« AnteriorContinuar »
state to make an intensive survey. This study embraced public health, rural school attendance, child labor enforcement, juvenile courts and probation, child caring institutions, home finding, and recreation.
This survey was followed by another, of our state taxing system and our state institutions, particularly our penal system, by Dr. Hastings H. Hart, of the Russell Sage Foundation, and also a study of Alabama's educational system, made by the General Education Board, including all schools and institutions supported in whole or in part by public funds.
These three studies were broadcasted in the state and were placed in the hands of the legislators at the adjourned session of 1919. We were not proud of the picture portrayed—a picture, however, so vivid and so convincing that the legislature enacted into law fully two-thirds of the recommendations made; in fact, in one fell swoop more good legislation was passed than in all Alabama's previous history.
The need for better enforcement of child labor regulation, of family welfare service, of concerted effort to prevent juvenile delinquency, of better standards of work in child caring institutions, were all brought prominently to the attention of the lawmaking body, and finally, with a view toward providing means for coordinating the entire program, the state child welfare department was established, with all the prescribed duties that naturally are included in a children's bureau. The administration of the child labor law was also transferred from the Department of Prison Inspection to the Department of Child Welfare. The department is under the direction of a Child Welfare Commission, a nonpaid, non-political body composed of the governor, the chairman of the state board of health, the state superintendent of education, and six members with varying terms, appointed by the governor.
The actual work of home finding and child placing was in the hands of the Alabama Children's Aid Society, making their reports to, and being closely affiliated with, the state department. This cooperative plan existed between the two agencies for three years. In 1922 the directors of the Children's Aid Society proposed to the Child Welfare Commission that the department take over the work of the Society, declaring that they believed the system of child care built up by the two agencies working together had come to be recognized by the people as a sound and fundamental part of the state's conservation program. The Child Welfare Commission was confident that the legislature would make an appropriation adequate to take care of the combined organizations, but were disappointed, and we found ourselves face to face with the necessity as a public agency to raise funds of not less than twenty to twenty-five thousand dollars annually for the maintainance of the Children's Aid Division. The splendid foundation laid by Mr. Barrow and co-workers for the private agency is evidenced by the fact that the public still gives to the Children's Aid Division as liberally as they did to the Children's Aid Society. We are included in the contingent funds of all the community chests of the state, and we are now able to raise funds by letter from the central office.
Alabama strongly adheres to the system of local county government. We believe that only in so far as a public agency can show to a community where a county's or community's responsibility to its children should cease, and where the state's or commonwealth's responsibility should begin, will we be able really to interpret the proper functions of the public agency to the people. One of the best laws enacted in our state has been an enabling act for the establishment of county boards of child welfare. Unlike many states, this is not a mandatory law, but it gives each country the right to establish a board of child welfare and the employment of a county superintendent of child welfare, with their compensation and expenses, to authorize the governing body of any city or town to make appropriation to aid in the payment of the salary and expenses of this worker, who must by law be certificated as to training and experience by the child welfare department. This board is made up of the probate judge as chairman, the ex officio juvenile court judge in each county, the chairman of the county board of education, the county superintendent of education, one member of the board of commissioners of the county, and three members at large, two of whom must be women.
How may the public agency interpret itself through this channel? May I give the picture of just one of the nine counties that have been organized according to this plan? First, the extension secretary from the child welfare department went into the county, a distinctly rural one with a high ratio of illiteracy, of neglect, dependency, and delinquency among children. Naturally the community did not see the need for such an organization. No social agency except the Red Cross during the war had ever made an indentation into this backward county, but fortunately the probate judge was a man who could be made to see the light. Assisted by the state department of education, a study of school attendance problems was made by dividing the county up into small districts and by getting committees of women from the Federation of Women's Clubs and from the churches to assist in making this study. A similar study of dependency, neglect, and delinquency was made. Conditions were found that were appalling. Children were in backwoods starving, harassed by hookworm and pellagra; a vast amount of illiteracy was unearthed, and the probate judge himself told with shame that his treatment and handling of children up to this time had been to send them all to the state schools for delinquents, whether poverty or dependency was their only failing. The entire county became awakened. The people had found themselves by studying their own problems from within. Through the medium of the public agency guiding this survey, the child welfare department was asked to organize a county board of child welfare and to provide a full-time trained worker for that county. This worker, as probation and school attendance officer, is paid $150 per month, with a car at her disposal, and a contingent fund raised by public subscription for the temporary boarding care of children or any necessary relief. The work that she has done is nothing short of miraculous.
Very specifically, then, what is a sound means of popularizing the public
agency in order to secure better laws, to strengthen the laws already on the statute books, to prescribe better standards for the private agencies still below the line, and to receive larger appropriations in order to enforce these measures more wisely? Only through an informed public opinion. In preparing this paper I wrote about two dozen letters to outstanding men and women of our state, more or less disinterested, and asked them directly what they would like to know about our agency as such. The answers were interesting and varied. In every case they wanted to know the amount of the appropriation and how it was expended. The majority of them wanted to know whether the positions in the department changed with each administration, or whether workers were employed permanently on the basis of efficiency. (I am glad to say that there is not a single political appointee in the child welfare department, and that every worker is a trained person chosen by the director and approved by the commission for an unlimited term of office.) All wanted to know more of the general functioning of the department, and a keen interest was evidenced by the fact that every letter was answered. One letter, to the leading editor of our state, was particularly encouraging. He said:
At the present time the public wants social publicity. With every organization worthy of the name in the country, having "service" as their slogan in some capacity, social publicity is read as never before. The community chest movement is demanding more efficiency in budgeting and better work for private agencies. From the standpoint of a public welfare agency, certainly the public has the right to demand the highest type of work, and this after all is the best method of interpreting any work into the various communities of the state. Continuous articles, not too long, dealing with various phases of the work, with as much of a human interest appeal as can consistently be put into them, will always be read and published. The press wants, and the public will read, sincere facts about what is being done in the state for the betterment of her children.
