There is no doubt the 1960s witnessed revolutionary social change in the United States. The decade ushered in massive political and cultural upheaval: the civil rights movement, antiwar protests, drug culture, women’s rights, and the sexual revolution.

Amid the rapidly changing social and economic conditions, Family Service Association of America (FSAA) examined the range and emphasis of a typical family service agency in 1960. New developments since its 1953 report on scope and direction included:

  • Widespread growth of interest in mental health.
  • Increasing divorce rate and a growing use of marital and family counseling; many agencies had waiting lists.
  • Continued growth in family life education, services for the elderly, and group treatment.
  • Increased fee-based business as family service agencies attracted a growing middle class clientele.
  • Public concern about increasing juvenile delinquency and crime. Family service agencies responded with programs aimed at both treatment and prevention.
  • New strains on families as the result of industrial changes, displaced employees, women in the labor force, and families moving from rural to urban areas. Flight to the suburbs left many central cities as ghettos.
  • Creation of the American Bar Association’s new section on family law. FSAA and its Committee on Lawyer/Social Welfare were instrumental in its formation.
  • A growing interest among health groups in developing “home aide” programs to care for patients within the home setting. Much of this activity was based on the pioneer work of family and children’s agencies that developed homemaker services.
  • Increasing emphasis on specific health problems and money raising efforts; growth of united funds to encompass health drives within federated fundraising.
  • Closer ties between voluntary national human service organizations.
  • Greater participation in professional education and group education activities.
  • Greater leadership in community planning and social action.
  • Interest on the part of large child and family service agencies in conducting research to uncover social problems and create effective solutions.

In the tumultuous 1960s, race relations and poverty took center stage. The nation awakened to the future needs of its rapidly increasing older population. There was a new focus on the growing issues of homelessness, drug addiction, and crime.

Patterns of family life were changing rapidly in this era; in fact, the very definition of “family” began to be questioned. Child and family service agencies were grappling with significantly increased rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, and drug and alcohol use and abuse.

Many thought leaders were questioning the moral fiber of the American people. Did organized religion provide adequate leadership and guidance? Was the family as the basic social institution failing in some of its most vital functions?

Federal Funding Offers Opportunities, Challenges

The federal government instituted social welfare legislation and programs not seen since the New Deal. The infusion of federal funding forever altered the course of human service organizations.

During President John F. Kennedy’s term, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) eligibility was expanded. Congress passed the Manpower Development and Training Act, the Social Security amendments, and the Community Mental Health Centers Act. These provided a greatly increased role for social workers to provide counseling, job training, and outpatient treatment. FSAA added a mental health consultant to its staff to help craft a preventive approach to mental health care.

President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced a plethora of Great Society programs—and federal funding to back them up. The Economic Opportunity Act, Civil Rights Act, Older Americans Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and other legislation launched countless new programs to address poverty, racial inequality, health, education, housing, urban decay, and other urgent social problems. In addition, federal funding helped train a new generation of social workers to meet the escalating demand.

Federal money was funneled to the states, which contracted for services from public and private organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit. Local community action agencies became a force, contracting with family service organizations for services. FSAA agencies began accepting government contracts, often creating new programs to address specific needs. This was a fundamental shift not only in the way organizations were funded, but in how they developed and operated their services.

At a 1963 meeting, the FSAA Board of Directors discussed the members’ use of public funds. Some felt that under no circumstances could public funds be used. Others were equally strong that “you should use whatever you can, whenever you can get it, and for whatever purpose it can be gotten.” The board agreed that basic health and welfare needs were the responsibility of the government. Agencies should not take public funds to solve a temporary problem, they concurred. Rather, agencies should have a deep commitment to the job they agreed to perform.

The FSAA board focused on the safeguards necessary in using public funds. Agencies should be prepared to reject public funds if conditions were not appropriate. The board also recognized the dangers of over reliance on this new source of funding. It was already clear that United Way funding would be an ever-diminishing proportion of agency revenue. Government funding, too, could come and go.

