Federal government agencies are set up for a specific purpose such as the management of resources, financial oversight of industries or national security issues. Typically Federal agencies are created by legislative action, but may initially be set up by a presidential order as well. Below are a number of entries about Federal agencies that had, and may continue to have, a significant impact on American social welfare programs and policies.

  • African Americans and the CCCThe Emergency Conservation Work Act establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps was signed into law by President Roosevelt on March 31, 1933. Under the direction of Robert Fechner, the CCC employed young men between the ages of 17 and 23 in work camps where they were assigned to various conservation projects. Enrollees were paid thirty dollars a month, twenty-five dollars of which was sent home to the enrollee's families. From 1933 to 1942, over three million young men enrolled in the CCC, including 250,000 African Americans who were enrolled in nearly 150 all-black CCC companies.
  • Carry On: Magazine on the Reconstruction of Disabled Soldiers and SailorsIN the first number of this magazine, June 1918, Surgeon General Gorgas promised that "the Medical Department of the Army will 'Carry On' in the medical and training treatment of the disabled soldier until he is cured or as nearly cured as his disabilities permit." Today I can assure you that the Medical Department of the Army has Carried On. Over there, amid the dangers at the front and in the aero-bombed districts in the rear, our doctors and nurses strove day and night to cure the disabled and return them as rapidly as possible to the fight -- eighty per cent, of the wounded went back to the front within six weeks. The remainder, as soon as able and travel was available, were returned to this country where, under more normal conditions, proper care could be administered.
  • Children's Bureau - A Brief History & ResourcesThe early 1900’s was a time in which the United States was attempting to change it stance on child labor and end abusive child labor practices. As more advocates started to address the issue, they recognized that the federal government was not yet fully engaged in addressing the physical or mental well-being needs of children
  • Children's Bureau: Part IThis is the story of the Children's Bureau of the U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare from the idea in 1903 to its founding in 1912 and on through the years to the present time. The Bureau's establishment by Congress was an expression of a belief on the part of many people that children are the most important of the Nation's resources and that the Government should foster their development and protection by setting up a center of research and information devoted to their health and welfare. From this center would flow knowledge of conditions surrounding children's lives, ideas on how to improve these conditions, and plans and programs for action in their behalf.
  • Children's Bureau: Part IIThe State of Washington was the proving ground for the emergency program for the care of the wives and babies of servicemen. At Fort Lewis, as around all training posts, in late 1940 and early 1941, families of many of the men had come to live. The Commanding Officer of the Fort, concerned with the well-being of his men, began observing some of the difficulties that these families–far from home–were encountering. He found a group of wives who were in need of maternity care but unable to get it. They were girls, most of them young, who had followed their men to camp with the hope that they might be with their husbands for a little while before they were sent overseas. Most of them were having their first babies. Frequently their husbands went overseas before their babies came. These girls had no fixed residence.
  • Children’s BureauFaced with a small staff of only fifteen and a miniscule budget of $25,640, the U.S. Children’s Bureau’s relied on data collected by other federal agencies and an army of female volunteers. In 1913 the bureau found that the world’s largest economic power had an infant mortality rate of 132 deaths per 1,000 live births that placed it behind New Zealand (83), Norway (94), Ireland (99), Sweden (104), Australia (108), Bulgaria (120), and Scotland (123). Bureau investigators concluded that poor sanitation, lack of good medical care, and poverty were the major factors contributing to infant deaths. Educating mothers, improving public sanitation, and requiring birth certificates would help save babies’ lives. Advice pamphlets published by the bureau became very popular and Congress declared 1918 Children’s Year.
  • Civilian Conservation CorpsThe Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the most successful New Deal programs of the Great Depression. It existed for fewer than 10 years, but left a legacy of strong, handsome roads, bridges, and buildings throughout the United States. Between 1933 and 1941, more than 3,000,000 men served in the CCC. The effects of service in the CCC were felt for years, even decades, afterwards. Following the depression, when the job market picked up, businessmen indicated a preference for hiring a man who had been in the CCC, and the reason was simple. Employers believed that anyone who had been in the CCC would know what a full day's work meant, and how to carry out orders in a disciplined way.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps Accomplishments: 1939 The CCC, also known as Roosevelt’s “Tree Army,” was credited with renewing the nation’s decimated forests by planting an estimated three billion trees from 1933 to 1942. This was crucial, especially in states affected by the dust storms where reforestation was necessary to break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil in place. So far reaching was the CCC’s reforestation program that it was responsible for more than half the reforestation, public and private, accomplish in the nation’s history.
