One measure of an enlightened Nation is how it treats and values all of its residents, from the weakest to the strongest, particularly its children. The recently deceased Nobel Peace Prize laureate and anti-apartheid reformer, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, once said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
March is Women’s History month, and its theme for 2014 is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment.” Thus, we felt it only appropriate to highlight an ebook about some extraordinary American women reformers of the Children’s Bureau who demonstrated unwavering character, courage and commitment to improve the lives of children and mothers in this Nation and ensure the right to a safe and healthy childhood, but who ended up changing the very soul of America.
The Children’s Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood (ePub eBook) shares the 100-year legacy of this landmark agency that established the first Federal Government programs, research and social reform initiatives aimed to improve the safety, permanency and well-being of children, youth and families. It provides a fascinating exploration of the evolution of America and our treatment of children through each Presidential Administration as it covers often inspiring and sometimes heart-wrenching topics such as: ending child labor, the Orphan Trains and the controversial Indian Boarding Schools; adoption and foster care; infant and maternal mortality; Aid to Dependent Children; support of US military families and care of European World War II refugee children; early childhood education Head Start; child abuse and neglect; and much more. The many rare photographs lend a poignant immediacy and reality to the story of the issues and reforms.
Government Book Talk had a chance to interview one of the Children’s Bureau current women of character, courage and commitment, JooYeun Chang, Associate Commissioner for the Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: What inspired your organization to publish The Children’s Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood?
JooYeun Chang: The Children’s Bureau has a rich history of helping to protect children and strengthening families over the past 100 years. When it came time to commemorate our centennial, we wanted to share with the child welfare field and the public the Bureau’s story of commitment to improving outcomes for our nation’s children and families.
A key goal for the centennial was to raise the visibility for the tremendous accomplishments that have been made in child welfare, to build a deeper level of understanding for the important work we continue to do, and to plan for the progress that needs to be made in the future.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: How did you come up with the title “Ensuring the Right to Childhood”?
JooYeun Chang: The Children’s Bureau was created at a time when the idea that children had a right to a happy and healthy childhood was a relatively new concept. At the turn of the last century, many children served as an economic necessity to their family—another working hand.
The phrase “right to childhood” was first used by Florence Kelley, an early advocate for a Federal agency that focused on children, in a 1905 publication. In 1930, the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection yielded a 19-point Children’s Charter outlining what every child needs for his or her education, health, welfare, and protection. The conference and charter recognized the rights of the child as the first rights of citizenship, and so “Ensuring the Right to Childhood,” seemed like a perfect fit for the eBook title.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: What is the overall message in the book that you want readers to grasp?
JooYeun Chang: The primary message of the eBook, and of the Children’s Bureau over the past 100 years, is that childhood is a special time and something that should be cherished and protected. This message was well articulated by President “Teddy” Roosevelt at the White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children of 1909:
“There can be no more important subject from the standpoint of the nation than that with which you are to deal, because when you take care of the children you are taking care of the nation of tomorrow; and it is incumbent upon every one of us to do all in his or her power to provide for the interests of those children whom cruel misfortune has handicapped at the very outset of their lives.”
The Bureau has a passionate commitment to collaborating with States, Tribes, local communities, organizations, and other stakeholders to help protect children and strengthen families. We’re proud of our history and excited to see what our future holds.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: What were the challenges in bringing this publication to life?
JooYeun Chang: One hundred years is a long time, and there was a lot of material to work with and consider in telling this story. That meant we had to do a lot of digging. We determined early on that we wanted to tell a story that would have broad appeal. Everyone who worked on this project enjoyed looking at the old photos, reading the old publications, and seeing the strong connections between our work then and the work now.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: In your opinion, what is the single most important “don’t miss” part of “The Children’s Bureau Legacy” and why?
JooYeun Chang: That’s such a difficult question because the book is divided into key historical periods, each with its own importance and significant moments.
I think the chapters that highlight some of our nation’s first reformers, such as Lillian Wald, Florence Kelley, Julia Lathrop, and Jane Addams, will strike a chord with social workers and other child welfare and related professionals.
Julia Lathrop, the Bureau’s first chief, was a pioneer in research-based interventions that truly saved a generation of children. That passion and commitment remains the same for today’s child welfare professionals. There’s some incredibly poignant stuff throughout all the book’s chapters.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: What will readers find the most surprising and why?
JooYeun Chang: I knew that the fight to eradicate child labor wasn’t accomplished overnight, but when you read this book and see how long the fight actually lasted, it’s astonishing.
The U.S. Census of 1900 estimated that more than 2 million children between the ages of 10 and 15 were gainfully employed. After the Bureau’s creation in 1912, one of the first tasks was surveying existing state child labor laws and conducting a series of studies to better understand working conditions and wages.
When the first child labor law was passed in 1916, the Bureau was tasked with its oversight. That marked the first time the Bureau was given authority outside our original mission to “investigate and report” on all things child welfare. When that law was eventually ruled unconstitutional, the Bureau continued research efforts on the subject.
It wasn’t until 1938—12 years after the Bureau was created—that the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, and even that didn’t fully eradicate child labor. It did establish regulations and granted enforcement authority to the Children’s Bureau.
So, reading about the important role we played in bringing an end to child labor was inspiring and brings to mind our current work fighting child exploitation.
In 2012, President Obama commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation by announcing efforts to do more to combat human trafficking.
Child trafficking victims are often from the most vulnerable populations, including those involved with child welfare. The July/August issue of our e-news digest, Children’s Bureau Express, looked at the intersection between child welfare and human trafficking, highlighting Federal Government efforts to combat the issue, a training and technical assistance center offering services to professionals who may encounter victims, and a free handbook for enhancing the child welfare response to human trafficking.
Download this free handbook, “Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking”, mentioned in this Children’s Bureau Express July/August issue.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: Finally, are there additional resources where readers can go for more information about the Children’s Bureau’s achievements?
JooYeun Chang: Our Children’s Bureau centennial website continues to be updated with materials related to our 100th anniversary. One of its unique features is an interactive timeline that highlights a century of Bureau accomplishments, milestones, legislation, and other key events that shaped the evolution of child welfare in America over the past 100 years.
GOVERNMENT BOOK TALK: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Associate Commissioner. The Children’s Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood (ePub eBook) was one of the more engrossing and inspiring histories I have read in quite a while,
with its account of how America reclaimed the right to childhood through the hard work of courageous women who refused to yield.
Said Children’s Bureau leader Grace Abbott, second Children’s Bureau Chief in 1930 (shown right): “Justice for all children is the great ideal in democracy.” Quite an inspiration for National Women’s History month!
Click on the image below to print this FREE Children’s Bureau poster:
How can I get this eBook and other publications about women’s history and children’s health?
- Shop Online Anytime: You can buy this eBook or any other eBook, as well as print publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:
- Order by Phone: You may also Order print editions by calling our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
- Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
- Download PDF or buy from commercial eBook Sellers: You will find links to a PDF version and to third party eBook seller sites like Apple iTunes, Google Play eBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and others on this Children’s Bureau Legacy eBook page.
- Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. (Librarians: You can find the records for most titles in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications or CGP.)
About the author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.