Toronto's first street kids and the origins of child welfare systems in Canada part 1 : the early years

Dunlop, Ted (2017) Toronto's first street kids and the origins of child welfare systems in Canada part 1 : the early years. Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 16 (3). ISSN 1478-1840

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This study focuses on the evolution of a philanthropic movement in the second half of 19th Century Canada that gave particular attention to a population of children and youth in Toronto known as newsboys and newsgirls. The plight of these children, who were largely living on the streets although in many instances still connected in varying degrees to their families, attracted growing attention in Toronto as the city emerged as a major commercial and industrial hub in Canada in the closing decades of the century. Mounting public concern about these wayward young people was fueled by alarmist (though sometimes sympathetic) newspaper accounts of an expanding population of children and youth who were plying their trade from a very young age on the streets selling newspapers, shoelaces, pencils and later working as what were called bootblacks. In establishment circles, these children and youth came to be viewed as a threat to public order whose rough apprenticeship on the streets, so it was speculated, left them vulnerable to a life of crime and prostitution later in life. However, in time, the attention that this population garnered did help usher in a new era that began giving recognition to some fundamental rights of all children. From this, we witness the begrudging acceptance in those early days of a more activist role that government might play in the development of policies that allowed for greater state intervention in protecting vulnerable and marginalized children and youth.

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