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A History of Federal Child Antipoverty and Health Policy in the United States Since 1900


concerning this article should be addressed to Andrew L. Yarrow, 7509 Oldchester Road, Bethesda, MD 20817; e-mail:


Abstract— America’s political leaders, parents, social thinkers, educators, and child-development and child-welfare professionals have long emphasized society’s responsibility to children, but these efforts assumed new prominence around 1900. The federal government has supported and provided services from health care to poverty alleviation and enforced a wide range of laws and regulations to enhance the well-being of Americans under age 21. The record of federal child policy implementation has been mixed. Despite this, political and fiscal impediments, and conflicting social science research and popular values, Washington still needs to play a leadership role in improving the well-being of America’s children and families. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1935: “It must not for a moment be forgotten that the core of any social plan must be the child.”