is part of the definition of child welfare articulated by the Child
Welfare League of America in the mid-1950s. It was part of an ambitious
effort to define standards that would, according to League President
Marshall Field, finally “take the ‘folklore’ out
of child care and would substitute in its place the most scientific
knowledge currently available” in “psychology, psychiatry,
sociology, anthropology, genetics, pediatrics, child development
and medicine.” The standards project produced Standards
for Adoption Service in 1958. This lengthy handbook detailed
the protections that birth
parents, children, and adopters should be offered and described
exactly what should happen before, during, and after children were
placed. It was revised in 1968, 1973, 1978, and 1988. The newest
revision is Child Welfare League of America, Standards of Excellence
for Adoption Services, 2000.
Nature and Needs of the Child
The distinctive aspects of social work practice in the field of
child welfare are derived from the nature of the child, particularly
his characteristics of dependency and development; and from the
special concern and responsibility for children which all social
groups have. . . .
Furthermore, because it is universally recognized that the years of childhood
are of particular significance for his future development, whatever
happens to the child during the developmental process is of concern
as it may promote, interfere with or adversely affect the kind of
development which is considered desirable. Moreover, the community
or state has a real stake in this, in his becoming the kind of person
whom it needs or wants, who will perpetuate its traditions, values
and ideals. . . .
The family has, through the parents particularly, assured the
child of the close and continuing individual relationships, attention,
concern, special interest and love which we now recognize to be
the most important stimulants of healthy development. We
can therefore say that the primary and unique need of the child
is for parental care. . . .
It is because of the primary social problem of
deprivation of parental care that child welfare services have a
responsibility and a purpose that differentiate them from other
kinds of treatment or social services; and require specialized knowledge,
understanding and skills. . . . In its most extreme
form the problem may need for its solution temporary or permanent
substitute parental care as provided by foster care and adoption
services. . . .
Various kinds of provisions for dealing with the problems that result
when the child’s need for parental care is unmet have been
made by social groups, out of their special concern for children.
In doing so, the social group in effect takes over or shares part
of the parental function, namely, the responsibility for seeing
to it that the needs of the child are met. The assumption of this
responsibility, in proportion to the degree which parents cannot
or are not expected to carry it, is a distinguishing characteristic
of those social services which provide help for children whose need
for parental care is not being adequately met. . . .
For the most part, child welfare services are provided by authorized
social agencies to which has been delegated by law responsibility
for some aspect of parental care.