The family farm played an important role in the development of a welfare system for dependent children in the United States. This became increasingly true in the second half of the nineteenth century as the population of institutionalized children grew alongside the desire to place those children into the homes of families. Farm families, which held a special place in the ideology of a self-sufficient United States, partnered with institutions and childplacing agencies to house tens of thousands of dependent children. Those involved in child welfare believed that they could reverse the trend of dependency by placing children with Americans of high esteem. Farmers, for their part, could expect labor from their placement children in exchange for care. The availability of dependent children filled an important farm labor need while attempting to satisfy the goals of reformers.

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