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White House Conferences on Children (U.S.)

Between 1909 and 1971, four Republican and three Democratic presidents held White House Conferences on Children. Each conference reflected its era’s political priorities, but they shared a common belief in children’s natural innocence and vulnerability, the value of scientific expertise, and the principle that child welfare was a shared responsibility between different levels of government (federal, state, and local) and the private sector. Over time, the White House Conferences placed more emphasis on the deleterious impact of racism, the government’s responsibility for all children (not just the most disadvantaged), and the participation of young people themselves. They continued to influence legislation and scientific research but became increasingly political, unwieldy, and bureaucratic. The last conference was beset by discord, and the idea of a White House ...

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