Based on FSAA warnings, Ed Christman, executive director of Family and Children’s Service Center (today’s Family Services of Greater Houston) sounded the alarm to his board. “The private counseling field will have to secure a project, increase fees, lean more to the middle income groups for clients, or apply to private foundations,” he told them. Quoting from an FSAA report, Christman said it was possible that the “emotional health of the family will be in the hands of public auspices in 25 years.” His agency entered into its first purchase of service contracts in 1966, including one for divorce counseling.

Infusion of Public Funds Generates Explosive Growth

“Family service agencies had focused on counseling. Period,” says Bob Rice, who was executive director of Family Counseling Center of Middlesex County, N.J., and who later joined the FSAA staff. “With federal money coming into the states for mental health services and the war on poverty, that all began to change. These new sources of funding broadened the potential ways of serving people.”

The proliferation of government funding and new social welfare programs birthed many new social service agencies. Existing agencies began to offer multiple programs in response to government funding. The proportion of FSAA member agencies offering one or more specialized service in addition to family counseling increased from 79 percent in 1959 to 89 percent in 1964. The most marked change occurred in the number of agencies offering group treatment, from 11 percent in 1959 to 40 percent in 1964.

Historically responsive to changing social conditions, family service agencies applied new knowledge about behavioral health care to meet the changing patterns of family living.

With the divorce rate at a record high, the family service field and the American public wanted solutions. In addition, the 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth heightened interest in family counseling. Marital counseling and family life education increased tremendously.

FSAA received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 1962 for a three-year project involving interagency exploration of causes and treatment of marital problems. Member agencies responded enthusiastically, and many affirmed that their participation challenged and stimulated their local staff members. The NIMH also provided a joint grant to FSAA and the Child Study Association of America to train family caseworkers in leading family life education groups targeted to parents.

Child and family service agencies were pioneers in homemaker services; this field too experienced tremendous growth through the 1950s and 1960s. FSAA took a leadership role in the National Council for Homemaker Services, formed in 1962 as a joint effort between several dozen voluntary organizations and federal bureaus. Clark Blackburn, FSAA general director, chaired one of its committees. Many FSAA member agencies added homemaker services during the next few decades. Of these, many spun off into community–wide visiting nurse associations.

Government funding did not come without strings attached. Agencies were burdened with newly restrictive and often onerous regulations. There were also new requirements for accreditation and quality assurance. A master’s degree in social work became the standard in the field. Agencies now emphasized fiscal, administrative, quality, and governance standards.

In 1962, FSAA’s delegate assembly revised membership requirements with higher standards for casework, staff training, board, and committee participation. Long the recognized body in family service accreditation, FSAA intended these new requirements as a valuable tool to strengthen the structure and quality of all member agencies. In meeting these requirements, agencies were held to a certain discipline; accountability and transparency were essential.

Accreditation increasingly became the selling point in a competitive funding environment. FSAA continued to raise the bar on standards. “In the voluntary field, we are going to have to cry loud and louder about maintaining standards if we are going to be at the frontier,” the FSAA Board of Directors declared at its May 1968 meeting.

Duplication of Services and Funding Constraints Lead to Mergers

FSAA and other national leaders cautioned in the late 1960s that small private agencies risked extinction. An FSAA conference for large agency executives sounded a warning as valid today as it was more than 40 years ago: Agencies must consolidate to achieve economies of scale and maximize impact.

A United Way speaker at that conference predicted that those agencies with yearly budgets under $500,000 would either be merged or go out of business. They simply could not compete with the government, which had massive resources to hire experienced specialists and consultants. Across the country, local United Way organizations were assessing community needs and, in many instances, recommending merger between organizations to increase efficiency and provide more comprehensive services.

In addition, child and family agencies were demonstrating an increasing overlap in programming. Both types of organizations added multiple services in this decade. This was partly due to the surge in federal funds for programming, but it was also based on a new recognition that children must be treated within the context of the family unit. In fact, agencies were losing their market differentiation. Local United Way organizations and other major donors were urging that agencies with a common mission come together.

