Records Relating to Department of Social Welfar... | State Archives Catalog
The Department of Social Welfare (1939-1968) was established as part of a major reorganization of state government into departments in the 1930s (Public Law 1935, ch. 2218, 2250.) Although the department was only created in 1939, it inherited most of the programs and records of its immediate predecessor, the Department of Public Welfare (1935-1939) which had succeeded the State Public Welfare Commission (1923-1935), formerly known as the Penal and Charitable Commission (1917-1923), and the Board of State Charities and Corrections (1869 - 1917), the state government's first social welfare agency.
During its thirty year existence the department became responsible for an enormous range of social programs and medical services. By the late 1960s the state began the process of dismantling the Department of Social Welfare and parceling out its many programs and functions to two newly established departments: Its "correctional" and "community service" functions (as well as vocational rehabilitation from the Department of Education) went to a new Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services, and the programs concerning "mental retardation”, “curative services," and "mental health law" went to the new Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals (Rhode Island. Supplement to Public Laws, 1970. January Session, 1970, "Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1970.") The Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services’ remaining responsibilities still encompassed a broad range of functions, which would eventually be distributed among several future departments, including Children, Youth and Families; Labor and Training; Probation and Parole; Elderly Affairs, Veterans Affairs, and Human Services.