You are here


The centennial anniversary offers a valuable opportunity to look back and reflect on the Children’s Bureau’s impressive history. An engaging e-brochure, interactive timeline, commemorative e-book, and other resources help tell the Children’s Bureau’s story and feature the key issues, laws, and leaders that shaped that story.

100 Years of Serving Children and Families

On April 9, 1912, President William Howard Taft signed the Children’s Bureau into law and created the first government agency in the world focused solely on the needs of children. Over the next 100 years, the Children’s Bureau played a critical role in improving the lives of children and their families.

The Story of the Children's Bureau

While priorities and trends have changed over time, the Children’s Bureau's work has reflected:

  • Collaboration
  • Assistance to States and Tribes
  • Research and data collection
  • Getting the word out through campaigns, publications, and conferences
  • Leadership

Through engaging text and historical images, the Story of the Children's Bureau highlights key activities and accomplishments in each of these areas "then" and "now".

Children's Bureau Timeline

Use this interactive timeline to explore the Children’s Bureau’s rich history, decade by decade. Learn about the key political and social events that influenced the development of today’s Children’s Bureau and shaped the evolution of child welfare in America.

The Children’s Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood

This history of the Children’s Bureau’s first 100 years combines compelling text with striking historical images to tell the story of the small Federal agency that continues to have a big impact on the lives of America’s children and families.

Justice, Not Pity: Julia Lathrop, First Chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau

Dr. Cecelia Tichi presents a captivating account of Julia Lathrop and her groundbreaking efforts as the first chief of the Children’s Bureau. Access the full online transcript, PDF (157 KB), and audio mp3 (9.01 MB) of the 2007 presentation.

To listen to this file, you must have an audio player on your computer. To download Windows Media Player for free visit: 

A new video captures 100 years of leadership in protecting children and strengthening families. The series also includes seven spotlight videos on key topics. Available in English and en Español.

Centennial Moments

In 1957, the Children’s Bureau partnered with the Florida Department of Welfare and the Russell Sage Foundation to conduct one of the earliest studies of private adoptions.

Adoptive parents meet their child for the first time, circa 1960.

The 1912 law establishing the Children’s Bureau called on the new agency to “investigate and report… upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people.”

President William H. Taft giving a speech believed to be the one described in the New York Times, April 26, 1912.

The Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) collaborates with over 60 Federal and national partners in support of National Child Abuse Prevention Month each April to help protect children and strengthen communities.

Logo from the 18th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.

In the 1960s, the Children’s Bureau was designated the lead Federal agency for the care of unaccompanied Cuban refugee children.

Young Cuban refugee holding her dolls in a Florida airport, circa 1961.

The Bureau developed a reputation as an authority on child care, receiving as many as 400,000 letters per year. Mothers asked questions on diet, illnesses, how to keep a baby entertained, and more.

A letter received by the Bureau dated April 28, 1915.

The Social Security Act of 1935 greatly expanded the Children’s Bureau’s program responsibilities. The Bureau went from distributing nearly $340,000 in 1930 to administering just under $11,000,000 by the end of the decade.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, 1935.

Approximately 20,000 children featured on AdoptUSKids’ national photolisting have found permanent families since the website’s launch in 2002.

A recent public service announcement from AdoptUSKids.

After WWII, the Children’s Bureau oversaw the placement of thousands of European children evacuated to the United States.

Parents with child adopted from overseas, 1940s.

The Children’s Bureau encouraged sun baths and cod liver oil for infants—a simple and low-cost solution to prevent rickets, a debilitating early childhood disease.

Babies sunbathing on garden lawn, circa February 1946.

The Bureau developed a reputation as an authority on child care, receiving as many as 400,000 letters per year. Mothers asked questions on diet, illnesses, how to keep a baby entertained, and more.

Raising a Baby the Government Way: Mothers' Letters to the Children's Bureau

In 1942, to promote the use of U.S. child welfare literature in other countries, the Bureau published a glossary of child welfare terms in Spanish, Portuguese, and French with English translations.

Glossary of Certain Child-Welfare Terms in Spanish, Portuguese, French & English

The Children’s Bureau proclaimed “Children’s Year” beginning April 1918 and mobilized 11 million volunteers across the nation to reduce infant deaths by educating parents.

Children’s Bureau poster commemorating Children’s Year, circa 1918.

The 1931 Children’s Charter supported the protection of 19 fundamental rights of children, including: For every child understanding and the guarding of his personality as his most precious right.

Cover of The Children’s Charter.

Since November 1995, National Adoption Month has focused on raising awareness about the adoption of children and youth in foster care.

President Clinton puts his arm around adopted child, Charday Mays

Following World War II, the Children’s Bureau sponsored back-to-school drives for youth who had left school to work on war-related efforts.

Poster promoting reading and library use; an Ill. Work Projects Adm. art project

Responding to the large numbers of women entering the workforce during WWII, the Children’s Bureau developed standards for day care for children of working mothers and a maternity policy for industry.

Women welders on the way to their job at the Todd Erie Basin dry dock, circa '43

“Justice for all children is the great ideal in democracy.” —Grace Abbott, 2nd Children’s Bureau Chief, c. 1930.

Grace Abbott, date unknown.

After WWII, the Children’s Bureau oversaw the placement of thousands of European children evacuees sent to the United States. The Bureau provided standards of care and helped State and local agencies place the children.

Cover of Care of Children Coming to the U.S. for Safety Under Atty. Gen's Order

By 1930, three popular Children’s Bureau publications—Prenatal Care, Infant Care, and Child Care—had a combined circulation of more than 10 million.

Cover of Infant Care, stamped by Congressman William Carss of Minnesota, 1926.

Children's Bureau Express

Centennial Series

Articles explore the politics and social movements of the early 20th century that laid the groundwork for the creation of the Children's Bureau. View the 1st Centennial series.

Articles take a decade-by-decade look at highlights from the Children's Bureau's first 100 years. View the 2nd Centennial series.

Get Children's Bureau       CBx Envelope Image
Email and News Alert

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer