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Find the Best Setting For Your Story Characters

fruits and sweets
Foster Care: Food Shelter Support Love

I always go back and forth with different concepts before I find the best setting for a story character. My latest dilemma is a ten year old girl found alone in the 1970s. Would she be put in an orphanage or placed in foster care? I decided on the foster care system because of it's believability during that time.

Head over to my articles on Substack for more information on the importance of using facts in your creative writing.

My research showed that orphanages in the Philadelphia area were starting to dwindle in the 70's. Interestingly, Catholic Social Services still had some orphanages. I found this article in my research if you want to read more about orphans in CSS.

In the 70's, the Philadelphia foster care system was going through some restructuring which will make an interesting aspect for my story. Already, my mind sees this young character developing within a loving, chaotic foster care home. I can't wait for you to meet her!

See my notes below for a quick synopsis of the foster care system. Suggestions for further reading are linked throughout the notes.

Remember, when writing, dig deep. You'll find golden details.


May 25, 2020. by Voices For Children 

For these notes, I thank and give full shout-out to Voices for Children.

Volunteer/donate to their worthy causes.

1500s - England’s ‘Poor laws’: Poor and/or orphaned youth are placed in homes as indentured servants until adulthood. This carried over to the colonies. Some colonial homes took in indentured children from England.


1636 – Benjamin Eaton (7) is USA first recorded foster child.


1853Children’s Aid NY founded by Minister Charles Loving Brace. Program offered housing, food, fresh air programs, and schooling for thousands of orphaned children. Began placing children with families in the Midwest (controversial Orphan Train Movement).


Mid to late 1800s – Some local agencies and state governments get involved with foster care placement by offering families money for taking children too young to work. Pennsylvania makes it a misdemeanor for families to care for two or more unrelated children without a license.


Early 1900s – Shift from protecting guardians to protecting children. Local agencies monitor foster parents, keep records, and consider the needs of children for placement. Reunification services become available. Foster parents become a ‘foster care’ network rather than separate entities.


1919The Children’s Bureau, part of the United States Department of Labor, published Minimum Standards of Child Welfare: children stay in their own home whenever possible and if removed out of necessity, they're placed in foster care for a 'home' environment.


1935 – The federal government takes over foster care. State inspections of foster homes mandated before federal grants are given for child welfare services.



1939-1945 – During World War II, thousands of children leave unsafe areas in England and are temporarily placed in foster homes around the United States. Great article for further reading:  The Evacuated Children of the Second World War.


1977 – CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate – volunteer position) introduced in Seattle. These volunteers are asked to give the court detailed information about foster children’s needs. The advocate was expected to represent the child while they were in the system. This model spread throughout the United States. In 1980, Kathryn Ashworth, Esq and Elizabeth Bacon co-found a CASA program Voices for Children in San Diego County.


1988 – President Reagan makes May the National Foster Care Month.


2012 – California’s Extended Foster Care Program (EFC) goes into effect. Youth can stay in foster care up to 21 if:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED

  • Enrolled in higher education

  • Participate in an employment program

  • Employed at least 80 hours a month

  • Have a medical condition that prevents the above requirements

For Further Reading

This last article offers insight into how/why teens and young adults would be targeted for sexual coercion, manipulation, and other forms of abuse. Check out my blog on Covenant House to find more information.


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