to society and public services became more professional. The development of child welfare in the 21st century, with less
explicit religious content, is then discussed. Finally, I conclude that it is
important for educators and researchers to acknowledge Christianity’s
current influence in child welfare.
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
Post-Colonial Era
Relationships between Children and Parents
In early America, child welfare was based on tradition, English poor
laws, and Protestant beliefs and Biblical texts, specifically Deuteronomy
(Mason, 1994). In this era, just as slave children were the property of their
masters, free children were perceived to be the property of fathers. Children
were removed from fathers who could not support them and were “bound
out” to masters who could. The focus of the law was on relieving the public
of economic burdens, not on the best interest of the child.
Fathers in the 18th century were expected to raise children who were
not only vocationally able but religiously trained (Reardon & Noblet,
2009). Vocational training and religious catechism in early America were
similar to medical and educational requirements of parents today; to fail
to meet societal expectations could lead to removal of children. For example, a 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony statute stated: “Masters
of Families are to Catechize or cause to be Catechized, their children
and Apprentices at least once a week, on the grounds and Principles of
religion” (cited in Mason, 1994, p. 6). Religious catechism coincided with
general education because “the universal child’s book of the day was the
Bible” (Earle, 1899, p. 228). Other than a primer, and possibly a hymnal,
the Bible might be the only book a child would read from.
Both free and slave children alike experienced corporal punishment.
Harsh physical punishment of children was justified as religiously necessary. Many of the early Americans who came from Europe brought with
them a belief that eternal salvation is dependent on “breaking the will
of the child” or “beating the devil out of them” (Greven, 1992). Biblical
scriptures such as “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou
beatest him with the rod, he shall not die” (Proverbs 23:13, King James
Version) were commonly used as justification for beatings, deemed necessary to ensure that children were not rude, stubborn, or unruly.
In several states parents were even excused from charges of murder if “death occurred while lawfully correcting the child” (Mason,
1994, p. 104). South Carolina defended the use of knives as tools for
disciplining children: “Provisions on killing by stabbing do not apply
to person, who in chastising or correcting a child chances to commit
manslaughter without intending to do so” (South Carolina code of law,
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cited in Mason, 1994, p. 104). Before the late 19th century, public officials rarely interfered with a family’s right to discipline their children
(Sealander, 2003). If a father could not control his children, the state
intervened. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island had “stubborn child laws,” under which a son who would not obey his parents
was to be brought to the state for chastisement. The consequence for
the child could be as severe as death (Mason, p. 11). There was little or
no public response to what we today define as child abuse or neglect.
The closest thing to our current understanding of child welfare was a
focus on meeting the needs of destitute people.
Society’s Responses to Concerns about Children
In the Post-Colonial Era, there were few provisions of social support and even fewer organizations that focused on the needs of children.
All institutions were local, and there were no state or national policies.
Although public institutions existed, most of the organizations that
provided social support (including services exclusively for children)
were private and sectarian.
Public Poor Relief
At the start of the 1800s, destitute people were cared for at a local
level in concordance with the poor-law system practiced in England.
Folks (1902) describes five methods of caring for the poor that were
used before 1850 (p. 3):
1) By outdoor relief, given to families in their homes.
2) By farming out to a number of families, each pauper being
awarded, as a rule, to the lowest bidder.
3) By contract with some individual, usually the lowest bidder,
who became responsible for the care of all the paupers of a
given locality.
4) By support of the almshouse directly under the control of
public authority.
5) By indenture.
Children were less likely to be farmed out or put on contract, but
indenture was thought to be especially applicable for them. Almshouses
were first built in the large cities for both children and adults, often with
minimal or no differentiation in how they were housed or treated.
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
Orphanages
The first institutions especially for the care of children were created
by Christians. The first private orphan asylum was established in 1727,
attached to the Ursuline convent in New Orleans. George Whitfield, the
celebrated itinerant preacher, established the Bethesda orphan house in
1738 in Savannah, Georgia. By the start of the 1800s, private institutions
for children had been established in New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
and Baltimore. The first public institution for children that was not part
of an almshouse was opened in 1794 in Charleston, South Carolina.1
There were not yet many orphanages at the start of the 1800s, but
by the end of the century they were quite common. This shift was the
result of two major changes. By the mid-1800s, in response to awareness
of the negative effects of housing children with adults in the almshouses,
laws were enacted that limited or forbid the placement of children there.
Additionally in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment made “involuntary
servitude” illegal, rendering the indenture system for children unconstitutional. Since these previous avenues for child raising were closed,
more orphanages were needed.
The majority of children housed in orphanages were not orphaned,
but rather came into care from broken families, single-parent homes,
or married but destitute parents. These children entered care for a variety of reasons. “Within a single institution we frequently find mental
defectives, backward children, delinquents, dependents, and neglected
or ill-treated children” (Mangold, 1910, p. 331). Most agencies making
decisions about children in need of care used indenture, adoption, or
‘placing out’ when children reached appropriate ages (twelve for boys
and fourteen for girls). “As a rule, the orphan asylums seemed to regard
the placing out system rather as a convenient means of disposing of
their older wards” (Folks, 1902, p. 64).
Although a few orphanages developed under public supervision,
the vast majority were private, and most of those religious. By 1904,
there were 119 public orphanages or children’s homes and 956 private,
serving a total of 92,000 children: 52,000 in sectarian homes, 30,000
in other private homes, and 10,000 in public homes. Most religious
orphanages were constructed by groups affiliated with Catholic or
Protestant organizations (Askeland, 2006). The first non-Christian
home was Jewish; it was established in New Orleans in 1856. Although
some private orphanages were supported by groups of people “prompted
solely by philanthropic impulses” (Folks, 1902, p. 56), these “non-re-
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ligious orphanages” were often Protestant by default (Crenson, 1998,
p. 42); for example, they held nondenominational Protestant religious
services and included the Protestant Bible in their schools.
Some child advocates believed institutions were the proper method
of care for dependent children, pointing to the values of “discipline,
education, moral instruction, good environment, physical training and
other advantages” (Mangold, 1910, p. 303). Others perceived orphanages differently, citing “the manifold evils of aggregation, of the absence
of individuation and the unnatural conditions and surroundings of an
institution” (Mangold, 1910, p. 303). Sophie Minton, the chairman of
the Committee on Children States Charities Aid Association, stated it
plainly: “The same drill which makes a good soldier annihilates the
individuality of the child” (Minton, 1893, p. 45). She and others had a
strong preference for placing children out.
Placing Out
Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Connecticut favored placing out
above institutions. Their institutions were “strictly used as ‘clearing
houses,’ or first steps to placing out” (Minton, 1893, p. 45). Boardingout and Placing-out Societies found homes for children and gave the
caregivers a small fund, but children were expected to do their share
in household work to earn their keep. It was not necessary for foster
families to be well off: “rough conditions are nothing if the influence
is good, morally and physically” (p. 47). Indeed, “the wish to place
a child on a higher social scale than which it was born” was deemed
inappropriate (p. 48).
Another version of placing out was Orphan Trains, which were one
of the solutions to the plight of destitute inner city children. In 1853,
Charles Loring Brace, a young minister, founded the Children’s Aid
Society. The society arranged the trips, raised the money, and obtained
the legal permissions needed for relocating the children. Brace wrote,
“The great duty is to get [the children] utterly out of their surroundings
and to send them away to kind Christian homes in the country” (The
American Experience, n.d., ¶ 3). Between 1854 and 1929, more than
100,000 children were sent to new homes in rural America. Some of
the children had good placements; some experienced abuse or other
mistreatment.
Early efforts to place children into private homes rather than orphanages ran into fierce resistance from Roman Catholics, who feared
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
that Catholic children would be placed in Protestant homes and would
consequently convert. This objection was categorically dismissed during the 1879 National Conference of Charities and Corrections (the
predecessor to the National Association of Social Workers, or NASW).
The religious bias is evident in the following quote:
It will be very difficult, therefore, to provide for some of
those [Catholic] children. . . . [F]ew Catholic families in
New England are now sufficiently intelligent and prosperous to adopt or to train the children who need homes;
and, as they usually have large families of their own, it
is difficult to find among them homes to be compared
with those freely offered by Americans and Protestants
(cited in Crenson, 1998, p. 33).
In spite of these concerns about religion, placing out became the practice of the day.
The orphanage movement that was a hallmark of the 19th century
became less popular in the early 20th century, when childhood and
motherhood came to center stage.
Progressive Era
Christianity and Progressive Culture
In the early 20th century, the origins of child welfare had their roots
in Christian values. Although religious institutions had always provided
mutual aid to their own members in times of crisis, in the Progressive
Era (1890s–1920s), the Social Gospel Movement called for the church
to support people outside of their congregations. The “Social Gospel”
was based on the principle of social responsibility, rooted in the Bible,
that defined a good Christian as one who was active in reforming society
according to Christian morality (Ebaugh, Saltzman, & Pipes, 2005). It
stood in opposition to theology based on “the inherent depravity of the
poor” (Winston, 1999, p. 124). Social Gospel adherents claimed that they
were replacing the “Gospel of Wealth” with the “Gospel of Jesus.”
