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Revisiting Children’s Bureau History to Move Forward

A 5-year-old boy picks from10 to 20 pounds of cotton a day, circa 1916 (Library of Congress)Last year, the Children's Bureau celebrated its 100th anniversary. The first government agency in the world to focus exclusively on improving the lives of children and families, the Children's Bureau administers federal programming to support the nation's child protection, foster care, guardianship and adoption programs.

As part of the centennial celebration, the Bureau produced the e-book The Children's Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood. Organized by historical period, the e-book explores the Bureau's work to reduce infant mortality; eradicate child labor; document the dire conditions faced by families during the Great Depression; assist in the recovery after World War II; and today's efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect and help children in foster care find permanent and loving families.

The e-book is an important look at the Bureau's past through compelling text and striking photos. As the Children's Bureau's new leadership looks at the changing field of child welfare, remembering its history will help carve a path for its future.

"The most impressive quality of the Children's Bureau staff is the respect and regard they show for the children and families we serve," said Joe Bock, deputy associate commissioner at the Children's Bureau. "Even more impressive is how our staff is not bound by tradition or yesterday's notions of what practice should look like. We look at what we have learned from the people we serve and what they teach us about how to serve them better in the future."

The BellStewart family is recognized at 2007's Adoption Excellence Awards by Deputy Associate Commissioner Joe Bock.Another aspect of the Bureau's centennial celebration was a collection of technical workgroups composed of youth, families, Tribal members, social workers, related professionals, and others. These diverse stakeholders came together to envision an ideal child welfare approach for the next 100 years. The technical workgroup yielded Voice to Vision, a synthesis of its work that is intended to help establish a common focus across the field for achieving meaningful change for America's children and families.

"We have a vision of a child welfare system in which educators, mental health providers, the courts, physicians, social workers, and anyone involved with families in child welfare collectively discuss what's happening in their lives," said Bock. "In this approach, stakeholders from across the continuum will gather to ask how we can support families' strengths and better meet their needs in order to help them achieve their goals and live the lives they want. Our goal is a coordinated system that proactively strengthens families and communities, preserves family relationships and cultures, and honors the voices of children, youth, and families," said Bock.

Voices to Vision will be available on the Children's Bureau website in the coming months:

In addition to the e-book, the Bureau's history is recounted in a short video, The Children’s Bureau, 1912–2012: A Passionate Commitment. A Legacy of Leadership. The video is available in English and Spanish. The e-book, The Children's Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood, is available on the centennial website, where visitors can also find an interactive timeline of important historical and political events shaping the Bureau's work, historical photos, webinar recordings, and much more.

First photo: A 5-year-old boy picks from10 to 20 pounds of cotton a day, circa 1916 (Library of Congress)

Second photo: The BellStewart family is recognized at the Children's Bureau Adoption Excellence Awards ceremony in December 2007 by Deputy Associate Commissioner Joe Bock. (Children’s Bureau Express)

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