Vincent De Francis

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"A community can truly protect neglected
and abused children only by providing a service
which will make a child's home
a better and more secure place to live."

-Vincent De Francis
Director of American Humane's Children's Services Division

Former Director of Children’s Services Vincent De Francis served at American Humane from 1954 through 1977. During that period, he published many works that provide the underlying foundation of child protection as we know it today. One fundamental concept of "rescuing the family for the child" and the philosophy that "child protective services should be child-centered and family-focused" originated with De Francis.

De Francis was instrumental in defining child protection as a helping, non-punitive approach. He saw it as a preventive program that "keeps family and children together by aiding them to resolve the problems underlying the neglect."

A lawyer by training and a social worker at heart, De Francis had an extraordinary vision and talent. His efforts with American Humane contributed to the transformation of child protection from a law-enforcement model to a preventive and family-centered approach.

Vincent De Francis Timeline - Highlights

1941-1946 - Influenced by his wife (a probation officer in the Children's Court in New York), De Francis joined the staff of the Brooklyn Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC).

1946-1954 - De Francis served as executive director at the Queensboro SPCC. He was credited with improvements and techniques that made the SPCC a model organization in terms of standards of child care.

September 1954 - De Francis joined the American Humane Association as director of the Children's Services Division.

1955 - De Francis conducted a major survey to determine the extent of child protective services in the country. He found there was no literature, few skilled professionals and no training available in the field.

1956 - De Francis wrote and published Fundamentals of Child Protection.

1967 - Under his leadership, American Humane conducted another survey to document the extent of growth in the child protective services field. While some growth was evident, his findings called on states to recognize and accept their responsibility to provide protective services.

1967-1977 - De Francis developed a national staff training program and estimated that American Humane had presented the program in every state in over 700 sessions to more than 30,000 people during the decade.

1976 - De Francis was presented with the first Vincent De Francis award, named in his honor.

June 1977 - De Francis retired from American Humane's Children's Services Division after more than 20 years of service.

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Vincent De Francis Award

In 1976, Vincent De Francis was given the first Vincent De Francis Award, named in his honor, at the American Humane annual meeting. Between then and 1990, the award was given to 16 recipients. In 2007, American Humane reinstated the award, and honored Dr. Patricia Schene in April 2007 at the 16th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. Other recipients since the reinstatement have been William C. Bell and Len Dalgleish. The award recognizes those with the vision and commitment to reach across disciplines to improve child welfare systems on a national level.