Poverty and Social Work Essay examples

8885 Words Apr 7th, 2011 36 Pages
From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America- Walter I. Trattner

Chapter 1: The Background

The chapter traces the origin of welfare practices and caring for the needy from primitive times to the Elizabethan Poor Laws. References include Hammurabi, a Babylonian ruler who included protection of the vulnerable a part of his code in 2000 BC and the ancient Greeks and Romans (including Aristotle, 384-322 BC) who considered giving to charity a virtue.

Perhaps more important to American welfare, were ancient Jewish doctrines which established that giving and receiving were duties. Those who could give were obliged to do so, while those who were in need were obliged to accept help. The Talumd codified these
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According to Trattner, the early colonists were more concerned with caring for the poor than minimizing welfare costs. The poor were conscious of their rights and were not simply standers-by in the welfare system. This system was more humane than later incarnations- at least for those who were white.

Chapter 3: The Era of the American Revolution

Trattner traces the growth in poverty levels between the 17th and 18th centuries. Some historians have even suggested that poverty was a major cause of the American Revolution. Municipalities were spending from 10-30% of their funds on poor relief.

Towns and parishes were primarily responsible for poor relief, but the problem was so severe and the charitable impulse sufficiently strong that some report a sense of national unity on issues of poverty. Private funders also helped in poor relief efforts; this was more common in the 18th than the 17th century, since few had extra money to give in the earlier period.

The salience of churches in raising money for poor relief is also discussed, with particular emphasis on the humanitarian impulse of the Quakers. Other societies based upon nationality, socializing, etc became involved in charitable giving. Trattner notes how a combination of public and private relief was used to assuage poverty during the colonial period, with little of the antagonism that surrounded the public/private debate in earlier periods.

Trattner attributes the “urge to help” to

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