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CLERK'S (LEGAL) DEPARTMENT: CHILDREN

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/CL/L/CH
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: CLERK'S (LEGAL) DEPARTMENT: CHILDREN
Date(s): 1948-1965
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 7.33 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.

Adoption:
Until the Adoption Act 1926 legal adoption did not exist in English law. The 1926 Act gave no specific powers to local authorities, but the County Council was frequently, in its capacity as a local education authority, asked to act as a Guardian Ad Litem (that is to protect the child's rights before the law). When so requested, the County Council delegated this function to the officers of the Education Department. Other local education authorities could be approached instead in cases within their areas, or the Court's own probation officer might be appointed.

The Adoption of Children Regulation Act 1939 was designed to rectify some of the abuses of the 1926 Act and specifically, required adoption services to be approved and registered with local authorities. There were in fact only three such services in Middlesex in 1943 when the Act was finally implemented and only one, the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society, remained in operation for any length of time thereafter. Also from 1943 certain duties of supervision of private adoptions were placed upon the welfare authorities, of which the MCC was one.

The duties of the Education Department relating to adoptions passed to the newly created Children's Department in 1948. In the next year was passed the Adoption of Children Act 1949, which was immediately consolidated with the previous legislation as the Adoption Act 1950. This Act made significant changes to adoption procedures: that which most particularly affected the County Council was the requirement that no adoption order could be made unless at least three months notice of intention to adopt had been given to the welfare authority, i.e. the County Council. Therefore from 1950 the County Council was notified of every intended adoption within the County, regardless of who the guardian ad litem was. Further, on receipt of a notice of an intended third party adoption (that is to say an adoption placement made by a third party, not a registered adoption society or local authority; adoptions by parents of their own children - very commonly done by women with illegitimate children and subsequently married) an officer of the Children's Department would commence supervision of the child or children either until the granting of the Court Order, or, if the supervision revealed the prospective adopters as unsuitable, until the end of the statutory period. The Adoption Act 1958 extended the powers of supervision to all adoptions and from this date the County Council had, in theory, some record of every adoption that took place in the County. The Act also enabled local authorities to act as adoption agencies in their own right.

Children in care:

The Local Government Act 1929 and the Poor Law Act 1930 abolished the Boards of 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 Council'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 Clerk's Legal Department relating to children's services, 1948-1965, including general files on individual children and families; general case correspondence; official correspondence; case papers for children in care; case lists of adoptions of children in care; register of decisions of the Adoption Sub-Committee; reports of the Adoption Sub-Committee relating to guardian ad-litem adoptions; notifications of proposed guardian ad-litem adoptions; notices of intention to adopt made to the County Council as Welfare Authority; correspondence with juvenile courts; unusual adoption cases, precedents and cuttings.

Papers relating to children in care including apprenticeships of children in care; case papers under Section 1 of the Children's Act 1948; determinations of the Home Office under the Children's Act 1948; case papers under Section 2 of the Children's Act 1948; recovery of arrears of parent contributions to children in care; case files under the Children and Young Person's Act 1933.

Please note that access to these files is restricted under the Data Protection Act.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

MCC/CL/L/CH/01: General; MCC/CL/L/CH/02-17: Adoption: MCC/CL/L/CH/18-23: Children In care; MCC/CL/L/CH/24: Children and Young Persons Act 1933; MCC/CL/L/CH/25: Litigation.

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:

See also MCC/CH/A (Adoption), MCC/CH/C (Children in Care) and MCC/CL/CH (Clerk's Department papers relating to Children's Services).


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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