Concerns about industrialization, urbanization, and immigration were part of the impetus for the Social Gospel movement. Early
proponent Rev. Josiah Strong stated in 1885, “The city has become a
serious threat to our civilization, because in it . . . each of the dangers
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(Romanism, socialism, wealth, intemperance, immigration…) is enhanced and all are focalized” (Winston, 1999, p. 16). However, not
all Christians during the Progressive Era supported the Social Gospel
movement. Lutherans, for example (and others), were opposed to its
values and believed that social reform could only be achieved by the
“transformation of individuals” (Pittman-Munke, 1999).
Social work as a profession evolved out of the combination of religious impulses (including the Christian Social Gospel and the Doctrine
of Charity) with secular liberalism, associated particularly with political
economy and ethical individualism (Leiby, 1978). Since secular liberals
and religious charity workers held different values, many issues were
contentious; however, the two groups shared concerns about child
welfare. Children were the object of universal sympathy; by making
them the focus of reform, sectarian and ideological differences were
neutralized (Crenson, 1998).
Relationship between Children and Parents
The role of families changed during the Progressive Era. Families
became more private and isolated, partially due to increased mobility,
and this was accompanied by an increase in the values of individualism
and trust in societal progress:
The work by parents must be done within the home. The
home is an institution fundamental to our civilization.
Its preservation must be rigidly guarded, and the duties
taken from the home must not be so numerous as to
lessen the cohesive force of this civilizing power. In fact,
the state is using the home as one of its means of achieving further progress. (Mangold, 1910, p. 293)
Growing importance was placed on motherhood and a sentimentalized family life (Sealander, 2003). As the labor movement developed in
the 19th century, fathers left the home each day to earn ”living wages”
to support their households, leaving mothers to take over the responsibilities of home and children. “In nineteenth century America, the
maternal role was exalted to the exclusion of all other occupations for
women” (Koven & Michel, 1993, p. 278).
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
Society’s Responses to Concerns about Children
Maternalism
After the turn of the century, middle-class women were “urged to
impress Christian values of their communities through charitable work”
(Koven & Michel, 1993, p. 10), yet they were expected to live out the
ideals of domesticity while doing so. The esteem for motherhood led to
a rise of “maternalists” who worked for social change (predominantly
in public policies) that supported poor and working mothers. Theirs
was a different focus from that of feminists, who were advocating for
equality and suffrage. Maternalists were predominantly Protestant,
white, well educated, and middle class, working “on behalf” of poor
women and children who were unable to advocate for themselves
(Kornbluh, 1996).
Jane Addams was a maternalist. Focused on social justice and
collective action, she provided concrete support for working mothers,
including day nurseries in her settlement house. Settlement houses were
a product of the Social Gospel movement (Koven & Michel, 1993),
although they were not explicitly religious. (Addams, for example, did
not allow religious instruction at Hull House.)
Maternalists and other child advocates of the day focused on a
broad range of policies, including child labor, infant mortality, appropriate recreational opportunities (parks, playgrounds, and libraries),
juvenile justice, children’s health, and compulsory education. They also
addressed issues more commonly associated with child welfare today,
including adoption, foster care, and maltreatment (called child cruelty).
In response to concerns about maltreated children, both adoption and
foster care were legalized (Askeland, 2006). However, the objective of
“child saving” was not to protect children from cruel or abusive parents
but to save society from future delinquents (Pfohl, 1977).
Child Cruelty
In the 1870s, the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC)2 was organized (Marten, 2004). By 1910, more than 250
private organizations identified themselves as “anti-cruelest” or “child
rescue.” These organizations explicitly identified poor people and/or
immigrants as those most likely to beat a child (Sealander, 2003 pp.
57, 59). Child cruelty was considered a type of neglect. Neglect in the
Progressive Era “included parental incompetence, not properly caring
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for the needs of a child, and parental unfitness, usually immoral behavior
or drunkenness” (Reardon & Noblet, 2009, p. 98).
Harsh physical punishment was generally still acceptable in the
early 1900s, and people had to give reasoned arguments to oppose it.
One such argument was carefully stated by Gerry Elbridge, who in 1882
addressed the National Conference on Charities and Correction:
It is in the interests of the republic that the people should
not be disintegrated or impaired by any diminution of the
intellectual, moral or physical strength of its members.
. . [and that children as the] future component parts of
the sovereignty, should be so cared for and reared that
males when mature shall be competent to bear arms for
the protection of the republic [and] that women shall be
physically capable of bearing children (National Conference on Social Welfare, 1974, p. 127).
He also argued that humans are made in the image of their maker and
that “the purity of the children is the most beautiful type of the purity
of God himself” (p. 128). He concluded his address discussing the
mission of SPCCs:
They protect the helpless, they bring back the outcast,
they seek to save children in danger of being irretrievably lost. For physical cruelty is the parent of vice. Want
and neglect are the incentives to crime, and crime not
only destroys its perpetrator, but eats like a corroding
ulcer into the nation which countenances its existence.
(Elbridge address to National Conference on Charities
and Correction in 1882, cited in National Conference on
Social Welfare, 1974, p. 130)
Concerns about abuse were based on a combination of theology
with the Aristotelian principle of “parens patriae.” “This principle
maintained that the State had the responsibility to defend those who
cannot defend themselves. This was also understood by some to assert
the state’s privilege in compelling infants and their guardians to act
in ways most beneficial to the State” (Pfohl, 1977, p. 312). Both child
delinquency (violating criminal codes) and child dependency (coming
from a poor home with neglectful or abusive parents) damaged the State,
and thus children experiencing either were targets for “child saving”
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
in the late 1800s. However, this perception of dependency changed in
the early 1900s.
On Christmas day in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt issued
a call to more than 200 child welfare experts and philanthropists to attend a meeting on the care of “children who are destitute and neglected
but not delinquent” (Crenson, 1998, p. 11). At the meeting a month
later, the participants made several recommendations, including the
establishment of a federal children’s bureau. They also proclaimed that
“children should not be removed from their families except for urgent
and compelling reasons, and destitution was not one of those reasons”
(Crenson, p. 15). This was a turning point, since previous policy had
determined poverty to be sufficient for removal of children.
Charity workers had long argued that public outdoor relief (assistance in one’s home rather than placement in an almshouse) was
pauperizing, was dangerously open to political corruption, placed an
unfair burden on the taxpayer, lacked proper supervisory methods, and
discouraged help from relatives, friends, and churches. To counteract
these concerns, state boards were developed in New York in 1916 that
were enabled but not required to provide financial assistance, but “only
when the mothers are suitable persons to bring up their children properly and require aid to do so” (Hopkins & Cupaluolo, 2001, p. 27).
Mothers’ Rights
Custody and parenting rights were linked to the changing status
and power of women and to the powerlessness of the poor. In the early
20th century, when women were beginning to be awarded other rights
(property, litigation, contracts, and suffrage), few states gave women
rights to their children.
Parental rights had first been awarded to a mother in America in
1809 in Plather v. Plather (Reardon & Noblet, 2009). This coincided
with a new focus on a natural law understanding of a “mother’s special
capacity to guide and nurture” (Reardon & Noblet, p. 88). However,
Plather v. Plather was an isolated case, and higher courts overturned a
similar ruling in 1844, where a judge expressed concerns about “natural
law,” stating, “human laws cannot be very far out of the way when they
are in accordance with the law of God [which supports the father as
head of the family]” (Reardon & Noblet, p. 89).
However, mothers eventually earned parental rights, starting with
unwed mothers, who gained legal rights to their children in the early
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1900s. Previously unwed mothers had either raised their illegitimate
children without the support of the law or saw their children taken
away. In the Progressive Era, tensions arose between the evangelical
women who had managed maternity homes for decades and those in
the new profession of social work over how to best deal with the issue
of unwed mothers. Kunzel (1993) researched a plethora of primary
sources, including case notes from maternity homes, for her book Fallen
Women and Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization
of Social Work, 1890-1945, the main source for the next section.
Unwed Mothers
Unmarried mothers were a lightning rod for social concerns during the Progressive Era, similar to the issues of gay rights and abortion
today. Were illegitimate children better served by staying with their
biological mothers or by being adopted into traditional families? Kunzel
(1993) described the differences between charity workers, who worked
for religiously based maternity homes, and professional social workers. One difference was their very different perceptions about whose
welfare was of primary importance. Evangelical workers in maternity
homes perceived the unwed mothers as fallen sisters who had been
taken advantage of by males. They saw men’s seduction as predatory
and brutalizing and women as victims of these tempters. The script of
seduction and abandonment was so strong that one institution’s entrance
forms even labeled the space for the name of the biological father as
“the betrayer” (Kunzel, 1993, p. 181).
