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among us? The right development and use of such plants as this and that of the New Haven Orphan Asylum is pregnant of much that may be helpful in this program of interpretation. These institutions with modern plans and plants are great theaters for child welfare interpretation. The play which is being put on is attracting a large audience today. The foster home is the little theater of the child placing agencies. The drama enacted here is yet another means of exposition to the neighborhood public. We have used it a little; we are planning to use it more.
Eighth, I believe that the advent of the community chest in Hartford, representing exemption from raising funds in the chest area, crystallized for the first time the opportunity to sever publicity and education from finance. The removal of the practical necessity of getting moneys, with its attendant demand of time and energy, has meant the releasing of the same amount of time and effort for constructive education. Here is, indeed, a rare opportunity for the launching of ideals, and I believe these ideals are being made so healthy and stimulating that there is no occasion for apathy on the part of the board, staff, or former contributors who through the chest movement have been relieved from but one phase of the organization's plan. There has been a current of thought running through our conferences for the last few years, telling us with authority from many angles that a better-informed public opinion has naturally followed in the wake of community giving. Almost beyond doubt this is true in Hartford, where there has been the proper set-up between the chest and that balance wheel and interpreter, the council. Where the chest is not true to this socialwork Pole Star, the demand is plain: Social worker, make it so.
Ninth, as I have suggested fearless leadership as necessary to the interpretation of child welfare to a community, may I say that the acceptance of fearless criticism from the community is just as essential to the upbuilding of the common good. Nothing can serve us more effectually than the alert criticism of people whose vision we may have helped make clear. Than this there is no surer antidote for a certain smugness among us social workers. Professor Gilbert Murray has said: "Progress comes by contradiction. Eddies and tossing spray add to the beauty of every stream and keep the water from stagnancy."
Finally, looking back over the still short distance the child welfare movement has traveled, we must be aware that we have understood it and interpreted it to but a small devoted minority of the people of any community, and as a result the principles of child welfare have been operative in a limited group of dependent, neglected, and defective children only. When the modern methods of child care, undivorced from spiritual values, are interpreted to the whole community, there will come a real revolution in child life, and it will be a significant truth that from the ranks of the socially disadvantaged child there came the Savior of American childhood. Statistics will grow old, statements will cease to be applicable, laws will fail, but the power to conceive and express truth will never die.
THE INTERPRETATION TO THE COMMUNITY
Virginia B. Handley, Director, State Child Welfare Depart-
About twenty or twenty-five years ago the magazine Life took up the motto of our state, "Alabama Here We Rest," adding, "Everything rest but her children." Happily, Alabama does not mean "here we rest," but "vegetationgatherers," or "thicket-clearers." At this dark period of our history there arose in Montgomery, Alabama, a thicket-clearer with a vision, Dr. Edgar Gardner Murphy, an Episcopal rector, who gathered about him a small group of socially minded men and women who had the exploitation of children, that was so rampant at that time, very much on their hearts. At this time the first child labor committee in America, known as the Alabama Child Labor Committee, was formed, which throughout the years has been one of the greatest social forces of our state. A law was passed that year prohibiting the labor of children up to eighteen years, but, with no facilities for enforcing this law, it was more or less a scrap of paper. However, forging ahead through the years, and through public agitation and education of the textile men themselves, in 1915 an excellent child labor bill was passed. Following the legislature of 1923, Alabama stands as one of thirteen states where the child labor law more than meets the federal requirements embraced in the two measures that have been declared unconstitutional. The report of our child labor inspector shows that, during the year 1924, out of one hundred cotton mills in the state only thirty-seven violations of the child labor law were discovered and corrected.
Step by step the thicket-clearers have forged ahead. Realizing that legislation for children in industry was only a small beginning toward helping the thousands of children in the state for whom nothing was being done, they interested themselves in finding out more definitely what the real conditions among the children of the state were. The only provision for dependent children up to this time was in child caring institutions. Hundreds of children were in these institutions who should not be there, as there were no home finding nor child placing agencies. So, in 1916, this group, which had added to themselves the men's and women's organizations, the interest of the churches and the schools, formed the Alabama Children's Home Society, which sowed the seed that developed later into the Alabama Children's Aid Society. This genuinely fine organization, with Mr. Ralph Barrow as its first superintendent, did excellent work and for four years functioned as a private agency supported by the generosity of the people, and through sound publicity interpreted itself solidly into the minds and hearts of the public.
There still were many gaps in the field, and a coordinated program for social betterment in the state was absolutely necessary, so the National Child Labor Committee, under the auspices of our state university, was asked to come to the
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