« AnteriorContinuar »
PROGRESSIVE METHODS OF CARE OF CHILDREN
Katharine F. Lenroot, Assistant to the Chief, Children's Bureau,
Any Community planning for the temporary care of children before the first hearing, during continuance of the case, or during the interval, if one be necessary, between commitment and actual admission to an institution, must consider three questions: First, what kind of children, and about how many, will require such care? Second, what methods of care are best suited to the needs of the community? Third, what standards should be maintained in the development of the types of care selected?
What children should be given temporary care?—It is generally agreed that the number of children detained and the length of detention should be kept at a minimum. "This may be accomplished," the juvenile court standards drawn up by an advisory committee appointed by the Children's Bureau state, "through frequent hearings, prompt investigation, sufficient court staff to expedite the movement of cases, and adequate facilities for institutional care." Children should be kept in their own homes pending hearing except under the following conditions: when home conditions are such as to make immediate removal necessary; when the parents cannot be relied upon to produce the children in court; when the children are runaways or beyond the control of their parents; when they are charged with delinquency so serious as to make it seem unsafe for the community for them to be at large; when they must be held as witnesses; or when they are in need of study so intensive as to require continuous observation.
Two recent unpublished studies, one of a large city and one of a county with both urban and rural population, have shown the large percentage of children (more than two-fifths in the first community and more than half in the second) released from the detention home to parents or relatives. The reports of both studies raise the question of whether the problems of many of these children could not have been adjusted without any period of detention care.
If it were generally recognized that the first essential in the administration of any form of temporary care is a sound admission and release policy, based upon the individual needs of the children with whom the court and allied agencies are dealing, there would be no more building of detention homes in advance of the employment of at least one well-trained and well-equipped probation
officer in whom could be vested discretion as to what children should be detained. Moreover, there would be no more construction of expensive buildings without an adequate basis of fact, obtained through actual experience, regarding the extent of the detention problem as determined by the needs of the children and the existing resources of the community. The recent study of children's work in Westchester County, New York, which was undertaken partly with the object of ascertaining the provision needed for the temporary care of children pending juvenile court hearing, indicates the value of a careful survey in advance of deciding upon a detention program. The report emphasized the desirability of strengthening and fully utilizing existing resources and letting experience determine whether additional provision is necessary. A demonstration of trained probation service has recently been made by the state bureau of child welfare in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city of 15,000 population. There had been considerable sentiment in favor of providing a detention home, but during the two and one-half months of this experiment it was necessary to find temporary care for only one child.
Methods of temporary care.-Most cities of 100,000 population and over have made special provision for detention care, all but a few having provided a detention home under public auspices. Yet in many of these cities some children are detained in jails, either because the detention home is overcrowded or because it is believed that certain types of delinquents, usually older boys, can be safely handled only in jail. Moreover, many city detention homes fail to provide for the segregation of different classes of children, for adequate supervision, or for wholesome occupation.
The Children's Bureau has recently sent a brief questionnaire to each of the 220 cities in the United States having populations of between 25,000 and 100,ooo, excluding only cities served by courts in other localities. Replies have been received from 136 cities. Sixty of them are maintaining public detention homes, with capacities ranging from four to sixty. Forty-four use boarding homes either as the sole method of temporary care (in two communities), or as the sole method aside from the jail (in two other communities), or in addition to care of other types. In fourteen of these cities both a detention home and boarding homes are provided. Seventeen use receiving homes or shelters of private agencies, usually in addition to other methods. Other places of detention, including children's institutions, homes for the friendless, homes of probation officers, a room in the sheriff's residence, and occasionally the county almshouse, are utilized by forty-nine cities. In ninety-five cities children had been detained in police stations or jails during the year 1925, the number ranging from only one or two children, perhaps of doubtful age, to 146. In sixteen of the ninety-five cities it is reported that no provision is made in the jail for separation of children from adults. The sixty-seven cities stating the number of children detained in jails and police stations report a total of 1,525 children subjected to such an experience in 1925.
Information concerning methods of detention in rural counties has been obtained from state-wide agencies in ten states, and the Wisconsin survey made in 1924 by the National Probation Association gives information concerning an eleventh state. The reports indicate that children are allowed to remain in their own homes whenever possible. In Indiana, for example, frequent hearings are said to make detention unnecessary in most cases. Many rural communities have no other facilities for temporary care than the jail. The occasional or more frequent use of boarding homes is reported for some of the rural counties of five of the eleven states (New York, Indiana, North Dakota, Georgia, and Alabama). In Virginia the State Department is using boarding homes extensively for the temporary care of delinquent wards. In at least two of the states detention homes in a few urban centers sometimes care for children from neighboring rural territory. Detention rooms in courthouses and jails, or in the sheriff's residence, have been provided in some instances. In Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, and New Mexico directors of state departments are encouraging the use of boarding homes in rural counties, or have indicated their belief in the feasibility of this plan.
It thus appears that aside from jail detention the principal methods of temporary care used by juvenile courts are two: the detention home providing group care, and the family boarding home, providing individual care. The former is suitable only for communities in which there will be at least a few children requiring detention at all times of the year. It may be possible under certain circumstances to establish a detention home which serves two or more courts, but the geographical area which a detention home can serve efficiently is limited by the fact that it must be easily accessible to all parts of the district. The boarding home plan is especially adapted to the needs of small cities and rural districts, though it is being successfully developed in some large cities. Possibly experience will demonstrate that a combination of group care and boarding home care is the best plan for the large city.
Other methods of detention include special detention rooms and private institutions. The city of Mecklenburg, North Carolina, for example, is reported to have adequate detention rooms, with a matron in charge, in a new building erected for the county health and welfare departments. The special detention room plan is adapted only to communities where not more than two or three children are likely to need care at the same time. Such arrangements should be carefully worked out, and if a private institution is utilized, adequate compensation should be provided by the county. A matron should always be available, and should be on duty whenever children are detained. Under no circumstances should the almshouse be utilized for the detention of children.
Construction and administration of detention homes.—The past year or two appears to have been a period of unusual interest in detention home construction. Among the new homes which should be studied by communities contemplating building are those of Chicago, Little Rock, Arkansas, Richmond, Vir