“In the 1960s, there was a growing awareness that we had family service agencies providing support for children, and child welfare organizations protecting children from ‘bad’ families,” says Reed Henderson, who retired as president and CEO of Family Lifeline in Richmond, Va. in 2008. Henderson also served as senior vice president for member services at Family Service America from 1988–1997. “Why were we treating these as two separate entities? Why weren’t we working together to keep families together, providing support for children within these families? Around the country, a lot of child welfare and family service agencies began merging, working to keep families together rather than pulling them apart.”

National Focus and Demonstration Project Push Aging Services

The 1961 White House Conference on Aging heightened awareness of the needs of the rapidly growing older adult population. FSAA sent four delegates to the conference, which led to passage of the Social Security amendments, Medicare, fair housing legislation, and the Older Americans Act of 1965.

In 1960, the Ford Foundation awarded FSAA $300,000 for a four-year demonstration project to work with older adults. FSAA added two professionals to the national staff to manage the project. Forty member agencies from 31 communities participated. The funding supported training, innovation, and improved quality in counseling, home care, and other specialized programs for older adults. It also stimulated closer cooperation at the local level between voluntary and public agencies. The FSAA Project Advisory Committee fostered the interchange of knowledge gained by the participating communities. National and regional training institutes promoted cross-fertilization of evolving new concepts and skills.

In addition, close working relationships were established with other national agencies active in the field of aging, including the National Council on Aging, Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration, U.S. Public Health Service, and the NIMH.

The demonstration project successfully integrated work with the elderly and their families into the mainstream of agency program and practice. “A considerable amount of skill developed, a great deal of leadership emerged, and creativity demonstrated,” the project advisory committee stated in its 1964 report. As funding drew to a close, FSAA integrated the work into numerous national association departments.

FSAA also received a 1966 grant from the NIMH to enhance services to older adults and their families. Member agencies participated in the pilot project, using a team approach with a professionally–trained caseworker who supervised agency-trained assistants.

Effectively Uniting Human Services with War on Poverty

Historically, the family service field had been concerned with those at the economic fringes of society. But with the government accepting responsibility for basic human needs and with the growing affluence of the 1950s and 1960s, family agencies had the freedom to expand programs and serve new clientele of any income level. Evolving social work techniques now were combined with new sources of revenue, such as fees for service and insurance reimbursements. Family serving agencies increasingly focused on counseling for families of any income level.

In the emerging affluence of the 1950s, poverty went almost unnoticed. In fact, much of the public thought poverty no longer existed. Yet the 1960 U.S. Census revealed that poverty not only was prevalent, it was growing worse.

FSAA conducted a census of its member agencies in 1960 to determine the socioeconomic levels of agency clients. “Although there has been question as to whether our agencies are predominantly geared for the middle class, recent figures … point out that the greater part of our member agency services were devoted to serving the poor and underprivileged groups at the time of a recent study that predates the present interest in them on the part of the federal government,” reported Dorothy Fahs Beck, FSAA director of research at the time. Her report, “Within the Family,” found that about three-quarters of the clientele of family service agencies came from the three lowest income classes. More than 60 percent of all casework interviews by family agencies were provided to those in the lower-middle, upper-lower, and lower-lower classes.

The report, however, was widely used to attack FSAA, portraying family service as a white, middle-class institution, disengaged from the poor. FSAA accepted this as a challenge to know more and do more. It used the census and other findings to spark new ways to serve families more effectively.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty” in his 1964 State of the Union address and shortly thereafter enacted the Economic Opportunity Act. Great Society programs proliferated; further amendments to the Social Security Act created the Medicare and Medicaid programs. With President Johnson’s declaration, the federal government created numerous opportunities for the human sector to help those in need. FSAA and member agencies seized these opportunities to play a significant role in the war on poverty.

With the funding of anti-poverty programs through the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act, family service work began to come full circle. Charity organization societies had begun with friendly visitors who met with the needy in their own homes. When the federal government took over responsibility for relief and basic human services in the 1930s, family agencies had moved into counseling and other services—typically with a “clients can come to us” approach. Now family service agencies were getting out from behind their desks, reaching beyond the walls of their offices, and again working directly in low-income neighborhoods.

