The origins of child care law date back to the late sixteenth century. The Poor Laws gave power to the boards of Poor Law guardians to provide for the destitute, including children. The Prevention of Cruelty to and Protection of Children Act 1889 was the first statute to impose criminal penalties for the mistreatment of children. Although the language used in child protection has evolved over the years, much of our current legislation has retained its origins from early legislation. The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 embodied many of the principles established in 1889; schedule 1 of the Act lists all the offences against children and, despite subsequent legislative reform in this area, it is still often referred to in identifying risk. The term ‘boarding out’ has its origins in nineteenth-century practice whereby children were ‘boarded out’ with other families within the community – it is only relatively recently that we have replaced the term ‘boarding-out visits’ with ‘statutory visits’, even though the duties and responsibilities of the Poor Law guardians were taken over by the local authorities in 1929.
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