The maternity home workers’ solution to this fallen state was the
salvation granted by the position of motherhood. Believing that responsibility for a baby was a steadying and uplifting influence on a woman
(p. 33), they required mothers to have lengthy stays in the maternity
homes (usually six months). The goal was for the mothers to bond with
their babies so they would be less likely to relinquish their maternal
rights. “Evangelical women’s belief in the redemptive power of motherhood led them to endorse the potentially radical notion of a fatherless
family” (p. 130). Evangelical charity workers valued religion and love
of sister, and they denied that “human beings could be investigated,
diagnosed, and treated with scientific and objective precision” (p. 133).
Consequently, they did not always believe that science provided the best
approach and were concerned with the lack of a bond that existed in a
professional relationship.
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
By 1910, many social workers began to state that child illegitimacy
was within their domain. Social workers had a very different perception
of the problem of unwed mothers and consequently reshaped ideas and
attitudes about them and their children. They did not see the mothers as
“victims of men” but instead as weak, immature, and not well adjusted.
In the social workers’ view, their clients were the babies, not the mothers. For instance, Amey Watson wrote the following in her 1923 social
science dissertation at Bryn Mawr College: “After all, it is the child that
is our real interest and it is his or her welfare that we are most vitally
interested in saving” (quoted in Kunzel, 1993, p. 128).3
By the early 20th century, social workers invoked the legitimizing
rhetoric of science “to brand evangelical women’s tradition of womanly
benevolence as sentimental and sloppy, to pronounce unmarried mothers untrustworthy interpreters of their own experience, and to name
themselves the rightful authorities over the ‘social problem’ of unmarried motherhood” (Kunzel, 1993, p. 115). A consequence of perceiving
mothers as the problem, rather than as victims, was a dramatic shift in
adoption rates. According to the dispositional records of agencies serving unmarried mothers, between 1890 and 1930 only 20 percent placed
their babies for adoption, but by 1950, 80 percent did. By the 1930s,
maternity homes were by and large out of business (p. 122).
Orphanages and Placing Out
In the early 20th century a variety of concerns were raised about
orphanages. One concern was the placement of delinquent children
into orphanages with dependent children. “Contamination of the moral
children by those displaying immoral tendencies can hardly be avoided”
(Mangold, 1910, p. 331). Another concern was cost. In the early 1900s,
23,000 New York City children lived in religious orphanages—21
percent of the orphanage population of the United States (Hopkins &
Cupaluolo, 2001). It cost the city an astounding five million dollars
annually for “substandard orphanages” (Hopkins & Cupaluolo). Placing-out programs were much less expensive.
In 1917, the first year of the New York City placing-out program,
the “modest” goal was to move 1,000 children into private homes. In
response to strongly voiced concerns, there was intensive recruitment
in Catholic parishes so that appropriate religious homes could be provided for the children being placed. “All children have been placed in
homes of their own faith, while in the case of Catholic homes, a letter
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has in every case been obtained from the parish priest vouching for the
family’s practical Catholicity” (New York, City Department of Public
Charities, Children’s Home Bureau, 1917, cited in Crenson, 1998, p.
304). Other states also developed “religious protection” clauses that
demanded that children be placed in adoptive homes of the same faith
as far as practicable (Askeland, 2006).
The overwhelmingly Christian culture of the United States was
reflected in formal social work meetings, such as the 1920 National
Conference of Social Work. Many of the presenters were ministers. The
President Address was given by Owen Lovejoy, the general secretary of
the National Child Labor Committee, who stated that
whatever a man may say with his tongue or whatever he
may think he thinks in denial of any religious faith, if we
find him keen in the service of humanity and everlastingly on the job, we are bound to claim him as of that
apostolic succession of which James was the original
when he said: “Show me your faith without works and
I will show you my faith by my works.” . . . A practical
application of the Second Great Commandment—namely
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” is by no means
a denial of the first. But it is so evident that man is incurably religious and so many ages have been devoted to
preaching obedience to the Unseen that many people feel
the necessity of emphasizing the suggestion that “if we
love not our brother whom we have seen, how can we
love God whom we have not seen?” (Lovejoy, 1920).
Lovejoy assumed that his audience was familiar with Christian
Scripture and that it was relevant to their profession. However, as the
field of social work developed, a strong desire by its practitioners to
become more scientific and professional developed.
Modern Era
Although the past century has seen a growth in nonreligious
Americans and in diversity of religions, the United States remains a
predominantly Christian country (78.4 percent). Only 4.7 percent
claim another religious affiliation, and 16 percent say they are unaffiliated with any religion (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2008).
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
The influence of Christianity on parenting still exists (and is dominant
in some subpopulations), but it is often overlooked in child welfare
research and education.
Relationship between Children and Parents
Widely divergent views on parenting norms existed in the 20th
century. “In modern societies, . . . norms governing the socialization of
children, education, employment, sexuality, and life’s purpose become
increasingly oriented around market values, individual rights, self-actualization, and secularism” (Browning & Miller-McLemore, 2009, p. 3).
In modern America, some conservative Christian parents still
require children to submit to parental will in order to learn to submit
to God. Often these parents use physical discipline, although there are
legal limits to the type and severity allowed them. Of the few studies
that address the role of religion in child welfare, many of them focus
on religiously based child abuse (Capps, 1992; Jackson et al., 1999;
Nelson & Kroliczak, 1984; Rodriguez & Henderson, 2010; Socolar,
Cabinum-Foeller, & Sinal, 2008). Some Christian parents continue to
believe that, rather than being abuse, harsh physical punishment is good
parenting, necessary to counter the innate sinfulness of children, but
the number of such parents is decreasing. “The idea of original sin is far
less prominent today in almost all expressions of modern Christianity”
(Browning & Miller-McLemore, 2009, p. 14).
In today’s legal system, the determination of medical or educational
neglect is moderated by parental religious beliefs. In response to a case
about Amish parents’ rejection of compulsory education until age 16,
the Supreme Court determined that “a parent’s right to control their
child’s upbringing is strongest when it is motivated by religious conviction” (Browning & Miller-McLemore, 2009, p. 213). With respect to
the definition of medical neglect, all 50 states grant an exemption for
parents who refuse for religious reasons to secure conventional medical
treatment for their children (Browning & Miller-McLemore, p. 213).
Society’s Responses to Concerns about Children
The Battered Child Syndrome
After the zealous transformation of child welfare during the Progressive Era, there was less vigorous innovation between the 1920s
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Social Work & Christianity
and the 1970s. After the mid-1920s, cruelty to children ceased being
a broadly publicized or major policy issue, as the country focused on
economic issues during the Depression and on military issues during
the wars. A resurgence of interest in “child battery” came by way of
the medical field.
In the 1950s, long bone fractures showing up on children’s x-rays
were determined to be deliberately caused. Kempe published “The Battered Child Syndrome” in the Journal of the American Medical Association
in 1962. With a diagnostic label and subsequent intense media coverage,
pediatricians began to find abuse among young patients. Why, however,
were radiologists the impetus for the resurgence in interest in physically
abused children rather than other types of doctors or social workers?
Pfohl (1977) suggested that the social distance from parents was key.
Parents were often seen as the real patient (they paid the bills), and
professionals were “psychologically unwilling to believe that parents
would inflict such atrocities on their own children” (Pfohl, p. 316).
During the early 20th century, the distance grew between religion
and the practice of social work. Canda and Furman (1999) refer to this
period as a time of professionalization and secularization for the field.
Social work as a profession promoted scientific and professional values
above history, tradition, and meaning making. For example, in 1952, the
American Association of Schools of Social Work (now the Council for
Social Work Education [CSWE]) issued its first Curriculum Policy Statement. It contained no mention of spirituality or religion. Additionally,
the involvement of federal and state governments in social work brought
increasing concerns about the separation of church and state.
Recently, there has been resurging interest in the role of religion and
spirituality in social work, especially in the concentrations of substance
use and health care. However, there has been very little research on the
role of religion in child welfare. This is concerning because the perception of religion held by practitioners, policy makers, and researchers is
limited to personal experiences or what they see reported in the media.
Without research or education, “religion” often becomes equated with
Christianity (and often with a subset of Christianity, such as Protestant
or fundamentalist), which people judge as good or bad. Child welfare has
been “belief-blind” or “religion-blind.” This is similar to issues of race,
where “whiteness” was once treated as normative. Even though social
work has not focused on religion in child welfare, issues of religion in
child welfare do exist, as is evidenced by the recent legal cases.