  • Civilian Public ServiceAs the war progressed, a critical shortage of workers in psychiatric hospitals developed, because staff had left for better paying jobs with fewer hours and improved working conditions. For example, understaffed wards at Philadelphia State Hospital had one attendant member for 300 patients,the minimum ratio being 10:1. The government balked at initial requests that CPS workers have these positions, believing it better to keep the men segregated in the rural camps to prevent the spread of their philosophy.
  • Conscientious Objectors: World War II "On May 15, 1944, the United States completed its third year of moral and legal recognition of the right of drafted men to register conscientious objection to war and to perform, in lieu of military service, designated work of national importance. (Editor's Note: Civilian Public Service) During these three years, this wartime minority of less than 8,000 drafted men has worked without pay to render to our country more than $25,000,000 in public service.
  • Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933...Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress hereby declares that the present economic depression has created a serious emergency, due to widespread unemployment and increasing inadequacy of State and local relief funds, resulting in the existing or threatened deprivation of a considerable number of families and individuals of the necessities of life, and making it imperative that the Federal Government cooperate more effectively with the several States and Territories and the District of Columbia in furnishing relief to their needy and distressed people....
  • Federal Emergency Relief AdministrationFERA's main goal was alleviating household unemployment by creating new unskilled jobs in local and state government. Jobs were more expensive than direct cash payments (called "the dole"), but were psychologically more beneficial to the unemployed, who wanted any sort of job, for self-esteem, to play the role of male breadwinner. From May 1933 until it closed in December, 1935, FERA gave states and localities $3.1 billion. FERA provided work for over 20 million people and developed facilities on public lands across the country.
  • Freedmen’s BureauAt no time was the federal government more involved with African Americans than during the Civil War and Reconstruction period, when approximately four million slaves became freedmen. No agency epitomized that involvement more than did the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, usually called the Freedmen's Bureau. No series of essays on the impact of federal records on historical research on African Americans would therefore be complete without some mention of the Freedmen's Bureau (Record Group 105) and related military records in the National Archives.
  • Health Conservation and WPAThe essence of the WPA program is cooperation. It is ready with the workers to help public-spirited citizens make their communities better places to live in. People in this country do not need to take their desires for better sanitation out in merely wishing. They can help turn the hopes and dreams of sanitary engineers into realities. They do not need merely to wish that it were unnecessary for thousands of cases of serious illness to remain untreated. They can and should see that medical and nursing services are extended to a larger number of people who cannot pay for them. The National Health Survey, one of our greatest WPA projects sponsored by the United States Public Health Service, revealed that every year some 2 million cases of serious illness go entirely without medical treatment. That is why the WPA maintains and assists clinics in most of our cities. That is why it sends nurses into the homes of the poor. That is why it builds hospitals and provides medical and dental treatment for people who could not receive such treatment otherwise.
  • Lathrop, Julia CliffordWhen the Childrens Bureau was formally created in 1912, President William Howard Taft appointed Lathrop as Chief, the first woman bureau chief in the federal government. She brought to the position her experiences and contacts from 22 years as a resident of Hull-House. As chief of the Children's Bureau, Lathrop made issues like child labor laws and juvenile delinquency ones of extreme importance. During its first two years of existence, the bureau produced and distributed free pamphlets on the health needs of pregnant women and the care of infants.
  • Lenroot, KatherineIn June 1921, Lenroot became Director of the Editorial Division, and in November 1922, at the age of 30, she was advanced to Assistant Chief of the Bureau, serving under Grace Abbott, the second Chief (1921-1934). Grace Abbott experienced health problems in the early 1930s and had to be away from the office for extended periods of time. Abbott discovered in Lenroot an ideal acting chief in her absence. Lenroot was committed to the philosophy of the Children’s Bureau, as outlined by its founders, and was careful and conscientious in carrying out the required administrative tasks. She wrote long and detailed letters to Grace Abbott at frequent intervals and sought direction for important decisions.
  • Meeting The Manpower Crisis In Staffing The Mental Health Facilities: The Role Of The Federal Government It seems inappropriate to consider the “manpower crisis” only in terms of numbers of social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses. Rather, it seems more important to discuss the use which is made of these professions in the structure of mental health programs as they function today and as they may function in the future. The program of the National Institute of Mental Health has been oriented from the first to the problem of increasing the quality and the quantity of trained personnel in the United States. The purpose of the Mental Health Act of 1946 was explicit on this point. In providing funds for increased support for training, the extension of research, and for expansion of services throughout the United States, the major decisions have been based on the central objective of ultimate provision of complete coverage for the total population in terms of mental health diagnostic and treatment facilities.
