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CHILDREN'S DEPARTMENT: CHILDREN IN CARE

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/CH/C
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/Pages/ ›
Full title: CHILDREN'S DEPARTMENT: CHILDREN IN CARE
Date(s): 1916-1965
Level of description: Collection
View subfonds/series records
Extent: 165 linear metres
Name of creator(s): MCC | Middlesex County Council x Middlesex County Council

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

The Children's Department of the Middlesex County Council was set up under the Children Act 1948 which embodied the findings of the Curtis Report of 1945-1946. The Act took effect on 5 July 1948; the first meeting of the newly formed Children's Committee took place on the next day, taking over from the Interim Children's Committee, formed of the members of the thereafter defunct Children's Care Sub-Committee of the Education Committee. The first Children's Officer, Mr Ainscow, had in fact been appointed in anticipation, with effect from 1 May 1948. The duties of the Department had previously been distributed across several County Council departments (the Public Assistance, Public Health and Education Departments), as well as bodies (education authorities outside the MCC and the County Maternity and Child Welfare authorities) not part of the County Council at all.

The activities of the Children's Department may be summarised as follows: i) Care and welfare: this comprised of the provision of care for a) children under the age of 17 if they had no parents or guardians; if they were abandoned or lost; of if their parents were unable to provide for their proper upbringing, provided that such care was in the child's best interests: and b) children committed by a court to the care of the County Council under a Fit Person order. This involved inter alia the running of homes and nurseries, the maintenance of the boarding out system for foster homes, and in some cases the assumption of full parental rights until the child should attain majority. The Department also undertook the care of children as delegated by the Welfare Department when dealing with problem or evicted families.

ii) Child Life Protection: this was a long standing local authority responsibility. After the passing of the Children Act 1948 its effect was to render it an offence for any person other than the parent, legal guardian or a relative to undertake for reward (whether or not for profit) the care of a child below school leaving age (15 in 1948) without notifying the County Council as a welfare authority. The Children's Department publicised the legal obligations upon such persons, supervised placements, inspected and regulated foster homes and so on. After the Adoption Act 1950, a similar duty to notify the Council rested upon anyone placing a child in another's care (with the same exceptions as above).

iii) Approved schools and remand homes: a child could be committed by the courts into the care of the Council either by a Fit Person Order, the effect of which was to put the child into the care of the Children's Department or by an Approved School Order, which placed the child under the care of managers at an Approved School. It should be noted that placements were made under the aegis of the Home Office nationwide, and that although the Council, through sub-committees of the Children's Committees, ran two approved schools, by no means all Middlesex children would be allocated places there. The Committee also ran two remand homes. The Children's Department were involved in briefing judges on cases: sometimes in bringing themselves in order to gain the powers by which to afford children under threat the care and protection they needed; and as the executive arm of the County Council on receipt of Fit Person Orders. Staff were also responsible for the supervision and after-care of "licensed" Middlesex children.

iv) Under the Adoption Act 1926, the County Council had since 1943 to oversee the compulsory registration of adoption societies in the county (not an onerous duty: two were registered in of which only one, the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society, continued for any length of time). Compulsory notification to the County Council of all adoptions in the county was not introduced until the Adoption Act 1950. Also, from that point of view the Council had to supervise every prospective third party adoption in its area, whether or not involved in any other capacity. After the 1958 Act the Council had the power to place children for adoption even if those children were not in its care. Its powers of supervision were widened to include all adoptions in the county.

Health areas of the County of Middlesex, also used as administrative areas by the MCC Children's Department: Area 1 Enfield and Edmonton; Area 2 Southgate, Potters Bar, Wood Green and Friern Barnet; Area 3 Hornsey and Tottenham; Area 4 Finchley and Hendon; Area 5 Harrow; Area 6 Wembley and Willesden; Area 7 Ealing and Acton; Area 8 Ruislip-Northwood, Uxbridge, Hayes and Harlington, Yiewsley and West Drayton; Area 9 Heston and Isleworth, Southall and Area 10 Feltham, Staines, Twickenham, Sunbury.

