Katherine Brownell Oettinger, 94, an authority on child and maternal health and the last chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 13 at the Carmel Valley Manor retirement community in Carmel, Calif.
Dr. Oettinger, a former official of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mental Health and dean of the School of Social Work at Boston University, was named head of the Children's Bureau in 1957 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. She remained in that job under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Children's Bureau was part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, now the Department of Health and Human Services. During a reorganization in 1967, the bureau was abolished, and Dr. Oettinger became deputy assistant secretary of HEW for family planning and population. She retired in 1970 when the post was abolished during the Nixon administration.
During her years at the Children's Bureau, Dr. Oettinger headed the U.S. mission to the executive board of the U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund, now the U.N. Children's Fund. She also headed the U.S. delegations to a number of international conferences, including the International Conference on Social Work in 1958, the Inter-American Conference on Children in 1959 and the Congress on Population and Family Planning in 1968.
In 1960, Dr. Oettinger was secretary of the White House Conference on Children and Youth.
In 1981, she and Elizabeth Mooney published a book, "Not My Daughter: Facing Up to Teenage Pregnancy."
Dr. Oettinger was born in Nyack, N.Y. She graduated from Smith College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and later received a master's degree in social work.
She began her career as a social worker in St. Paul, Minn. In 1929, after working in the notorious Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in New York City, she moved to Scranton, Pa. For the next two decades, she was a mental health consultant to the Visiting Nurse Association.
In 1950, she was appointed head of the Division of Community Services in the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mental Health. From 1954 to 1957, Dr. Oettinger was dean of the School of Social Work at Boston University.
When she left the federal government, Dr. Oettinger moved to Washington, Va. She was a consultant on population control and family planning and visited a number of countries under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Association of Schools of Social Work.
In 1982, she retired to California.
Dr. Oettinger received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Smith College in 1957 and a life achievement award from the Smith School of Social Work in 1995.
Her husband, Malcolm H. Oettinger, whom she married in 1930, died in 1963.
Survivors include two sons, Malcolm H. Oettinger Jr. of Chapel Hill, N.C., and John Brownell Oettinger of Los Angeles.