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
The Wilder Case
The most famous lawsuit addressing concerns about religion in
child welfare has been Wilder v. Bernstein, a landmark case that lasted
decades and combined issues of race and religion. Marcia Lowry brought
a case against the State of New York’s foster care system in 1973 on behalf
of Shirley Wilder. At the time New York relied primarily on private—but
publicly funded—Jewish and Catholic agencies that prioritized “their
own” religious clients, which left the Protestant (which also meant
black) clients predominantly in a substandard system. Lowry claimed
that the reliance on religious agencies violated the First Amendment’s
separation of church and state and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee to equal protection and due process.
The case lasted for 26 years and three generations of Wilders. In
spite of the lawsuit’s initial focus on religion, the conflation of religion
and race is evidenced by the final verdict. By the end of the case, the
critics argued that since nearly all children in the foster system were
black and Protestant that discrimination could not be proven.
Nina Bernstein, an investigative journalist who carefully and
thoroughly documented the case in The Lost Children of Wilder (2001),
summarized the country’s status quo: “The child welfare system . . . [is]
a political battleground for abiding national conflicts over race, religion,
gender and inequality” (p. xii).
Religious issues related to child welfare continue to be addressed
primarily in the legal arena, as is evidenced by several recent news
stories. As this article was being written, a number of stories appeared
addressing societal concerns about Christian religion in child welfare.
The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio and the Press and Guide in Michigan
have both reported stories about Muslim parents who fought the state
systems for the right of their children to be in Muslim foster homes
rather than Christian homes (Pepper, 2011; Price, 2011). In Illinois, the
Department of Children and Family Services was deciding if it will fund
Christian agencies that refuse gay foster parents based on the agency’s
religious beliefs (Nair, 2011). The Philadelphia Inquirer brought to public
attention an informal arrangement between incarcerated mothers and
Mennonites (Christians) who cared for imprisoned women’s babies
without the supervision of any government agency (Davis, 2011). As
these news stories illustrate, tension between Christian values and
secular child welfare services is real and important.
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Social Work & Christianity
Conclusion
The story of Christianity’s role in American child welfare is
typically summarized with something of a patronizing tone: religious
charities of inconsistent quality were replaced by a more uniform and
scientifically based child welfare system. Although there is truth to
this (over)simplified tale, it skims over the influence of Christianity on
parental norms across several centuries and its continuing influence on
child welfare practices today.
Christianity has been and still is integral to determining parental
norms. This was the case in early America, when Protestant Christianity
was the cultural norm, and remains still true today, when there is more
diversity of religiosity, including a growing segment of people without
any (Chaves, 2011). Christian parenting norms were explicit during
Post-Colonial America. However, even a cursory review of history shows
that the Christian influence has not always been consistent with what
we today believe to be good parenting. Christian theology has been
used to justify harsh physical punishment, the rights of fathers above
mothers or children, and discrimination based on religious affiliation.
Although a small segment of Christians may still follow these beliefs,
most would not.
Do these changes reflect the church’s influence on culture, or vice
versa? Christian theology and cultural parenting norms evolve together, although causality is not always clear. The issues have changed
(to divorce, nontraditional families, and religious heteronomy, among
others), but there remains a challenge for the church to faithfully and
continually engage with cultural norms for parenting.
Changes in Christian theology have also corresponded with changes
in child welfare. Today, religious catechism for children is no longer
required of parents. A parental right to corporal punishment has been
not eliminated, but it has been constrained. Poverty remains an issue
in child welfare, but it is not a sign of unfavored status or a reason for
removal from a family, as was once true. Some religiously based child
welfare policies, however, have not changed. Exceptions to child welfare
laws with respect to medical or educational neglect are examples of the
value of religious freedom above child rights.
America’s first child welfare services were administered locally and
were often sectarian. The supervision of the child welfare system has
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
become more public and more centralized over time. Today services
are largely secular, predominantly publicly funded, and administered
at a state or national level. However, vestiges of the earlier sectarian
systems are apparent in the plethora of faith-based subcontractors
for child welfare services (Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Social
Services, Jewish Social Services, and many others). These religious
organizations often get the majority of their funding from government
sources, which require following government oversight. For example,
faith-based organizations must not discriminate against clients on the
basis of religion. The balance between private (usually religious) and
public systems of child welfare has continuously shifted in favor of larger
public oversight. What has remained constant is opposing perceptions
of the two systems as complementary or competitive.
Christianity has been and continues to be engaged in child welfare in America. Historically, it has influenced parenting norms and
supported children whose parents were unable to meet those norms.
Although this role is less palpable today, Christianity still influences
many individuals who either provide or receive child welfare services.
Also, many child welfare agencies are explicitly Christian. It is time for
both research and educators to acknowledge the place of religion, both
its strengths and weaknesses, in child welfare. v
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Endnotes
1. An interesting note is that the Charleston home was honored by a
visit by President Washington.
2. The organization was nicknamed “Cruelty” by the poor and immigrants, who felt unjustly persecuted.
3. Bryn Mawr was unique in its doctoral education of women for the
purposes of research. During this era most schools of social work were
training schools run largely by charity organization societies (Dzuback,
1993).
Jill C. Schreiber, MSW, MA , is a Doctoral Candidate and Research Specialist, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, School of Social Work,
Children and Family Research Center, 2080J, MC-82, 1010 W. Nevada
St., Urbana, Illinois, 61801. Phone: (217) 356-7416. Email: schreibe@
illinois.edu
Key Words: child welfare policy, Christian, history, parenting
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GE NER ATIO NS – Journal of the American Society on Aging
By Yohko Tsuji
Rites of Passage to
Death and Afterlife in Japan
A series of auspicious birthdays and mortuary rituals
offers Japanese elders a smoother path to death and
afterlife—but social change has impacts on these
intricate rituals and those who practice them.
M
ore than two decades
ago, Barbara Myerhoff
noted the sparse cultural
demarcations of old age in
America, where “the stark
beginning” of senescence is
crudely marked by retirement
and its end with a funeral.
Although some events, such as
moving to senior housing,
using a hearing aid, or giving
up driving, might denote the
phases of aging, these happenings are normally regarded as
“failures and signposts indicating that the end is ever nearer”
(Myerhoff, 1984).
Since then, the impending
mass retirement of 77 million
baby boomers has changed the
culture of aging, “reinventing”
old age and altering the life
course. Yet the fact remains that
the continuing ceremonial
under-service—lack of rites of
passage—to retirement (Savishinsky, 2002) and the absence
of life-marking events in later
28 | Fall 2011 • Vol. 35 . No. 3
years require older Americans
to negotiate and maneuver
through aging processes with
little cultural guidance.
The situation is quite
different in my native Japan,
where culture prescribes the
rites of passage from ages 60 to
111. One of my vivid childhood
memories is of an elderly man,
clad in a red vest and a red cap
like a newborn baby, sitting on a
red cushion, and surrounded by
ten-year cycle and the other in
the twelve-year cycle—converged again. He had completed
a full circle to attain “rebirth,”
which was symbolized by his
baby attire.
Today, with the average life
expectancy of nearly eighty
years for Japanese men and
eighty-six for women, kanreki
has become most meaningful as
the age of mandatory retirement. Nonetheless, many high
A series of auspicious birthdays provides occasions
for rejoicing and reflecting on the elders’ long lives
and ‘initiates’ them to different stages of old age.
many people. He was celebrating his kanreki or sixtieth
birthday. Kanreki warranted a
big celebration because in
earlier times not many Japanese
lived to reach that age, and also
because it was an auspicious
occasion when two zodiac signs
of his birth year—one in the
schools, including mine, hold a
reunion in the year when the
graduates of each class have
reached kanreki.
Kanreki is the first of a
series of auspicious birthdays
acknowledged by Japanese
culture. It is followed by koki
(seventieth), kiju (seventy-
Copyright © 2011 American Society on Aging; all rights reserved. This article may not be duplicated,
reprinted or distributed in any form without written permission from the publisher: American Society on Aging,
71 Stevenson St., Suite 1450, San Francisco,CA 94105-2938; e-mail: info@asaging.org.
Pages 28–33
seventh), sanju (eightieth), beiju
(eighty-eighth), sotsuju (ninetieth), hakuju (ninety-ninth), jôju
(one hundredth), chaju (onehundred-eighth), and kôju
(one-hundred-eleventh).
Except for the last few, which
are rare, these milestone birthdays are widely recognized
in Japan. They provide occasions for rejoicing and reflecting on the elders’ long lives and
“initiate” them to different
stages of old age. Hence, these
special birthdays may be
regarded as culturally guided
rites of passage to death.
Japanese culture also
prescribes rites of passage even
after one’s death in a tradition
of ancestor worship. This
article focuses on these rituals
for the dead and considers
their significance for elderly
Japanese, and the impacts
of recent social changes on
mortuary rituals and those
who practice them.
Ritual in Later Life: Its Role, Significance, and Power
also reported our grades to
our forebears.