Children in care:
The care of destitute children, one of the functions of the Elizabethan poor law, was made a duty of the Boards of Guardians under the reformed Poor Law of the 1834 Act. They provided relief and education, and later arranged employment, apprenticeship or emigration. From 1889, the guardians could adopt children - that is to say assume the rights and duties of parents towards them. The Guardians were also empowered to board out children, either in private families or in voluntary homes. The Children Act 1908 among other important provisions described elsewhere transferred to the Guardians the duties of inspection and supervision previously given to the justices and the police under the child life protection legislation being passed from 1872.

The Local Government Act 1929 and the Poor Law Act 1930 abolished the Guardians and transferred their powers to local authorities. Those specifically relating to the poor and destitute became the responsibility of the newly formed Public Assistance Department of the Middlesex County Council, who took over the children and institutions formerly under the Guardians. Those large institutions still in use for children, such as the Chase Farm Schools in Enfield (formerly Edmonton Union) were re-employed, and the children placed in smaller and more personal homes favoured by the MCC.

The duties of the Guardians relating to child life protection were passed to the Maternity and Child Welfare authorities under the Maternity and Child Welfare Act 1918, of which the MCC was one, although the larger boroughs and urban districts provided their own services. The MCC Maternity and Child Welfare Service was part of the Public Health Department. Children with physical and mental disabilities were the responsibility of the local education authorities under the Education Act 1902, of which the MCC's Education Department was one, although as with the Maternity and Child Welfare services, there were others in the county.

All of these functions were taken over in 1948 by the Children's Department subsequent to the Children's Act. The Department also took over certain other functions of the Education Department. As stated above, the Acts of 1929 and 1930 transferred to the MCC Education Department the care of children with disabilities. The Department's role in child care was however greatly increased by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (under this Act a child was defined as one up to the age of 14, and a young person as being aged 14-16). Besides re-stating the procedures by which a child being the victim of wilful neglect or cruelty might be brought before the courts for its own safety, this Act gave a new importance to local education authorities by transferring to them the duty of bringing before the courts children and young persons in need of care and protection; the administration of remand homes and newly established approved schools; and of being a "fit person" to whom the courts could commit the children brought before them.

The 1948 Act had the effect of transferring these functions of the Education Department to the Children's Department. Children taken into care were now defined by the relevant sections of the Act. Section One permitted the local authority to assume the care of orphaned or deserted children and children whose parents or guardians were unable or unfit to take care of them: this section also contained the unprecedented proviso that the children should be returned to their parents or guardians if at all possible. Section Two permitted the local authority to assume all parental rights and responsibilities over a Section One child if it seemed that the circumstances which caused the child to be taken into care would be permanent. Section Five made it obligatory for the local authority to accept the care of a child committed to it as a "fit person" by a court under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex County Council Children's Department, 1916-1965, relating to children in care, including case files, family case papers and reports, and registers of children adopted by the Boards of Guardians or the County Council, of children boarded out, of children attending secondary school, of children taken into care, of committals to MCC care, of children adopted from MCC care, of children who died in care and of welfare cases. Please note that access to these files is restricted under the Data Protection Act.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

The archives have been arranged into the following series: MCC/CH/C/01 Case files; MCC/CH/C/02: Family case papers; MCC/CH/C/03: Family case report forms; MCC/CH/C/04 Case files from Ealing; MCC/CH/C/REG Registers.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at: http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired with the records of its parent authority, the Middlesex County Council, and with successor authorities.

Allied Materials

Related material:


Publication note:

For further information on the history of the Middlesex County Council please see Middlesex by Sir Clifford Radcliffe (2 editions, 1939 and 1953), LMA Library reference 97.09 MID; and The County Council of the Administrative County of Middlesex: 76 years of local government, 1 April 1889 to 31 March 1965, by Middlesex County Council (1965), LMA library reference S97.09 MID.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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