I do not believe that two better examples of interpretative work could be found than, first, in the excellent surveys such as the one made in Alabama by the National Child Labor Committee, showing an unmet need, and being brought to the minds of the people for immediate action before the study grew cold, and second, the public agency guiding studies in local communities with the people themselves becoming acquainted with their own problems. The public agency should set the example for the best type of social work to be inaugurated in these communities.
The public agency can only render that service and do those acts more or less designated by the legislature, so the public agency should seek constantly to interpret itself through the private agency, whose scope of work in untried fields is more elastic. A real spirit of cooperation is constantly being brought about between the public and private agencies where the scope of work is clearly defined and understanding and fairmindedness are paramount.
Too much cannot be said for small group conferences, guided by the public agency, working together for an excellent state conference. In Alabama our state conference of social work brings together the most stimulating group of
social, industrial, and professional men and women, and is more and more becoming a force for an intelligent understanding of social work.
The necessity of constant education of the schools, the churches, and all organized groups is obvious. Through annual reports and good house organs, through regular publicity in the press, through prepared programs for various groups, and always through the spoken word whenever possible, the public. cannot help but recognize the aims and needs of the work.
Repeating again that the real purpose of the public agency is to strengthen the laws already on the statute books, to enforce them wisely, and so to educate the constituents of the legislators that these "folks back home" will demand better legislation, it is my honest belief that where the manufacture of citizens from babes is our prime motive, that if the public can be made to see the facts and the needs for preventive work, that the day is not far distant when it will be unnecessary for us to depend on subtle lobbying to get our bills through the legislature. We are hoping that before the legislature of 1927 convenes we shall be able to practice what I am preaching today. We have done little as yet, except work toward the establishment of county boards of child welfare in connection with the state board in order to make the county the unit for an organized program of social work, guided by the public agency, that thus through the awakened intelligence of the people themselves more and more the band of thicket clearers will gather unto themselves the thinking men and women of the state so that we shall constantly be able to make Alabama a better place for a little child to live in.
THE CHARITIES BUDGET AND CHILDREN'S AGENCIES
Elwood Street, Director, Community Council and Fund of St. Louis
Two keys there are which will unlock the hearts and minds of community fund budget committees. Of them I shall speak, and of how, when properly used, they will help a children's agency to attain and maintain its proper place in the budget of a community fund or financial federation.
The use of these keys is a matter of concern, I believe, to every representative of a children's agency in this audience, whether at the present time the organization is a member of a community fund or not.
If your agency is a member of a community fund, some of the principles which I shall discuss may, I believe, be applied with profit, no matter how effective your relationship to the community fund budget committee now is. In some twelve or more years of observing children's institutions and other social agencies in their relationship to a community fund I have never observed one which attained what I believe would be maximum effectiveness in relation to that budget committee.
On the other hand, if your agency is not now having dealings with a community fund budget committee, it is likely to before long. Over two hundred
American cities now have community funds. I believe that the time is not far distant when every city of any appreciable size will have adopted the plan of federated financing of its social agencies. This means that practically every community large enough to have a children's agency will also have a community fund which will probably include that organization as well as the other social agencies in the community. The agency which considers these principles now and plans to apply them when it is a member of a community fund has a tremendous advantage over those agencies which wait to consider their relationship to the community fund until membership in it is actually upon them.
Moreover, principles which are here discussed are capable of application not merely to the relationship of a children's agency to a community fund budget committee, but also, to the relationship of the agency to its own board and to groups of citizens in the community at large at whose hands it desires favors and assistance. Is it too much to hope, therefore, that this discussion may prove of some value to each one here?
The factors in this effective relationship of a children's agency to a community fund budget committee may be broadly divided into two main requirements: first, the children's institution must have an adequate supply of facts about its work, graphically interpreted; second, it must present these facts effectively in a variety of ways to the community fund's budget committee. These are the twin keys which will unlock the hearts and the minds of the members of the budget committee.
In discussing the use of these two keys I shall assume, for the time being, the guise of a superintendent of a children's agency in a community chest city. I realize that this is a difficult rôle. I assume it with all humility, hoping that you will pardon my presumption on the grounds that even this make-believe is only temporary.
If, then, I were the superintendent of a children's agency which desired to get the appropriation it needed from a community fund budget committee, I should make sure, first of all, that I had all the facts regarding child welfare work in the community at large and regarding the work of my own agency, and should have those facts interpreted in such graphic shape that their meaning could not possibly be mistaken.
The facts regarding the community would include the extent and nature of the child welfare problem in the city; the number of neglected and dependent children; the amount of service to them; the nature of that service; its cost as handled by other agencies at work in the community, both public and private; and the unmet needs for both general and specialized service. The facts regarding my own agency would show for several years past the quantity of service rendered; the various types of children; the cost of such service, detailed as to its various elements, and compared with similar costs for other like agencies; the tendencies in such costs; and the demand for this service, compared to the