The priest from our family
temple came four times a
month to chant a sutra on the
monthly death anniversaries of
my grandfather and three
uncles. Though all of them had
died long before I was born,
they remained an important
part of our family. Occasional
visits to the family grave,
especially during the religious
weeks marked by equinoxes
and mid-summer, also served
to keep the dead “alive” in the
world of the living.
The Japanese mortuary
tradition also offers welldefined guidance before and
after death. The nearness of
death is signified by matsugo no
mizu, the rite of the last water,
in which next of kin wet the lips
of the dying person. After someone dies, a wake, a funeral, a
cremation, and a bone-picking
ceremony occur (cremation in
The Japanese Mortuary
Tradition
I did not realize how closely
the dead are integrated into
Japanese daily experience until
I moved to America, where
death is secluded. In my family,
like many other Japanese
families, every morning my
grandmother would offer tea,
flowers, and freshly cooked
rice at the family altar to honor
the spirits of our ancestors.
It was customary to offer
sweets, snacks, and fruit before
our consumption. We children A traditional family grave in Japan.
©American Society on Aging
Fall 2011 • Volume 35 . Number 3 | 29
GE NER ATIO NS – Journal of the American Society on Aging
Japan produces bones, not
ashes, because the remains are
cremated at a lower temperature), and a feast follows. More
rituals continue every seven
days until the forty-ninth day
after death, and again on the
one-hundredth day. Then a
series of periodic rituals
succeeds at the first, third,
seventh, thirteenth, seventeenth, twenty-third, twentyseventh, thirty-third, and
fiftieth death anniversaries.
These rituals serve as rites
of passage to ancestorhood.
The ritual on the forty-ninth
day after death is “a turning
point” (Smith, 1974) when the
spirit of the newly deceased,
which is believed to have been
in limbo between this world
and the other world, enters the
realm of the dead and becomes
a new Buddha (nii-botoke).
Hence, the forty-ninth–day
ceremony is more elaborate
and has more attendees than
other weekly post-funeral
services. It is also accompanied
by a feast. Similarly, the ritual
during the first mid-summer
after death (niibon) transforms
the new Buddha (nii-botoke) to
Buddha (hotoke) and indicates
“the deceased is clearly on his
or her way to ancestorhood”
(Hamabata, 1990).
In this manner, Japanese
mortuary rituals guide the
deceased in their journey
through the different postmortem stages, first from the
spirit of the newly dead to new
Buddha, then to Buddha, and
30 | Fall 2011 • Volume 35 . Number 3
finally to ancestor. With the
passage of time, those who
personally knew the deceased
may also pass away. Yet memorial rituals continue for each
departed individual and
collectively for ancestors.
Pages 28–33
worship was demanded as an
important ie duty. A variety
of burial practices that had
existed previously were banned
and replaced by a family grave
in which generations of
household ancestors were
‘I did not realize how closely the dead are
integrated into Japanese daily experience until I
moved to America, where death is secluded.’
The Japanese household
plays a crucial role in caring for
the dead. This role of the family
in ancestor worship has a
political origin in the Meiji
period (1868–1912) and is
closely tied to the ie, the family
system (Tsuji, 2002). The Meiji
Civil Code (1898) established
the ie as a legal entity to which
every subject must belong. By
granting its head an authority
over other family members and
imposing on him the responsibility for a family’s maintenance and behavior, the law
transformed each household
into an effective state agent to
control every citizen.
The continuity of the ie
became an important national
concern. The Meiji Civil Code
specified the rule of male
primogeniture, or succession by
the eldest son. This son and his
family stayed with his parents
to form a three-generation
family. The law also provided
alternative rules in case this
ideal was not achieved.
To legitimize the ie as a
perpetual entity, ancestor
buried together. The Civil Code
also stipulated that the family
grave and altar, as well as other
items for ancestral rites, be a
part of the family estate and
that they be passed down from
one generation to the next.
Though the Meiji Civil
Code was relinquished and the
ie system was abolished after
World War II, the ie-based
ideology of death survived in
the new Civil Code promulgated in 1948 (Tsuji, 2002). In
contemporary Japan, the family
remains the primary caretaker
of the dead. The unit of burial
continues to be the family, and
most Japanese tombstones are
inscribed “The X Family’s
Ancestral Tomb.”
Significance of Mortuary
Rituals for Elders
Japanese mortuary rituals
provide elders with a role in
their family. In most Japanese
households, elderly women are
the primary caretakers of the
ancestors. Older men may not
be involved in daily ancestral
rituals, but normally they
©American Society on Aging
Pages 28–33
assume the post of chief mourner at the funeral and of sponsor
at major memorial rituals.
These rituals also contribute
to identifying who one is and
where one comes from. Most
families may not have a formal
pedigree document, but Japanese generally have good
knowledge of their forebears
beyond their immediate family.
Elderly family members who
knew the deceased of several
ascending generations relate
stories of them. To the younger
descendants who never met the
deceased, these stories, and the
mortuary rituals, serve to
transform long-dead ancestors
into familiar figures. Even
distant ancestors, whom no
living members of the family
remember, can be traced in “the
book of the past,” kept at the
family temple, and which
records all the deaths in the
family over the past hundred
years. By showing genealogical
continuity, Japanese mortuary
rituals reveal one’s origin—a
vital component of identity.
Culturally prescribed
remembrances of the dead also
serve as a remedy for coping
with the loss of a loved one. For
example, the weekly memorial
services after the funeral not
only offer opportunities to
mourn together and share
memories, but also mark the
passage of time and help
structure the survivors’ lives.
Because American culture does
not prescribe such a well-defined post-mortem path, I had to
©American Society on Aging
Ritual in Later Life: Its Role, Significance, and Power
make many decisions on my own
after my husband’s death. This
experience opened my eyes to
the collective wisdom of the
Japanese mortuary traditions;
until then I had regarded them
as tedious and demanding.
Daily, monthly, seasonal, and
periodical rituals for the dead
also link the world of the living
to the world of the dead, which
meet at the Buddhist altar and
the family grave. These rituals
have positive effects on elders
because the knowledge of
joining the ancestral group and
being cared for after death by
the descendants helps to
“mitigate the pain of aging”
(Lebra, 1984). It also comforts
elders to know that death is not
“complete obliteration” (Myerhoff and Tufte, 1975), because
they will be remembered for
many years after their passing.
Since death and the afterlife
occupy an important part in the
Japanese experience of growing
old, many old-age homes have
a community room with a
Buddhist altar for their residents to remember their
deceased relatives (Bethel,
1992; Thang, 2001).
The close connection
between the living and the dead
also eases the passage to death.
Susan Orpett Long reports the
case of a woman with terminal
cancer who wished to live until
the mid-summer bon religious
holiday, when the spirits of
the dead return to visit the
living. She said that if she
survived until bon, her de-
ceased father would take her
to the other world and become
the teacher for her new
experience (Long, 2005).
Impacts of Social Change
on Mortuary Rituals
As the Japanese family has
gone through many transformations, the assurance of
posthumous care is now in
jeopardy. Traditional threegeneration families, which
played a pivotal role in ancestor worship (and the care of
elders), have drastically
diminished in number. Nuclear
families are also in decline,
with a steady increase of
couple-only and single-person
households. Moreover, the
birthrate is alarmingly low,
while divorce and remarriage
are on the rise (Thang, 2001;
Raymo and Kaneda, 2003).
These changes have undermined the family as a perpetual
entity and produced a growing
number of people without
patrilineal (traced through
male line) descendants who
traditionally take care of the
family grave and the ancestors.
A shortage of grave sites and
their exorbitant cost aggravate
this problem. Consequently,
non-traditional ways of caring
for the dead have emerged.
Eitai kuyô bo, eternally
worshipped graves, are built by
temples and other religious or
nonreligious organizations.
Individuals may be buried
separately in their own graves,
but at most of these sites, bones
Fall 2011 • Volume 35 . Number 3 | 31
GE NER ATIO NS – Journal of the American Society on Aging
are consolidated in one grave,
not with family ancestors, but
with nonrelatives. Burial under a
tree, or jumokusô, is gaining
popularity. In a clearing in the
woods, a deep hole is dug to bury
an individual’s bones. Instead of
a tombstone, a flowering shrub is
planted with a tag bearing the
deceased’s name.
Both eternally worshipped
graves and burials under trees
make posthumous care possible
without “proper” descendants.
The family is not responsible
for maintaining the grave and
memorializing the dead, because
cemetery operators, who are
paid for their services, assume
these tasks. Furthermore, these
types of graves need not be
passed down to their buyers’
descendants. These features
indicate the diminishing
importance of the ie principle
in posthumous care and the
transformation of the grave from
an important family asset to an
individual’s eternal resting place.