  • National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)With enactment of the NIRA, the administration was empowered to make voluntary agreements dealing with hours of work, rates of pay, and the fixing of prices. Until March 1934, the NRA was engaged chiefly in drawing up these industrial codes for all industries to adopt. More than 500 codes of fair practice were adopted for the various industries. Patriotic appeals were made to the public, and firms were asked to display the Blue Eagle, an emblem signifying NRA participation.
  • National Recovery AdministrationThe agency was modeled, in part, after the War Industries Board, which had operated during World War I. To lead NRA, Roosevelt chose former Army General Hugh S. Johnson, who had served as a liaison between the Army and the War Industries Board during World War I. NRA began its work with great fanfare and initially received enthusiastic public support. A massive public relations campaign included the largest parade in the history of New York City. Businesses that adopted the codes were encouraged to advertise the fact by displaying the NRA blue eagle logo with its motto, "We do our part."
  • National Youth Administration: The College and High School Aid ProgramBy 1938, the National Youth Administration served 327,000 high school and college youth, who were paid from $6 to $40 a month for "work study" projects at their schools. Another 155,000 boys and girls from relief families were paid $10 to $25 a month for part-time work that included job training. Unlike the CCC, it included young women. The youth normally lived at home, and worked on construction or repair projects
  • National Youth OrganizationOn the closing of NYA President Roosevelt wrote in a letter to Aubrey Williams: "...I can well understand your statement that you leave the N.Y.A. with regret. I, too, regret the termination of this great activity for American youth. Nevertheless, while Congress brought an end to the N.Y.A.'s existence nothing can end the long results of its usefulness. It would be difficult to evaluate the proportions of the resource which this training of young men and women has been to America in the war crisis. You have a right to pride and America a reason for appreciation in the fact that at the time its functions ceased N.Y.A. was continuing to render a 'national war service by supplying 30,000 young people, thoroughly trained in some skill, to essential places in the production program every month...."
  • New Floors and Ceilings in the Minimum Wage: 1939THE LAW ITSELF IS COMPLEX BOTH IN ITS PROVISION AND IN its limitations. Under the Constitution, a federal wage-hour measure can cover only interstate commerce—or as the present law sets its metes and bounds, "industries engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce." For such enterprises, the law fixes progressive standards for minimum wages and maximum hours of work.
  • Outlining the New Deal ProgramThe legislation which has been passed or in the process of enactment can properly be considered as part of a well-grounded plan...First, we are giving opportunity of employment to one-quarter of a million of the unemployed, especially the young men who have dependents, to go into the forestry and flood prevention work. This is a big task because it means feeding, clothing and caring for nearly twice as many men as we have in the regular army itself. In creating this civilian conservation corps we are killing two birds with one stone. We are clearly enhancing the value of our natural resources and second, we are relieving an appreciable amount of actual distress. This great group of men have entered upon their work on a purely voluntary basis, no military training is involved and we are conserving not only our natural resources but our human resources. One of the great values to this work is the fact that it is direct and requires the intervention of very little machinery....Second, I have requested the Congress and have secured action upon a proposal to put the great properties owned by our Government at Muscle Shoals to work after long years of wasteful inaction, and with this a broad plan for the improvement of a vast area in the Tennessee Valley. It will add to the comfort and happiness of hundreds of thousands of people and the incident benefits will reach the entire nation....Next, the Congress is about to pass legislation that will greatly ease the mortgage distress among the farmers and the home owners of the nation, by providing for the easing of the burden of debt now bearing so heavily upon millions of our people.
  • President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice (FEPC)By the end of WWII, African Americans accounted for almost eight percent of defense-industry jobs, and the number of Black Americans working for the federal government more than tripled. While the FEPC was charged with investigating discrimination, job bias continued. Often, when African Americans were hired, they were segregated within the defense industry, paid less than their white counterparts, and restricted in their ability to join and participate in unions.
  • Public Works AdministrationThe PWA issued a report in 1939, titled “America Builds,” arguing that the PWA had in fact stimulated the economy. By then it had built thousands of projects, spending billions of dollars on materials and wages. The report estimates that PWA projects used more than one billion man-hours – 1,714,797,910, to be exact. The report said that wages paid on those projects were plowed back into the economy many times over:
  • Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Maternal and Child Health Services: 1938The first recommendation declared: "The advisory committee, recognizing that efficient administration of the maternal and child-health services depends upon the employment of fully qualified personnel and that personnel with such qualifications are not always resident within each State, urges that (1) selection of personnel be on the basis of qualifications only and (2) that salaries commensurate with the qualifications required and services performed be paid."