Like the charity organization societies and settlement houses before them, family agencies of the second half of the 20th century worked to create self-sufficiency and to address the root causes of poverty. Many family service agencies participated in community action programs funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). It was a new twist on the old charitable idea of helping people help themselves, and it gave rise to an emphasis on community-centered initiatives.

Civic Engagement Main Thrust of Project ENABLE

The OEO awarded a $796,000 grant in 1966 to FSAA, the Child Study Association of America, and the National Urban League. Called Project ENABLE (Education and Neighborhood Action for Better Living Environment), it was the first nationwide demonstration funded by OEO using voluntary social agencies. Project ENABLE was a parent education neighborhood action program—a forerunner of today’s civic engagement initiatives. It was designed to help people living in poverty gain competence and financial independence. Training institutes were developed in seven areas throughout the country. Professional social workers from local family service agencies were trained in group methods of leadership and parental education, and they subsequently trained groups of low-income parents as nonprofessional social work aides.

Originally funded as a multi-year program, Project ENABLE was halted by Congressional budget cuts in 1967. But most of the 64 FSAA member agencies that participated were able to complete at least one year of outreach service to groups in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. During 1966, more than 600 groups of parents from these neighborhoods met in 6-10 week discussion series. Special training was provided to 95 group leaders and 50 community organizers. More than 200 indigenous nonprofessional social work aides were employed and received on-the-job training. Most of those moved into better-paying jobs, returned to school, or moved into leadership roles as board members or volunteers.

“This was not merely education for child rearing or for living in a family, but education in identifying problems, decision making, and planning strategies for action relevant to all conditions that touch on family functioning,” a Project ENABLE report summarized. “Project ENABLE has produced concrete results in new or better services to thousands of families, development of new manpower resources, increased utilization of available services, changes in attitudes and behavior, and impact on every basic institution of the community touching the lives of the poor.”

Again and again, participating agencies, boards, and professional staff witnessed an untapped reservoir of strength among the project’s target population. They also witnessed a deep motivation to collaborate in attacking individual and community problems of poverty, ghetto living, and inequality of opportunity. FSAA, the Child Study Association of America, and the National Urban League continued efforts to combine resources in informal and formal relationships at the local and national level.

Civil Rights Movement is a Wake Up Call

Even before the civil rights movement necessitated strong action, FSAA had been moving toward greater engagement with and increased recognition of the needs of the black community.

In 1963, FSAA surveyed its members about their efforts to develop services that strengthened family life for minority groups. Agencies changed their policies to facilitate access by minority families. Many agencies expanded their office hours to evenings and dozens moved their headquarters or opened satellite offices in inner-city neighborhoods. Family life education and group techniques were targeted specifically to minority populations. Boston Family Services (today’s Family Service of Greater Boston) for example, created a mobile unit. Passage of the Community Mental Health Act in 1963 greatly expanded community outreach, providing funding for innovative services to reach traditionally underserved populations.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation in this decade was targeted to end racial discrimination. How it played out in the streets, on the college campuses, in the board rooms, in lawmakers’ offices, and around the kitchen tables of America, however, was a different story.

The relatively peaceful sit-ins and marches of earlier years now boiled over into riots and violence. Generations of poverty, unemployment, and injustice fueled hopelessness and rage. The “white establishment” was angry too. Welfare rolls were growing rapidly. It was popularly believed that welfare created a culture of poverty and dependence, perpetuated from generation to generation. Welfare programs and those who benefited from them were under growing attack. The social work profession was seen as part of the problem—criticized on one side for perpetuating dependence and on the other for being out of touch and unresponsive to real problems.

FSAA called for a national policy to end racial and ethnic discrimination, eradicate the causes of poverty, and protect and strengthen American families. The declaration read: “This policy must be translated into effective action to remove the obstacles that block the urban poor from achieving healthy family life, and moral responsibility to speak out on principles and programs that are basic to meeting the needs and aspirations of families whose poverty and status (place them) in a minority group. We urge a reordering of the priorities of our nation, states and communities. The task … challenges all instruments of social and economic life to affect basic legal, economic and social changes. It demands the moral force of strong leadership.”

