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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/CH/PR
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1930-1965
Level of description: Collection
View subfonds/series records
Extent: 6.16 linear metres
Name of creator(s): MCC | Middlesex County Council x Middlesex County Council


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.

Child Life Protection (Fostering and Boarding-out):
Both fostering and boarding out as activities greatly pre-date the formation of the County Council. Fostering - that is the arrangement whereby one person pays another for the care of a child - has always existed in one form or another. Boarding out was a function of the Guardians under both the old and reformed Poor Law, whereby pauper children, instead of being maintained in the workhouse were housed by private individuals either in or out of the Union, who paid them for doing so. The main motive for this was probably economic: boarding out cost the Guardians less than maintaining the child in a workhouse, and those taking pauper children were able to use them as cheap, if not indeed free, labour.

Fostering too had its abuses, the grossest of which was baby farming, the scandal of which necessitated legislation in the form of the Infant Life Protection Act 1872 which made it compulsory for persons taking for hire two or more infants less than a year old to register with the local authorities, who were the Councils in the care of the boroughs and the Justices in the case of counties. A new Infant Life Protection Act was passed in 1897 which included the power for the inspectors of the local authority forcibly to remove a fostered child to a place of safety if it were endangered. A further measure to the same end was the Notification of Births Act 1907, a permissive act , made compulsory in 1915, whereby all births had not only to be registered but also notified to the local medical officer of health.

Under the Children Act 1908, the legislation was extended to cover those fostering one child for reward. Child life protection as a whole was transferred to the Poor Law authorities, whose duties comprised the receiving of notice where a person undertook for reward the nursing and maintenance of an infant under the age of 7; the appointment of visitors to inspect such children; the limitation of the number in a dwelling; the removal of such infants improperly kept; and the receiving of fines imposed from offences. Poor Law institutions had in fact been specifically excluded from child life protection legislation, and they were thus not obliged to inspect their own boarding out facilities. These had already been the subject of separate legislation in 1889 and 1905, to be followed by more in 1909 and 1911, whereby boarding-out committees exercised an impartial supervision of the measures of each Union.

The Local Government Act 1929 abolished the Guardians and their powers were transferred to and divided between various Departments of the County Councils and their authorities. Child life protection became the duty of the local health authorities responsible for the maternity and child welfare services under the Maternity and Child Welfare Act 1918. These were the same authorities as were constituted under the Notification of Births Act, of which the MCC was one of several in the County. Boarding-out of children in care, however, became the duty of the Public Assistance Department.

All the Maternity and Child Welfare authorities passed their child life protection duties to the Children's Department in 1948, which thus became responsible for the supervision of fostering throughout the County. The Department was of course also responsible for the boarding out of children in care.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex County Council Children's Department relating to foster care, 1930-1965, including notifications of death and removal under the Children Act 1908; notifications of death and removal under the Public Health Act 1936; registers of child life protection; case files on foster parents; applications and correspondence with foster carers. Please note that access to these files is restricted under the Data Protection Act.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The archives have been arranged into the following series: MCC/CH/PR/01 Registers; MCC/CH/PR/02 Foster parents files; MCC/CH/PR/03 Foster parents applications and correspondence; MCC/CH/PR/04 Foster parents: deposit from the London Borough of Ealing; MCC/CH/PR/05 Foster parents: additional deposit from the London Borough of Ealing.

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:

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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