  • Social Security Compared to Public AssistanceThus the Social Security Act was really a compromise. It reconciled the philosophy of individualism with the facts of economic interdependence. It involved acceptance of the premise that a Government has a certain responsibility for the welfare of its people --one consistent with humanitarian principles and with the tradition of democratic Government. It would have been more radical had the Government assumed responsibility to assure continuity of income and a minimum level of economic well being to those citizens whose income had been interrupted or curtailed by certain risks or events. This, as you know, is under serious consideration today.
  • Social Security: A Brief History of Social InsuranceAs we know today when enacted, social security neither damaged the liberty of the citizen nor eliminated the voluntary aspects of community action. Instead, it provided a support that invigorated both. But earlier in this century, social insurance had to contend with the idealization of voluntary institutions which are deeply rooted in the United States. Voluntary associations performed the function of mediating between the individual and mass society and Government.
  • Social Security: A Radio Address by Frances Perkins, 1935Barely a month after President Roosevelt presented the Report of the Committee on Economic Security to the Congress, along with the Administration's draft Economic Security Bill, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins went on a national radio broadcast to explain the Administration's proposals to the American people. This was one of the earliest popular explanations of what would become the Social Security program.
  • Social Security: Early HistoryMan's quest for economic security is as old and as continuous as our records of human life itself. Evidence of it is to be found in the most primitive people's attempts to shift from a hunting economy to settled agriculture. it can be seen among early urban societies in projects to store grain for lean years. It appears in classical antiquity in policies to provide bread for the needy. It is exemplified in the middle ages by the lords assuming some responsibility for the welfare of their vassals. It is visible in early modern times in poor laws, charity workshops, poor farms and the philanthropic activities of religious organizations.
  • Social Security: Organizational History of SSAThe Social Security Administration (SSA) began in 1935. It became a sub-cabinet agency in 1939, and returned full-circle to independent status in 1995. Throughout the years, arguments had been heard in the halls of Congress that SSA should be returned to independent agency status. This debate was given impetus in 1981 when the National Commission on Social Security recommended that SSA once again become an independent Social Security Board.
  • The Lasting Values of the WPANo one can better appreciate the lasting values of the work relief program than we women, for its results affect primarily that which is closest to our hearts--the home....Every time a man is taken from the demoralizing ranks of the jobless, every time a woman is removed from the humiliation of a breadline, and given work to do, a home somewhere becomes more secure.
  • The New Governmental Interest in the ArtsThat great gift is something which, if it is recognized, if it is given the support and the help and the recognition from people as a whole throughout this country, is going to mean an enormous amount in our development as a people. So I feel that if we gain nothing else from these years of hard times, if we really have gained the acceptance of the fact that the Government has an interest in the development of artistic expression, no matter how that expression comes, and if we have been able to widen--even make a beginning in widening--the interest of the people as a whole in art, we have reaped a really golden harvest out of what many of us feel have been barren years. I hope that as we come out of the barren years, those of us who can will give all the impetus possible to keeping up this interest of the Government, and of the people in art as a whole.
  • The Problem of Unemployment : January, 1935But it is not our part to concern ourselves over-much with the forms and processes of government. Ours must be the objective point of view. We must take hunger, destitution, and the mal-adjustments of society as we find them, and mitigate their effects as best we can within the limitations of the existing scheme of things. But there is no law or rule or ethical precept which says we cannot exult when we see government concern itself with the problems in which we deal. And we must give our counsel and support to any political regime which says, as President Roosevelt said last June in submitting the draft of the Social Security Act, "Among our objectives I place the security of the men and women and children of the Nation first." That, all along, has been the objective of those of us who have viewed unemployment and need as a professional problem. Now it has the sanction of a strong government and a courageous President and I think we may well be encouraged over the promise of fulfillment which they give.
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority: Electricity for AllOn May 18, 1933 FDR signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act. TVA was to improve navigability on the Tennessee River, provide for flood control, plan reforestation and the improvement of marginal farm lands, assist in industrial and agricultural development, and aid the national defense in the creation of government nitrate and phosphorus manufacturing facilities at Muscle Shoals.
  • Training Schools - And Civilian Public Service: 1944The Civilian Public Service (CPS) was set up to provide conscientious objectors in the United States an alternative service to military service during World War II. CPS was operated primarily by the historic peace churches. CPS draftees from the historic peace churches and other faiths worked in areas such as soil conservation, forestry, fire fighting, agriculture, social services and mental health.
