At first however, the administrative problems were acute. Almost immediately following the implementation of the Act, and the appointment of Children's Committees and Children's Officers, the numbers of children in care noticeably increased. The fact that reception into the care of the local authority was now made on a judgement of need rather than a test of destitution meant that many more children were brought within the interpretation of the Act, while the Courts now began to make increasing use of their extended powers to commit both young offenders and children neglected or beyond control to the local authority. In two years the number of committed offenders doubled while the number of committed nonoffenders rose by one in twenty. 1 Whereas in 1946 the Curtis

Committee had estimated the numbers of deprived children in the care oflocal authorities as about 46,ooo, by November 1949 the numbers had risen to 55,255 and by 1953 had reached a peak figure of 65,309. These heavily increasing numbers of children in care threw a great strain on the new administrative departments and on the available accommodation for children. Nor was this generally of the right kind or quality in which to carry out the principles of care represented by the new service. The Children's Committees inherited the poor law residential nurseries, usually in the grounds of the public assistance workhouse or hospital, the grouped cottage homes, the large district school type of home and the all purpose receiving homes, which now had to meet the needs of a much more heterogenous group of children in an individual way, taking into account the sort of family situation which had brought each one into care. Many more children were now received in conditions of temporary breakdown of the family, where for example illness or hospital treatment of the mother made this necessary, as well as in the pathological situation of abandonment or committal by the courts. The first group which represented the majority (colloquially they became known as short-stay children) required generally short term care during which the continuity of their own family life need be only superficially broken, the second group (the long-stay children) required long term treatment and often a permanent substitute home. The immediate provision of shelter and care became an overriding anxiety, accentuated by the lack of staff. In this situation local authorities turned their attention, not to the providing of field staff (for the service was new and its development to be watched carefully) but to the provision of the right kind of residential care and the improvement in its quality. In this, it is now evident, they were mistaken, but the tradition of institutional child care was a long one, administratively convenient and largely understood. In a new service the children's homes provided immediate evidence of the quality of the work ; the buildings, staff and children could be seen in reaction together by the committees whose heavy responsibility it was to operate the new legislation. In this they were supported by the Inspectorate of the Home Office who saw as the most pressing need the raising of the standard of institutional

care. 1 The Committees, therefore, first concentrated on closing down the unsuitable premises they had inherited and in moving the children into newly built or newly adapted homes more suited to the need of the child in care. The old poor law residential nurseries and the large children's homes were the first to go, and new residential nurseries, reception homes, small children's homes scattered and integrated in the new estates, and hostels for the adolescents were opened. The Children Act, in order to raise the very low standards of nursery care which prevailed, expressly required the consent of the Secretary of State for the continued use of the old poor law institutional nurseries and it was here that the first improvements were made. 2 One hundred and forty six institutional nurseries were in use when the Act came into force. By 1951 they had been reduced to seventy four, and one hundred and seventy four residential nurseries were provided by voluntary organizations and by local authorities in new or adapted buildings.3 Administration of such nurseries was not easy, they had to provide stability, a home and an affectionate relationship for both long stay and short stay children, to consider the individual needs and future placing of each child, and at the same time guard against the very real dangers of cross infection where such vulnerable groups of babies and young children were cared for together. Professional staff had therefore to be employed who would combine experience in the care and training of healthy children with skill in nursing and the prevention of sickness and who

Methods of Care To-day could make of a strangely artificial structure a place of warmth, understanding and satisfaction for the youngest homeless child.