Denial of the ie concept is
more apparent in the third type
of non-conventional burial,
which involves scattering bones
in the sea or mountains. This
practice, called shizensô,
removes the need of a grave
altogether. Although shizensô
involves neither graves nor
ancestor worship, it does not
sever the link between the dead
and the living. Some survivors
regularly visit the place where
their loved one’s bones were
scattered. Others keep a very
small amount of bone fragments
32 | Fall 2011 • Volume 35 . Number 3
at home to remember the
deceased. Moreover, the idea
underlying shizensô—unity of
nature and humans, humans
and nonhumans, and the living
and the dead—renders the
boundaries between them
permeable, keeping this world
and the other world close, and
providing survivors with the
feeling that the dead person has
returned to nature. This view,
together with its low cost (about
$1,200), accounts for shizensô’s
steadily growing popularity.
These new rituals for the
dead not only provide pragmatic
solutions to the problem of
posthumous care, but also
enable contemporary Japanese
to make choices not possible in
traditional rituals. While the
absence of descendants may
compel childless couples and
single women to buy eternally
worshipped graves, some
married women who have both
a family grave and a son purchase them to avoid posthumous co-residence with their
mother-in-law or husband, with
whom they did not get along.
Some tombs reflect individual choices. Instead of a
traditional grave with the
inscription of “The X Family’s
Ancestral Tomb,” some choose
a monument of natural stone
inscribed with a Chinese
character of their choice—love,
dream, or serenity, for example.
Another choice is a more novel
form of grave, such as a tailor’s
tombstone shaped like a man’s
suit or a skier’s marker that
Pages 28–33
resembles a mountain slope.
Some people even host a living
funeral, marking the passage to
death before death, to celebrate
their life with family and
friends while they can still
witness the event.
‘Japanese bookstores
sell many how-to books
on mortuary rituals,
and nationally circulated
newspapers place halfpage advertisements
for graves.’
Despite these recent
examples of individuality, many
Japanese manage to continue
traditional mortuary rituals
with the help of their family
and professionals from the
fast-growing funeral industry
and other commercial services.
Conclusion
An eminent anthropologist
described death as “the supreme and final crisis of life”
(Malinowski, 1948). While
American culture treats this
crisis with a sense of finality and
provides little guidance for it,
Japanese culture handles it
differently. A sequence of
culturally prescribed milestone
birthdays offers a map for the
progression of old age that
eventually terminates in death.
Traditional mortuary rituals link
the world of the living to the
world of the dead and, as a
©American Society on Aging
Pages 28–33
result, not only smooth the
journey to death, but also mark
other important rites of passage
in the afterlife. In short, Japanese mortuary rituals are rituals
of continuity. They proclaim
where one came from and where
one will go, as well as that death
is not the ultimate end of a
human life and the deceased
continue on in survivors’ lives.
The world of the dead
remains an important part of
Japanese life, and serious
considerations are given to
assuring posthumous security
and comfort, whether people
are adopting new rituals or
adhering to traditional ones.
Though many Japanese may
feel that honoring the mortuary
tradition is difficult (as I did
before my husband’s death), the
prospect of not having an abode
Ritual in Later Life: Its Role, Significance, and Power
and a caretaker for their
posthumous life generates a
great deal of anxiety, epitomized by a phenomenon called
muen-shi or “unconnected
death.” Annually, more than
32,000 Japanese die alone, with
their remains left unnoticed
and decaying in their residences
for weeks and even months.
The large number of such
deaths generates real concern
among elders as well as younger
people prone to social isolation.
Japanese preoccupation
with the afterlife contributes
not only to the perpetuation of
traditional mortuary rituals,
but also to the invention of
new types of rituals that relieve
this anxiety. Japanese bookstores sell many how-to books
on mortuary rituals, and
nationally circulated newspa-
pers place half-page advertisements for graves. Many
Japanese also pay an unrealistically high price for a small
cemetery plot and a tombstone. Others sign contracts for
eternally worshipped graves or
burials under trees, whereas
some decide to have their
bones scattered in nature.
What persists amid myriad
changes and diversifications
of mortuary practices is the
continuing significance of
mortuary rituals in Japanese
culture. Professionalization and
commercialization of these
rituals help the Japanese to keep
practicing them in a rapidly
changing social milieu.
Myerhoff, B. 1984. “Rites and Signs
of Ripening: The Intertwining of
Ritual, Time, and Growing Older.”
In Kertzer, D. I., and Keith, J.,
eds., Age and Anthropological
Theory. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell
University Press.
Savishinsky, J. 2002. “Creating the
Right Rite of Passage for Retirement.” Generations 26(2): 80–2.
Yohko Tsuji, Ph.D., is adjunct
associate professor of anthropology
at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
References
Bethel, D. L. 1992. “Life on Obasuteyama, or, Inside a Japanese
Institution for the Elderly.” In
Lebra, T. K., ed., Japanese Social
Organization. Honolulu, Hawaii:
University of Hawaii Press.
Hamabata, M. M. 1990. Crested
Kimono: Power and Love in the
Japanese Business Family. Ithaca,
N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Lebra, T. K. 1984. Japanese Women:
Constraint and Fulfillment. Honolulu,
Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.
Long, S. O. 2005. Final Days:
Japanese Culture and Choice at the
End of Life. Honolulu, Hawaii:
University of Hawaii Press.
Malinowski, B. 1948. Magic, Science
and Religion and Other Essays.
Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
©American Society on Aging
Myerhoff, B., and Tufte, V. 1975.
“Life History as Integration: An
Essay on an Experiential Model.”
The Gerontologist 15(6): 541–3.
Raymo, J. K., and Kaneda, T. 2003.
“Changes in the Living Arrangements of Japanese Elderly: The
Role of Demographic Factors.” In
Traphagan, J. W., and Knight, J.,
eds., Demographic Change and the
Family in Japan’s Aging Society.
Albany, N.Y.: State University of
New York Press.
Smith, R. J. 1974. Ancestor Worship
in Contemporary Japan. Stanford,
Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Thang, L. L. 2001. Generations in
Touch: Linking the Old and Young in
a Tokyo Neighborhood. Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University Press.
Tsuji, Y. 2002. “Death Policies in
Japan: The State, the Family, and
the Individual.” In Goodman, R.,
ed., Family and Social Policy in
Japan: Anthropological Perspectives.
Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
Fall 2011 • Volume 35 . Number 3 | 33
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Parenting, Policies, and
Practice: Christian Influence
on Child Welfare in America
Jill C. Schreiber
Christianity has been integral to the development of America’s child
welfare policy in two ways: Christian beliefs have influenced evolving
American cultural norms about parenting, and Christians have responded
to children whose needs were not met by their parents, both by creating
institutions and agencies and by influencing policies. Christian influences
were explicit when Protestant Christianity was the cultural norm, but its
influence is still present in the secular child welfare systems today.
Since cultural norms are slow to change, changes are more apparent
when taking a broad scope. To portray the variations in the role of Christianity in child welfare policy, this article compares three changes in centuries
in American history: the Post-Colonial Era (late 1700–early 1800s), the
Progressive Era (1890s–1920s), and what I refer to as the Modern Era
(late 1900s–early 2000s). In colonial times, children were perceived to be
the property of their fathers, and harsh physical punishment was deemed
religiously necessary for successful child rearing. Over the past three
centuries, mothers and children have developed more rights, limits were
placed on physical discipline, and cultural values of self-actualization and
independence have gradually replaced those of unquestioning obedience
to authority.
The first societal responses to poor parenting focused on poverty, and
with time they evolved into child protection. Christians founded the first
institutions that were focused on children—orphanages. Currently, state
public child welfare systems assume primary responsibility for child welfare, and are necessarily nonreligious. However, religious issues are still
relevant. For example, many religious child welfare organizations receive
public funding for their work through subcontracts.
Social Work & Christianity, Vol. 38, No. 2 (2011), 293-314
Journal of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work
Social Work & Christianity
294
Private charity is always commendable. It is of ancient
origin, and has blessed the world and sweetened dependent
child life alone for ages. Public charity, more modern, is
stronger in its power, when fully and properly exerted. Both
are to be encouraged and continued. And yet out of them all
cannot there be matured a system which should include both
private and public, and which should be brought to a higher
perfection, under which all children should be protected
from ill treatment, should be reformed if delinquent, and
should be cared for if dependent, all being restored to the
kind and elevating influences of good home life? (Randell,
1893, p. v).
C
hristianity is a factor in child welfare today for many
reasons. Most individuals in America are Christians (Pew
Forum on Religion in Public Life, 2008), and this would include children, biological families, and professionals in child welfare.
Many child welfare institutions and service providers also have ties to
the Christian faith (e.g., Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Social
Services). Christian values have also grounded many legal and policy
decisions.
