Foster Care History 1940s – 1950’s

Cod Liver Oil, Outgrown Shoes and Visitors – Foster Care History 1940s – 1950s

Long before foster care organizations like Foster and Adoptive Family Services were established, life was very different for foster children and foster parents than it is today. This information on Foster Care History in the 1940s – 1950s is reprinted from the New Jersey Foster Parents Association’s (now known as Foster and Adoptive Family Services, or FAFS) twentieth anniversary program.

Foster Care History – Medicine, Nutrition and Clothing

foster care historyA 1942 publication of “A Home Should Provide” by the State Board of Child Guardians, suggested to foster parents that “Cod liver oil should be given to children under four years of age from September through May, and in certain instances throughout the year.” (Cod liver oil was thought to boost the immune system and protect children from colds and flu.)

Back then, the agency provided milk to foster children through contract with a delivery company and foster parents had to advise the agency promptly if the milk delivery was irregular in coming.

Clothing for children in foster care was provided through a large supply house run by the Board. Foster parents were urged to carefully measure their foster children twice a year so their clothing requests could be submitted. Foster parents also had to plan for a child’s foot growth at least once a month in advance to be sure that a replacement pair of shoes could be obtained in time.

Foster Care History – Caseworkers

Case managers were called “Visitors.” Foster parents were cautioned that the Visitor always knew best. Because telephones were not in common use, letters were the usual form of communication between the Visitor and the foster parent. For permission to obtain routine and special medical care (emergency medical care could be authorized by the foster parent) or authorization for reimbursement for expenses like hair cuts, prescription medication or cod live oil foster parents had to keep careful records.

As you can see, many things have changed for the better for foster children and foster parents since the 1940s-1950s. Check back for more posts on foster care history in NJ before the establishment of Foster and Adoptive Family Services.

17 thoughts on “Foster Care History 1940s – 1950’s

  1. Hello I am looking for records on my father who is now deceased but was living in foster care in the 1930’s. / 40’s. How do the good about getting records.? He was born in Newark

  2. My father was placed in foster care. His mother was unwed and charged with “lewdnessness” and placed in Vineland StateHome for Women. While in custody of the State Home she became pregnant. She accused 11 Camden police officers of molesting her and a grand jury was called to investigate. They met in August of 1941 and in 2 hours cleared all the cops. She was 20, unwed and 9 months pregnant while on stand. She gave birth to my dad on August 23rd and ran away from the home.

    I know a report exists that gives details of my dads early life with his foster family. A person came a few times a year and checked in on him. The report also had a lot of info about Eleanor Selah (his mother). I have called NJ dept of records requesting the report. They won’t release it. I’ve spent literally years looking for info about Eleanor. She was born in 1922, I’m sure she has passed away. My dad is gone as is my mom and brother. I’m 47 and just want closure. How can I get info on my dads birth mom?

    You have no idea how much I appreciate any help. I’ve emailed and called so many people. I’ve spent endless nights for years on and Any help would be wonderful!

    Jennifer Selah Morris

  3. My mother was in the foster care system in Paterson the 40’s. I know the names of two of her foster families. One was the Bidlers’ and one was the Stutz’. Is anyone familiar with them? My mother passed away last year and I’m trying to piece together her early life.

  4. We’re looking for information about our mom (now deceased). She was born at Clinton Farms Women’s Reformatory, New Jersey 11/1929, then removed from the Reformatory in Jan./Feb. 1931 by the then State Board of Childrens Guardians. We are trying to figure out where she lived from then until 1944 when her mother married and was able to get her back. Any ideas of who may be able to help us?

  5. looking for information on montclair new jersey foster care from 1935-1956. My husband was in the system. his social worker was Ms. Elizabeth Gilkerson.

  6. My father was in the foster care program in the 1940’s. He worked fields. And if he didn’t pick enough potatoes they would electrocute his hands. To this day his hands show frost bitten ragged knobs that have taken him through life. He would literally walk miles to school in snow storms. He finally ran away in the 6th grade and joined the many orphans and other foster children on the railways. He doesn’t talk about it much, but I can see where the foster care program needed a regeneration, and I am grateful for the people involved in changing history for future misplaced children.

      • I was just online trying to find out some information about where my sisters lived in the 1940s. All I could recall was the name of someone who worked at the home or ran it. Her name was Mrs or Miss Cornish and the home was in Jersey City I also may have lived in the same place on and off until I was about 5.
        I came upon this site when Googling for info. I didn’t know it was the Children’s Home of Jersey City. I too would appreciate any information about this institution and Mrs. Cornish. Thank you

      • I wrote a comment about 1/2 hour a go, but not sure if you got it. I believe that in the 1940s my two sisters lived on and off in the Children’s Home of Jersey City. I think I may have spent some time there also from my infant years until I was 4 or 5 years old, but I’m not sure.. I do recall the name Miss or Mrs. Cornish. This is the first time I’ve tried to find out info about it and I’m now 67 years old. My mother was ill on and off and I think my sisters lived there when she was ill and came home for periods of time when she was feeling better. I may have also lived there on and off 1948 to about 1952 or so, but don’t know for sure. I would very much appreciate hearing whatever you can tell me about the home and Mrs. Cornish. Thank you

      • My Grandmother and her brother were sent there temporarily but they don’t know why. We are trying to find answers for her.
        I keep coming to this site as a dead end.
        She was there when you were there Eva.

      • I never knew you replied. Are you the same woman who called me a few months ago & I regretfully have not replied? What was your mom’s name. My closet friends were Peggy Lyons &Charlotte Vogt. I would so love to hear from you.


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