Advent of Christianity – 4th century

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Things changed with the advent of Christianity in the 4th century when the idea of children as something to defend and protect began to take hold. In 315 Constantine passed a law whereby funds could be taken from the money collected in taxes to save abandoned children or the children of poverty-stricken families. Three years later in 318 he ratified the death penalty for anyone found guilty of infanticide. However parents were still allowed to sell their children. Valentinian and Valens declared that anyone killing a child was a murderer and prohibited abandonment. In around 370 AD ‘House of God’ homes started to open in the Middle East for orphans and abandoned children; in the West the first institution for unclaimed children was the Xenodochio, founded in Milan in 787 by Archpriest Dateo.