FSAA also worked to end discrimination among its members. It had adopted a position on civil rights at its 1963 biennial conference that called for non-discrimination in selection of board and staff members. Yet within several years, it was clear that although the official position of the organization changed, it had not noticeably altered the complexion of most association gatherings. FSAA increasingly highlighted the importance and urgency of broader representation of the total community in policy-making, as well as more knowledge and understanding of families that were not white and were not middle class.

A strong working relationship with the National Urban League helped FSAA move more rapidly and effectively toward these goals. A day-long meeting of several board and staff members at the National Urban League in February 1969 led to a workshop, Family Service and the Black Experience.

The minutes of this workshop included: “For those in attendance, (it) was a personal and professional landmark. A commitment was made with the clear understanding that its implementation would be difficult and often painful. It would mean giving up comfortable ways of doing things. It would mean sharing power, spending money and changing direction. The question was asked, ‘If FSAA will not, who will? If nobody does, what becomes of our society?’"

It was agreed that commitment without action was no commitment at all. An ad hoc committee of board and staff was appointed to follow up. Both the board and FSAA professional staff added more people of color to key positions. An issue of Social Casework was devoted to the black perspective, and every department and activity of FSAA gave highest priority to translating new insights into policy and programs.

The FSAA 1969 Biennial Conference, “Meeting with Change,” was aptly named. By this time, protest was everywhere—in the streets, on campuses, in churches, at every major national conference of this type. It was no surprise that change took center stage at the biennial.

Just after the opening speech of the 1969 biennial, a group of African American protesters (almost all FSAA members) took over the stage and called for a black caucus.

Brian Langdon, retired president and CEO of FSW in Bridgeport, Conn., remembers it well. Langdon was just beginning his career in the late 1960s; this was his first FSAA conference. “The demonstrators challenged this national organization to stand up for the rights of African American families and civil rights,” he recalls. “That was a powerful moment that led to rapid and significant change within FSAA. It also helped all of us think about things in a bigger way, both personally and professionally.”

The planned biennial program for the following day, designated as The Day of Challenge, quickly was changed to The Day of Black Challenge. The black caucus presented specific demands to FSAA, including strong action regarding FSAA’s commitment to the National Welfare Rights Organization, greater representation on the FSAA board by people of color, and an FSAA task force on white racism. Both the FSAA and the black caucus regarded these demands as positive challenges, motivated by a mutual concern for the future of the family service movement.

At the first national board meeting following the biennial, FSAA President Paul Neal Averill observed that the experience was a healthy reflection of the prevailing mood. FSAA was challenged to update itself and maximize its potential of opportunity to enhance family and individual functioning. “FSAA intends to be among the national leaders in the public and voluntary social welfare picture as it responds to current needs,” he said. “I believe that this intention will be our biggest asset in our efforts to implement our preventive approach in dealing with the total spectrum of services not only to minority groups, but to all clients.”

At that time, there were two required program services to be an FSAA member agency; family counseling and family life education. Soon after the biennial, family advocacy was also required for FSAA membership. It was the birth of today’s public policy and advocacy efforts.

Maintaining Social Action and Appropriate Service

The family service movement historically took two approaches to prevention of family breakdown: direct service and social action. But when the federal government assumed responsibility for social welfare in the 1930s, family service moved to an emphasis on casework technique rather than social action. As private health insurance plans and health maintenance organizations began to cover counseling, agencies gained clientele—and income—from middle-class families who could pay a fee for service. Over the next few decades, social workers increasingly went into private counseling practice. Where were the social activists who pioneered the family service movement?

For several decades, FSAA national and local leadership had exhorted the field not to abdicate its role in social action. They felt professionals in the field had a deep moral responsibility. They also recognized that involvement in public issues was directly tied to funding, public relations, and effective community planning.

“We have a very basic decision to make as to whether we are going to … just react to what’s going on or whether we are going to participate in our attempt to influence some of the major decisions that are being made,” said Aubrey E. Robinson at the 1965 FSAA General Assembly. “I happen to believe firmly that we have a role to play. If we deemphasize this role, then with complete justification we do not need to be considered while the powers that be … are determining what the individual programs will be. They can say … we’ve decided for you how you are going to operate. We haven’t considered you important enough to involve you in the discussions.”