  • U.S. Administration on AgingCreated in 1965 with the passage of the Older Americans Act of 1965 (OAA), the AoA is part of a federal, state, tribal and local partnership called the National Network on Aging. This network, serving about 7 million older persons and their caregivers, consists of 56 State Units on Aging; 655 Area Agencies on Aging; 233 Tribal and Native organizations; two organizations that serve Native Hawaiians; 29,000 service providers; and thousands of volunteers. These organizations provide assistance and services to older individuals and their families in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the United States.
  • U.S. Department of Veteran AffairsThe Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War by providing pensions for soldiers who were disabled. Direct medical and hospital care given to veterans in the early days of the Republic was provided by the individual States and communities. In 1811, the first domiciliary and medical facility for veterans was authorized by the Federal Government. In the 19th century, the Nation's veterans assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also their widows and dependents.
  • U.S. Public Health ServiceEfforts were made during the early decades of the 20th century by both political parties and by people inside and outside of government concerned with the nation's health to combine public health-related work being done by various Federal agencies, but they were unsuccessful in Congress. On August 14, 1912 the name of the PHMHS was changed to the Public Health Service (PHS) and further broadened its powers by authorizing investigations into human diseases (such as, tuberculosis, hookworm, malaria, and leprosy), sanitation, water supplies and sewage disposal, but went no further.
  • U.S. Public Health ServiceThe PHS grew out of a need for healthy seamen in our infant republic, which relied so much on the sea for trade and security. These seamen traveled widely, often became sick at sea, and then, away from their homes and families, could not find adequate health care in the port cities they visited or would overburden the meager public hospitals then in existence. Since they came from all the new states and former colonies, and could get sick anywhere, their health care became a national or Federal problem.
  • Washington SweatshopThe Administration's wage-hour bill emerged from committee as emaciated as if it had spent the past month in a reducing cabinet. Once ample enough to cover some 12,000,000 workers, it now blankets a scant 3,000,000. Broad enough at one time to outlaw such practices as use of strike breakers and labor spies, it is nothing now but a wage, hour, and child-labor bill, and an inadequate one at that. It permits a proposed Labor Standards Board to go as far down the scale as it likes in fixing minimum wages but forbids it to go above 40 cents an hour. The sky is the limit in establishing a work week but this must never be less than 40 hours. Most railroad workers are exempted and so are seamen and agricultural hands of all kinds. Even the child-labor restrictions are loaded down with reservations. They do not apply to farm children or to those working for their parents or to those in whose cases the Children's Bureau may rule that work does not interfere with their schooling or harm their health. That leaves, as beneficiaries of the bill, those employees of manufacturing plants, mines, and public utilities whose products move in interstate commerce, plus railroad maintenance-of-way men—those, that is, who now earn less than $16 a week. Reduced to this gaunt ghost of its former self, the measure has little charm for most of its early admirers.
  • We Do Our Part--But...These three million black workers are the backbone of the Negro consumer market. For them there is no immediate rise in wages. For them an immediate rise in prices will mean additional insecurity and suffering. Furthermore, in certain areas where there have been uniform minimum wages established for white and black workers employers have replaced Negroes with whites rather than pay them the same wages.
  • What Rural Electrification Administration Means To Our Farm Home: 1939THE FIRST benefit we received from the REA service was lights, and aren't lights grand? My little boy expressed my sentiments when he said, "Mother, I didn't realize how dark our house was until we got electric lights."
  • WPA Travelling LibrariesThe depression came and county libraries were sorely stricken financially. While no such chartered or State sponsored county institution ceased to function, the service was seriously curtailed. These curtailments increased as endowments and the finances of the smaller political units went from bad to worse. Rescuing funds from the Federal government through relief agencies came in the nick of time. Numerous employees were being furloughed, others were having their salaries cut for the third or fourth time, book repair and book purchases had ceased, many buildings were sadly in need of repair and service was cut to the bone in the summer of 1933.
  • WPA: The Works Progress AdministrationIn 1943, it was said: "Never before in the history of the human race has a public works program, whose principal object was the mitigation of need due to unemployment, reached the magnitude of the Work Projects Administration (note the name change, which occurred in 1939). This is true, however you measure it--by persons employed, money expended, or volume of results." (Joanna C. Colcord, Director of the Charity Organization Department of the Russell Sage Foundation, in The WPA and Federal Relief Policy, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1943, p. 15)