Orphans and Orphanages as Childcare in the United States

Since colonial times, orphanages in the United States have taken care of children without parents. But they have largely served the childcare needs of working parents, especially single mothers and fathers facing family crises. Orphanages boomed in the 19th century, with the simultaneous forces of industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and migration wreaking havoc on working families. Race, gender, religion, and region also impacted the way that orphanages were founded and operated, and families themselves shaped the institutions through their demands and the ways in which they used them. By the mid-20th century, orphanages were waning, yet they had already established the foundation of contemporary child welfare policies and the particular U.S. approach to childcare practices. This entry examines the history of orphanages, orphanages as childcare providers, ...

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