Amid the turmoil of the 1960s, FSAA recognized that it must stand up and shout. At the November 1969 board meeting just before the Philadelphia biennial, the board had established the Family Advocacy Program as a major thrust of the association. When the black protestors took the stage at the biennial conference demanding equal rights, it was clear to every family service leader in attendance that they could no longer focus exclusively on counseling and family life education; family advocacy must be the essential third leg of the stool.

At the same time, while the tumultuous social conditions were deepening, creating ever-increasing demand for new social services, the voluntary sector was harshly criticized for its lack of credibility and effectiveness in addressing the problems of the day. In response to the these challenges, FSAA and member agencies responded with creative and experimental approaches to meet current needs, expand outreach, and broaden the product mix. Most agencies grew to multi-service operations. The cost to do business increased tremendously without corresponding growth in sources of income.

Within this rapid change, the definition of a family service program had become less circumscribed; even FSAA membership requirements were brought into question. New questions arose: In a world of burgeoning federal services, will family service organizations no longer be necessary? To what extent should public funds be used for agency programs? What was the place of mental health clinics within a family service agency? With more child welfare agencies developing family service programs, and vice versa, should family service remain the core program of FSAA? What leadership role should family service play?

As these changes developed within the field and within its own association, FSAA realized that the demand for its services and leadership far exceeded its limited resources. Faced with these challenges, the board voted in fall 1966 to reassess its primary purpose and its priorities. FSAA retained management consultants Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. to complete a thorough study of the organization. The study involved national board members, FSAA staff, member agency staff and board members, and regional and advisory committees. A study committee worked with the consultants and made final recommendations to the board. The final Booz Allen Hamilton report was presented to the board in November 1967. The study committee met during 1968 to formulate its recommendations. These were accepted at FSAA board meetings in May and December 1968.

The Booz Allen Hamilton report concluded, “The Family Service Association of America has a distinctive role and purpose as a national federation of family service agencies.” The study recommended growth and expansion, including accelerated research, increased services to local affiliated agencies, strengthened national planning, intensive manpower development, and the continuation of major functions of its existing programs.

The report resulted in organizational and staffing changes. The FSAA Division of Regional Services was created in 1968. In 1969, FSAA regional councils were reorganized, with eight councils in the Central, Mid Atlantic, Midwest, New York/New Jersey, North Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, and West regions. Each region appointed a vice president who served on the FSAA board of directors.

Following the Booz Allen Hamilton report, the study committee gave highest priority to strengthening FSAA:

  1. As a primary source of knowledge about families
  2. As the national voluntary organization that undertook research to identify changing needs of families, develop the best means of meeting these needs, and provide guidance and assistance to member agencies in developing relevant programs
  3. As a leader in effectively influencing other voluntary and governmental agencies whose policies and programs affected families

Among all the pressing changes required to accelerate progress toward these goals, the most urgent were to increase knowledge and understanding of black communities and families including their strengths and their needs, to remove barriers of communication to and from the black community, and to take appropriate action in developing programs, assisting member agencies, and developing social policy.

The study committee also recommended that FSAA develop a national standards development program, but that membership, accreditation, and reaccreditation of member agencies should be transferred from the national office to the regional council level.

Merger with Child Welfare League of America Explored

A potential merger with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) had been a recurring theme for years at FSAA national and regional meetings. The FSAA board specifically asked Booz Allen Hamilton not to investigate the question of merger in depth. That issue would require an expansive (and expensive) additional study.

The two organizations had been working cooperatively for some time, particularly in the past decade. Founded in 1920, CWLA had a membership of more than 300 agencies and represented about 15 percent of the nation’s agencies serving children. Its primary areas of focus were standards, accreditation, and social advocacy on behalf of children.

FSAA and CWLA had established a Joint Board Committee on Common Concerns to bring the strength of both national agencies to bear on improving services to families and children, and to explore additional areas of collaboration. Because many members belonged to both organizations, they created a joint dues structure in 1962. Almost 60 agencies were in joint membership the first year.

