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Protection of children

Adoption and foster care

The act also protected those in the care of public authorities. Local authorities ran children's homes and were responsible for 'boarding out' or fostering schemes. The Adoption of Children (Regulations) Act of 1939 regulated adoption societies, which were increasingly active in providing care for children.

Many civilian deaths occurred during the War, greatly increasing the number of orphans and providing impetus for reform. In 1945, two foster parents killed a child in their care, Denis O'Neill. This led to the Monckton inquiry and the reports of the Curtis and Clyde Committees. The reports were extremely critical of public authorities' care for children, revealing many weaknesses in administration, liaison and supervision. The outcome of these reports was the Children Act of 1948. Through the Advisory Council on Child Care, the act unified childcare functions of various Ministries under the Home Office. It demanded the creation of separate departments in local authorities to deal with children at risk.

For each local authority, a Children's Committee with a trained Children's Officer became responsible for children in the authority's care. The act marked a change in emphasis, from mere provision to meeting the developmental needs of the individual child. The aim was increasingly to use foster parents instead of institutions. If possible, and when in-keeping with the individual's welfare, children would be returned to their parents. While the Cabinet considered the act to be reasonably effective, it did not address the problem of children mistreated within the family at home. The Children and Young Persons Act of 1963 extended the power of local authorities to intervene in cases of parental neglect. The Children Act of 1975 extended the rights of children, foster and adoptive parents and local authorities, and reduced those of the natural parent.