By J. Keating
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Extra resources for A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45
39 Babies also became desirable as environmental theories of development became increasingly accepted in the 1920s and those considering adoption were reassured that heredity had little to do with character. Increasing use of intelligence tests and improved methods of determining children’s physical health allayed adopters’ concerns about taking on children of unknown parentage. Writing about English childhood, Harry Hendrick considered that throughout the nineteenth century there was a developing consensus among the middle class and ‘respectable working class’ about the nature of childhood.
A Ward might not marry or leave the jurisdiction without the consent of the Court. In practice, wardship proceedings only involved a very small number of children and it seems unlikely that they were used by any but a small minority of the wealthier members of society. Marriage breakdown and custody Prior to 1857 under Common Law there were very few circumstances in which any court would interfere with a father’s custody of his infant children when a marriage ended. Courts did not even have the Setting the Scene 29 jurisdiction to grant a right of access to the mother.
Their agitation had already led to the passing of the Prevention of Cruelty to, and Better Protection of, Children Act 1889. This established for the first time that Setting the Scene 25 the State could interfere in the family in order to prevent hardship or danger to children. Ill treatment of boys to the age of fourteen and girls to age sixteen was now a punishable offence. Although parents were already compelled to send their children to school, until the 1880s their rights to deal with their children in their own home as they wished had remained sacrosanct, except in the most exceptional circumstances.
A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45 by J. Keating