There was a time when extended family met the needs of a person in crisis. Those were the farm communities that built America to become what it is today. When a couple or a mom had a need it was her brothers and sisters, her aunts and uncles and her parents who helped her through difficult times. The people who loved her sacrificially, loved her through the hard times. When a father was no longer present at home, the extended family pitched in to help out. It was the natural thing to do. They lived right there in the same neighborhood. In the home where the farmer was missing, extended family brought in the harvest that year. For thousands of years extended family supplied the needs and society’s answer for many of the difficulties faced in the father absent home. Just when did all this change? How did we move from family helping family, to government helping families in need? At the turn of the century, the role of provider moved from the church and an individual’s family to the government.
The writings of Charles Dickens remind us that government has always been involved in assisting families in need, but the poor houses were always a last resort. A person’s family or the church usually stepped in to help so as to avoid sending a loved one to the poor houses. The industrial revolution and two world wars caused people to move away from the family farm and away from extended family. The Great Depression caused the need to be so great that churches alone could not bear the load. Government assistance programs had to be created to help families in need.