The History of Foster Care in Michigan and The U.S. (Part 2)

March 2, 2018 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
1800s kids
Life was very rough for many Michigan youths in the late 1800s.

Welcome back and thanks for joining us for this discussion on the history of foster care in the U.S. and Michigan. As we explained in the previous article, the earliest foster system developed for dealing with the thousands of homeless and abandoned children in the US was the formation of massive, institutionalized orphanages, and later, the Orphan Trains out of New York.

By the late 1800’s, many states were attempting to address the needs of the countless children that roamed the streets, begging and stealing food for daily survival. Michigan’s answer was Child and Family Services, now known as Child and Family Services of Michigan, Inc.

Child and Family Services of Michigan

In 1891, the Child and Family Services of Michigan was established as the Michigan arm of the American Education Aid Association. It was founded by a group of people who felt that Michigan’s many neglected and homeless children should be cared for. The very first child they took in was a young girl who was described as “ragged, filthy and infested with vermin.” She was bathed, given clean clothes, and placed with a family who raised her to be a “well educated, self-supporting, young woman.”

Soon after, two large lots on the outskirts of St. Joseph in Berrien County were donated to the organization, and in 1894 a “Receiving Home” for children was built. This became Michigan’s first non-institutionalized home for children. Shortly thereafter, based on the belief that a child’s successful development requires loving family care, adoption and foster care services were established as alternatives to orphanages.

Early foster care in Michigan

Interestingly, in 1906 it was the position of CFS that even short-term institutional care had a negative effect on children. They also held that whenever possible, children should be kept with their natural families, as the benefits to the children far outweighed the costs. This is a perspective that is still being fought for today, although it seems that CPS and other state-operated organizations are less in favor of keeping families together than they once were.

By 1913, offices were being opened in several cities around Michigan, and by 1920, the investigation of child need cases, foster care, adoption, and supervision and casework services were provided to children in their own homes instead of at CFS branch offices. By 1922, some 300 nongovernmental child protection societies were scattered across America, inspired by the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC), which was the world’s first non-governmental agency formed for the sole purpose of helping children.

The issues facing society haven’t changed much in the last 100 years

100 years ago children were abandoned by parents who struggled to put enough food on the table. Babies were left by desperate mothers who simply couldn’t care for them, and children were neglected or abused by parents who struggled with substance abuse and extreme poverty. Sadly, very little has changed.

Join us next time as we take a look at child services in Michigan, how the concept of foster care developed, and the different ways people have tried to solve the abuse and neglect of children. Until then, if you or a loved one have had a run-in with CPS and you are worried about losing your children to foster care, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled child abuse and neglect defense attorneys are here to help!