Because the United States was initially an overwhelmingly Protestant country, it is not surprising that the norms held for parenting were
Protestant ones. Christian values and ethics also guided responses to
situations when these parenting norms were not being met. Christian
involvement in child welfare is motivated by a variety of Hebrew Bible
(Old Testament) scriptures to care for widows and orphans and by a
familiar passage from James: “Religion that God our Father accepts as
pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their
distress” (James 1:27, New Revised Standard Version).
This review begins with a summary of the Post-Colonial context and
then considers the Progressive Era, when the needs of children became
more of a concern to society and public services became more professional. The development of child welfare in the 21st century, with less
explicit religious content, is then discussed. Finally, I conclude that it is
important for educators and researchers to acknowledge Christianity’s
current influence in child welfare.
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
Post-Colonial Era
Relationships between Children and Parents
In early America, child welfare was based on tradition, English poor
laws, and Protestant beliefs and Biblical texts, specifically Deuteronomy
(Mason, 1994). In this era, just as slave children were the property of their
masters, free children were perceived to be the property of fathers. Children
were removed from fathers who could not support them and were “bound
out” to masters who could. The focus of the law was on relieving the public
of economic burdens, not on the best interest of the child.
Fathers in the 18th century were expected to raise children who were
not only vocationally able but religiously trained (Reardon & Noblet,
2009). Vocational training and religious catechism in early America were
similar to medical and educational requirements of parents today; to fail
to meet societal expectations could lead to removal of children. For example, a 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony statute stated: “Masters
of Families are to Catechize or cause to be Catechized, their children
and Apprentices at least once a week, on the grounds and Principles of
religion” (cited in Mason, 1994, p. 6). Religious catechism coincided with
general education because “the universal child’s book of the day was the
Bible” (Earle, 1899, p. 228). Other than a primer, and possibly a hymnal,
the Bible might be the only book a child would read from.
Both free and slave children alike experienced corporal punishment.
Harsh physical punishment of children was justified as religiously necessary. Many of the early Americans who came from Europe brought with
them a belief that eternal salvation is dependent on “breaking the will
of the child” or “beating the devil out of them” (Greven, 1992). Biblical
scriptures such as “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou
beatest him with the rod, he shall not die” (Proverbs 23:13, King James
Version) were commonly used as justification for beatings, deemed necessary to ensure that children were not rude, stubborn, or unruly.
In several states parents were even excused from charges of murder if “death occurred while lawfully correcting the child” (Mason,
1994, p. 104). South Carolina defended the use of knives as tools for
disciplining children: “Provisions on killing by stabbing do not apply
to person, who in chastising or correcting a child chances to commit
manslaughter without intending to do so” (South Carolina code of law,
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cited in Mason, 1994, p. 104). Before the late 19th century, public officials rarely interfered with a family’s right to discipline their children
(Sealander, 2003). If a father could not control his children, the state
intervened. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island had “stubborn child laws,” under which a son who would not obey his parents
was to be brought to the state for chastisement. The consequence for
the child could be as severe as death (Mason, p. 11). There was little or
no public response to what we today define as child abuse or neglect.
The closest thing to our current understanding of child welfare was a
focus on meeting the needs of destitute people.
Society’s Responses to Concerns about Children
In the Post-Colonial Era, there were few provisions of social support and even fewer organizations that focused on the needs of children.
All institutions were local, and there were no state or national policies.
Although public institutions existed, most of the organizations that
provided social support (including services exclusively for children)
were private and sectarian.
Public Poor Relief
At the start of the 1800s, destitute people were cared for at a local
level in concordance with the poor-law system practiced in England.
Folks (1902) describes five methods of caring for the poor that were
used before 1850 (p. 3):
1) By outdoor relief, given to families in their homes.
2) By farming out to a number of families, each pauper being
awarded, as a rule, to the lowest bidder.
3) By contract with some individual, usually the lowest bidder,
who became responsible for the care of all the paupers of a
given locality.
4) By support of the almshouse directly under the control of
public authority.
5) By indenture.
Children were less likely to be farmed out or put on contract, but
indenture was thought to be especially applicable for them. Almshouses
were first built in the large cities for both children and adults, often with
minimal or no differentiation in how they were housed or treated.
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
Orphanages
The first institutions especially for the care of children were created
by Christians. The first private orphan asylum was established in 1727,
attached to the Ursuline convent in New Orleans. George Whitfield, the
celebrated itinerant preacher, established the Bethesda orphan house in
1738 in Savannah, Georgia. By the start of the 1800s, private institutions
for children had been established in New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
and Baltimore. The first public institution for children that was not part
of an almshouse was opened in 1794 in Charleston, South Carolina.1
There were not yet many orphanages at the start of the 1800s, but
by the end of the century they were quite common. This shift was the
result of two major changes. By the mid-1800s, in response to awareness
of the negative effects of housing children with adults in the almshouses,
laws were enacted that limited or forbid the placement of children there.
Additionally in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment made “involuntary
servitude” illegal, rendering the indenture system for children unconstitutional. Since these previous avenues for child raising were closed,
more orphanages were needed.
The majority of children housed in orphanages were not orphaned,
but rather came into care from broken families, single-parent homes,
or married but destitute parents. These children entered care for a variety of reasons. “Within a single institution we frequently find mental
defectives, backward children, delinquents, dependents, and neglected
or ill-treated children” (Mangold, 1910, p. 331). Most agencies making
decisions about children in need of care used indenture, adoption, or
‘placing out’ when children reached appropriate ages (twelve for boys
and fourteen for girls). “As a rule, the orphan asylums seemed to regard
the placing out system rather as a convenient means of disposing of
their older wards” (Folks, 1902, p. 64).
Although a few orphanages developed under public supervision,
the vast majority were private, and most of those religious. By 1904,
there were 119 public orphanages or children’s homes and 956 private,
serving a total of 92,000 children: 52,000 in sectarian homes, 30,000
in other private homes, and 10,000 in public homes. Most religious
orphanages were constructed by groups affiliated with Catholic or
Protestant organizations (Askeland, 2006). The first non-Christian
home was Jewish; it was established in New Orleans in 1856. Although
some private orphanages were supported by groups of people “prompted
solely by philanthropic impulses” (Folks, 1902, p. 56), these “non-re-
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ligious orphanages” were often Protestant by default (Crenson, 1998,
p. 42); for example, they held nondenominational Protestant religious
services and included the Protestant Bible in their schools.
Some child advocates believed institutions were the proper method
of care for dependent children, pointing to the values of “discipline,
education, moral instruction, good environment, physical training and
other advantages” (Mangold, 1910, p. 303). Others perceived orphanages differently, citing “the manifold evils of aggregation, of the absence
of individuation and the unnatural conditions and surroundings of an
institution” (Mangold, 1910, p. 303). Sophie Minton, the chairman of
the Committee on Children States Charities Aid Association, stated it
plainly: “The same drill which makes a good soldier annihilates the
individuality of the child” (Minton, 1893, p. 45). She and others had a
strong preference for placing children out.
Placing Out
Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Connecticut favored placing out
above institutions. Their institutions were “strictly used as ‘clearing
houses,’ or first steps to placing out” (Minton, 1893, p. 45). Boardingout and Placing-out Societies found homes for children and gave the
caregivers a small fund, but children were expected to do their share
in household work to earn their keep. It was not necessary for foster
families to be well off: “rough conditions are nothing if the influence
is good, morally and physically” (p. 47). Indeed, “the wish to place
a child on a higher social scale than which it was born” was deemed
inappropriate (p. 48).
Another version of placing out was Orphan Trains, which were one
of the solutions to the plight of destitute inner city children. In 1853,
Charles Loring Brace, a young minister, founded the Children’s Aid
Society. The society arranged the trips, raised the money, and obtained
the legal permissions needed for relocating the children. Brace wrote,
“The great duty is to get [the children] utterly out of their surroundings
and to send them away to kind Christian homes in the country” (The
American Experience, n.d., ¶ 3). Between 1854 and 1929, more than
100,000 children were sent to new homes in rural America. Some of
the children had good placements; some experienced abuse or other
mistreatment.
Early efforts to place children into private homes rather than orphanages ran into fierce resistance from Roman Catholics, who feared
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
that Catholic children would be placed in Protestant homes and would
consequently convert. This objection was categorically dismissed during the 1879 National Conference of Charities and Corrections (the
predecessor to the National Association of Social Workers, or NASW).
The religious bias is evident in the following quote:
It will be very difficult, therefore, to provide for some of
those [Catholic] children. . . . [F]ew Catholic families in
New England are now sufficiently intelligent and prosperous to adopt or to train the children who need homes;
and, as they usually have large families of their own, it
is difficult to find among them homes to be compared
with those freely offered by Americans and Protestants
(cited in Crenson, 1998, p. 33).
In spite of these concerns about religion, placing out became the practice of the day.
The orphanage movement that was a hallmark of the 19th century
became less popular in the early 20th century, when childhood and
motherhood came to center stage.
