By J. Keating
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Additional info for A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45
Mothers were increasingly seen as the crucial factor in any improvement in infant mortality. 48 Attempts to improve mothering skills led to an expansion of the health visiting system which had started in some parts of the country during the latter part of the nineteenth century, whereby mothers would be visited by women who were either working for charitable societies in a voluntary or paid capacity or employed as sanitary inspectors by the local authorities. These ladies gave the mothers instruction Setting the Scene 21 about how to improve the care and nutrition of their children and the management of their homes.
The writers bleakly summed up the practice towards unmarried mothers in the 1920s and 1930s: [B]etween the wars unmarried mothers were more rigorously classified [than during the War]. Voluntary organisations took mainly ‘first offenders’ and tried to place them in domestic service. 81 One of the men Elizabeth Roberts interviewed worked for nearly forty years in a hospital, which was still a workhouse when he went there in 1924. He described the regime for unmarried mothers and their children in the 1920s.
The concept of wardship derived from the medieval king’s role as liegelord, the parens patriae, obliged to maintain and defend his people in return for service and obedience. This role included his prerogative right to protect persons and estates of infants, idiots and persons of unsound mind. Initially he carried out this role directly and received petitions and made orders himself. These powers and duties were later exercised by the Lord Chancellor, until in 1660 his Court of Wards and Liveries was abolished and its prerogative transferred to the Court of Chancery.
A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45 by J. Keating