In 1960, FSAA and CWLA joined with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and the Travelers Aid Association of America to form a National Survey Service, later called the National Study Service. Created with the help of a $20,000 grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the service helped states and local communities evaluate the need for services and facilities to help children and families. The National Study Service became a separate corporation in 1966 with board representatives from each of the four founding organizations. Projects included a study of family credit counseling and a demonstration project on protective services to children. These four large national organizations also came together to share joint headquarters in New York City to stimulate further collaborative efforts.

A number of voluntary organizations had approached both FSAA and/or CWLA for guidance as to their future programs. One was the National Association of Services to Unmarried Parents (NASUP), which needed to be taken under the aegis of a well established national organization to continue functioning effectively. NASUP’s membership included about 250 local children and family service agencies, state and national departments, and public health offices. The Florence Crittenton Association of America was another such group looking for sponsorship, and the four national organizations discussed a joint undertaking. In 1963, FSAA and CWLA agreed to jointly sponsor NASUP and seek foundation support to carry on the organization’s leadership. A $90,000 grant was secured from the Field Foundation to work on the causes and problems of illegitimacy.

Although the Booz Allen Hamilton study did not assess the feasibility of a merger with CWLA, it did recommend a serious exploration of mergers with other national organizations that had similar interests. Both FSAA and CWLA voted for a study in December 1968 to focus on how the two organizations together could strengthen the national effort to enhance the children and family service fields.

Over the next few years, FSAA and CWLA explored the idea of a merger. The Florence Crittenton Association of America also joined the merger discussions. Organization and member agency leaders, executives and staff were closely involved in the process.

Ultimately, it was decided in 1974 not to pursue merger. Start-up costs of as much as $650,000 would have to be raised from outside funds. CWLA and FSAA both were concerned about philosophical differences and did not want to diminish their mission and traditional focus. The Florence Crittenton Association of America merged with CWLA in 1976. FSAA and CWLA continued to work on identifying areas of joint collaboration.

Read the next chapter from A Century of Service.

Resources Used

Stories from the Network

Plays for Living

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Family Service Association of America (FSAA) created a special Plays for Living in 1961. Dedicated to Mary Richmond, who is recognized as the founder of social casework as a scientific method, “The Long View” depicted the role of board members in social service agencies. The play featured professional Broadway actors.

Cora Kasius, Social Casework editor and FSAA publications director, prepared a discussion guide. FSAA member agencies around the country sponsored the plays. Discussion groups following the play explored the themes presented. In 1985, Plays for Living spun off as a separate entity.

New Services are Sign of the Times

Family Counseling Service of Seattle (today’s Wellspring Family Services), instituted a homemaker service in 1961. In the 1970s, the family life education programs began offering classes on parent effectiveness, marriage enrichment, communication skills, coping with unemployment, and other issues of the day.

Spurred by the needs they saw in their work with youth, three people in the public sector created a temporary shelter and counseling service for juvenile delinquents. LARICO was founded in 1967 by two visionaries who worked in the Larimer County, Colo., social services and mental health departments. LARICO, now Turning Point Center for Youth and Family Development, was the first shelter care program in Larimer County, Colo. The shelter has evolved into a multi-service agency offering licensed residential care, out-patient and in-home treatment programs, aftercare services, substance abuse programming, and education programs.

Group treatment was an emerging concept in the 1950s and 1960s. Following an in-service training in a group treatment method, Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit (today’s Family Service of Detroit and Wayne County) introduced group treatment in 1963. The first treatment group consisted of 10 African American mothers separated or deserted by their husbands, supported by Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and overwhelmed by their difficulties.

Family and Children’s Service of Greater St. Louis implemented parent group education in conjunction with its traditional treatment services. The program grew out of an increasing emphasis on prevention through education, and on its development of group techniques. Between 1963–1965, the agency participated in a training project co-sponsored by the Family Service Association of America and the Child Study Association of America. Parent group education helped increase the parents’ understanding of human behavior and improved family functioning.