Progressive Era
Christianity and Progressive Culture
In the early 20th century, the origins of child welfare had their roots
in Christian values. Although religious institutions had always provided
mutual aid to their own members in times of crisis, in the Progressive
Era (1890s–1920s), the Social Gospel Movement called for the church
to support people outside of their congregations. The “Social Gospel”
was based on the principle of social responsibility, rooted in the Bible,
that defined a good Christian as one who was active in reforming society
according to Christian morality (Ebaugh, Saltzman, & Pipes, 2005). It
stood in opposition to theology based on “the inherent depravity of the
poor” (Winston, 1999, p. 124). Social Gospel adherents claimed that they
were replacing the “Gospel of Wealth” with the “Gospel of Jesus.”
Concerns about industrialization, urbanization, and immigration were part of the impetus for the Social Gospel movement. Early
proponent Rev. Josiah Strong stated in 1885, “The city has become a
serious threat to our civilization, because in it . . . each of the dangers
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(Romanism, socialism, wealth, intemperance, immigration…) is enhanced and all are focalized” (Winston, 1999, p. 16). However, not
all Christians during the Progressive Era supported the Social Gospel
movement. Lutherans, for example (and others), were opposed to its
values and believed that social reform could only be achieved by the
“transformation of individuals” (Pittman-Munke, 1999).
Social work as a profession evolved out of the combination of religious impulses (including the Christian Social Gospel and the Doctrine
of Charity) with secular liberalism, associated particularly with political
economy and ethical individualism (Leiby, 1978). Since secular liberals
and religious charity workers held different values, many issues were
contentious; however, the two groups shared concerns about child
welfare. Children were the object of universal sympathy; by making
them the focus of reform, sectarian and ideological differences were
neutralized (Crenson, 1998).
Relationship between Children and Parents
The role of families changed during the Progressive Era. Families
became more private and isolated, partially due to increased mobility,
and this was accompanied by an increase in the values of individualism
and trust in societal progress:
The work by parents must be done within the home. The
home is an institution fundamental to our civilization.
Its preservation must be rigidly guarded, and the duties
taken from the home must not be so numerous as to
lessen the cohesive force of this civilizing power. In fact,
the state is using the home as one of its means of achieving further progress. (Mangold, 1910, p. 293)
Growing importance was placed on motherhood and a sentimentalized family life (Sealander, 2003). As the labor movement developed in
the 19th century, fathers left the home each day to earn ”living wages”
to support their households, leaving mothers to take over the responsibilities of home and children. “In nineteenth century America, the
maternal role was exalted to the exclusion of all other occupations for
women” (Koven & Michel, 1993, p. 278).
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
Society’s Responses to Concerns about Children
Maternalism
After the turn of the century, middle-class women were “urged to
impress Christian values of their communities through charitable work”
(Koven & Michel, 1993, p. 10), yet they were expected to live out the
ideals of domesticity while doing so. The esteem for motherhood led to
a rise of “maternalists” who worked for social change (predominantly
in public policies) that supported poor and working mothers. Theirs
was a different focus from that of feminists, who were advocating for
equality and suffrage. Maternalists were predominantly Protestant,
white, well educated, and middle class, working “on behalf” of poor
women and children who were unable to advocate for themselves
(Kornbluh, 1996).
Jane Addams was a maternalist. Focused on social justice and
collective action, she provided concrete support for working mothers,
including day nurseries in her settlement house. Settlement houses were
a product of the Social Gospel movement (Koven & Michel, 1993),
although they were not explicitly religious. (Addams, for example, did
not allow religious instruction at Hull House.)
Maternalists and other child advocates of the day focused on a
broad range of policies, including child labor, infant mortality, appropriate recreational opportunities (parks, playgrounds, and libraries),
juvenile justice, children’s health, and compulsory education. They also
addressed issues more commonly associated with child welfare today,
including adoption, foster care, and maltreatment (called child cruelty).
In response to concerns about maltreated children, both adoption and
foster care were legalized (Askeland, 2006). However, the objective of
“child saving” was not to protect children from cruel or abusive parents
but to save society from future delinquents (Pfohl, 1977).
Child Cruelty
In the 1870s, the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC)2 was organized (Marten, 2004). By 1910, more than 250
private organizations identified themselves as “anti-cruelest” or “child
rescue.” These organizations explicitly identified poor people and/or
immigrants as those most likely to beat a child (Sealander, 2003 pp.
57, 59). Child cruelty was considered a type of neglect. Neglect in the
Progressive Era “included parental incompetence, not properly caring
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for the needs of a child, and parental unfitness, usually immoral behavior
or drunkenness” (Reardon & Noblet, 2009, p. 98).
Harsh physical punishment was generally still acceptable in the
early 1900s, and people had to give reasoned arguments to oppose it.
One such argument was carefully stated by Gerry Elbridge, who in 1882
addressed the National Conference on Charities and Correction:
It is in the interests of the republic that the people should
not be disintegrated or impaired by any diminution of the
intellectual, moral or physical strength of its members.
. . [and that children as the] future component parts of
the sovereignty, should be so cared for and reared that
males when mature shall be competent to bear arms for
the protection of the republic [and] that women shall be
physically capable of bearing children (National Conference on Social Welfare, 1974, p. 127).
He also argued that humans are made in the image of their maker and
that “the purity of the children is the most beautiful type of the purity
of God himself” (p. 128). He concluded his address discussing the
mission of SPCCs:
They protect the helpless, they bring back the outcast,
they seek to save children in danger of being irretrievably lost. For physical cruelty is the parent of vice. Want
and neglect are the incentives to crime, and crime not
only destroys its perpetrator, but eats like a corroding
ulcer into the nation which countenances its existence.
(Elbridge address to National Conference on Charities
and Correction in 1882, cited in National Conference on
Social Welfare, 1974, p. 130)
Concerns about abuse were based on a combination of theology
with the Aristotelian principle of “parens patriae.” “This principle
maintained that the State had the responsibility to defend those who
cannot defend themselves. This was also understood by some to assert
the state’s privilege in compelling infants and their guardians to act
in ways most beneficial to the State” (Pfohl, 1977, p. 312). Both child
delinquency (violating criminal codes) and child dependency (coming
from a poor home with neglectful or abusive parents) damaged the State,
and thus children experiencing either were targets for “child saving”
Christian Influence on Child Welfare in America
in the late 1800s. However, this perception of dependency changed in
the early 1900s.
On Christmas day in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt issued
a call to more than 200 child welfare experts and philanthropists to attend a meeting on the care of “children who are destitute and neglected
but not delinquent” (Crenson, 1998, p. 11). At the meeting a month
later, the participants made several recommendations, including the
establishment of a federal children’s bureau. They also proclaimed that
“children should not be removed from their families except for urgent
and compelling reasons, and destitution was not one of those reasons”
(Crenson, p. 15). This was a turning point, since previous policy had
determined poverty to be sufficient for removal of children.
Charity workers had long argued that public outdoor relief (assistance in one’s home rather than placement in an almshouse) was
pauperizing, was dangerously open to political corruption, placed an
unfair burden on the taxpayer, lacked proper supervisory methods, and
discouraged help from relatives, friends, and churches. To counteract
these concerns, state boards were developed in New York in 1916 that
were enabled but not required to provide financial assistance, but “only
when the mothers are suitable persons to bring up their children properly and require aid to do so” (Hopkins & Cupaluolo, 2001, p. 27).
Mothers’ Rights
Custody and parenting rights were linked to the changing status
and power of women and to the powerlessness of the poor. In the early
20th century, when women were beginning to be awarded other rights
(property, litigation, contracts, and suffrage), few states gave women
rights to their children.
Parental rights had first been awarded to a mother in America in
1809 in Plather v. Plather (Reardon & Noblet, 2009). This coincided
with a new focus on a natural law understanding of a “mother’s special
capacity to guide and nurture” (Reardon & Noblet, p. 88). However,
Plather v. Plather was an isolated case, and higher courts overturned a
similar ruling in 1844, where a judge expressed concerns about “natural
law,” stating, “human laws cannot be very far out of the way when they
are in accordance with the law of God [which supports the father as
head of the family]” (Reardon & Noblet, p. 89).
However, mothers eventually earned parental rights, starting with
unwed mothers, who gained legal rights to their children in the early
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1900s. Previously unwed mothers had either raised their illegitimate
children without the support of the law or saw their children taken
away. In the Progressive Era, tensions arose between the evangelical
women who had managed maternity homes for decades and those in
the new profession of social work over how to best deal with the issue
of unwed mothers. Kunzel (1993) researched a plethora of primary
sources, including case notes from maternity homes, for her book Fallen
Women and Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization
of Social Work, 1890-1945, the main source for the next section.
Unwed Mothers
Unmarried mothers were a lightning rod for social concerns during the Progressive Era, similar to the iss…
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