« AnteriorContinuar »
importance and of the skill required for its successful administration. But to aid in creating that appreciation and to build upon the foundation when laid, the active aid is needed of responsible public departments. The methods by which progress can be secured will include radical changes in the methods of selecting judges and probation officers, aiming at their advancement to a professional status; the direction, supervision, and, it is submitted, the financial aid of the state will be required.
Though we no longer believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God, we still believe in democracy as the best plan of government yet devised. But we are becoming more keenly aware of its shortcomings, and are tempted to impatience with its slow rate of progress. A distinguished foreign observer once told us that the cure for the evils of democracy was more democracy. We are more inclined now to agree with a distinguished American statesman, Charles E. Hughes, when he tells us that the cure for the evils of democracy is not more democracy, but more intelligence.
HOW MUCH CHILD DEPENDENCY IS THERE IN THE
Henry W. Thurston, New York School of Social Work,
The only real answer to the question contained in my topic is, "Nobody knows." But since this is not a very helpful or constructive answer and since the purpose in assigning the topic was doubtless to supply such background as we may against which to view questions relating to the prevention of child dependency, an attempt has been made to assemble such data on the subject as is available, even though it is seriously faulty and inadequate.
It is possible to approximate from official returns for the country as a whole the number of more easily discoverable dependent children-those who find their way into the care of institutions for children and child placing societies. It is also possible to point out, but not to measure except by the roughest sort of guess work, certain other groups of dependent children for which as yet no adequate official figures are available, but which far outnumber those that are commonly thought of under the term "dependent children." We shall make the term "dependent child" include any child who is in whole or in part dependent for support upon any public or private institution or agency or upon any official charged with the care of dependent children.
As our information is not complete even for the groups for which we have the best figures, and for certain groups is lacking altogether, we shall throughout give approximations in round numbers, since these are more easily held in mind and since our material does not permit us to do more than try to sketch the broad outlines of child dependency, without regard to detail.
The most complete information on child dependency for the United States as a whole is found in the United States Bureau of the Census report for 1923 on dependent and delinquent children. This has not yet appeared in final form. The returns show that on February 1, 1923, there were nearly a quarter of a million dependent children being cared for away from their own homes in institutions, foster homes, and day nurseries. There were 140,000 in institutions for dependent children; 77,000 receiving some form of foster family care, free or boarding; 23,000 in day nurseries; and 5,000 in almshouses and other institutions not primarily for dependent children. This makes 245,000 in all. This figure, however, by no means represents the amount of child dependency in the United States.
Since 1911, when the first mothers' aid law was passed in this country, this form of assistance to dependent children has been extended until it has assumed large and increasing importance. The 1923 census did not take cognizance of public aid to mothers for the care of children in their own homes, but prepared a rough estimate on the basis of some incomplete figures for 1920, 21, and 22 which had been compiled by the federal Children's Bureau. It is believed that a conservative estimate of the number of children provided for in this way on a single date would be 121,000, or about half as many as were in the care of the organizations already mentioned.
Another large group of dependent children are those who are being aided in their own homes by private agencies doing family social work. Some of these children are in families which under the law are eligible for mothers' allowances, but which, because of the inadequacy of public funds for this purpose, must be aided by private societies; others are in families who may be no less handicapped, but who are not technically eligible for public allowances, or for whom other forms of service are needed.
Figures for children aided by private family agencies are not only incomplete, but those which we have are on a basis not comparable with the 1923 census figures. In 1922 the American Association for Organizing Family Social Work collected for that year certain statistics from 204 out of 212 family welfare societies which were members of the association. The returns showed that during the year covered about 191,000 families were cared for by these societies. Not every family received aid in the form of money, but where money was not given it is presumed that there was some substitute service performed, representing a money equivalent. We do not know the number of children in these families nor the number on the books at the beginning of the year, so we cannot say how many children were being aided on a single date. We can only make a rough guess by computing figures for the total group of societies on the basis of the ratios which obtain in two large family societies in New York City, the Charity Organization Society and the United Hebrew Charities. The combined figures of these two agencies for one year show that the number of families in care at the beginning of the year was about half the total number in care during the
year, and that the number of children in these families was a little less than two and a half times the number of families. If we assume that this ratio would hold, roughly, for the country as a whole, we must add about 220,000 or nearly another quarter million, dependent children to our previous figures.
In addition to the member agencies from which statistics were received, there were about half as many non-member family societies which were not covered by this report. It is impossible to say how much their work, were it known, would add to this last named figure.
One more group for which no figures at all are available consists of families outside the mothers' allowance class that are being aided in their own homes by public poor officials. This group constitutes the great No Man's Land in the field of dependency. It is the most difficult group of all to enumerate, partly because of the generally inadequate records kept by overseers outside of some of the better organized city offices, and partly because it would be exceedingly difficult, even if figures were available, to eliminate those families which, while aided financially by overseers, are at the same time being carried as charges by other social agencies for other types of service.
Keeping in mind, then, that such figures as we have are not all for the same date, that it has been necessary to take large and perhaps unwarranted liberties in trying to make certain estimates, and that some groups must be ruled out altogether for lack of any data, what picture of child dependency do we get? From the census report, approximately 245,000 children in the care of institutions and agencies for dependent children; 121,000 living in their own homes under the system of public allowances to mothers; and, if our very crude and possibly very faulty guess can be accepted at all, 220,000 children being aided in their own homes by private family social agencies a total of very nearly 600,ooo. With so many important omissions, it would seem that this figure is probably an ultra-conservative statement of the number of children on a single date receiving some form of public or private aid from organizations existing for such service.
To know the total number of dependent children for a given date is not, however, a satisfactory index of child dependency. What we need is an enumeration at regular intervals of children accepted for care by institutions and agencies during a given period, in other words, a statement of movement of population. This is nowhere available except for certain individual agencies and institutions. An effort was made by the Bureau of the Census to secure such figures for the organizations included in the 1923 census for a period of three months, but the returns were, on the whole, so unsatisfactory that no attempt was made to summarize them. Until we can collect reliable figures of intake which will distinguish between new children and those who have been previously in care, we cannot even begin to see trends in child dependency.
What can we say of the factors, personal and social, that have combined to produce this little army of 600,000 dependent children? For the country as a
whole we can say nothing. Individual organizations here and there know more or less of the elements underlying the dependency of the children in their care, but as many organizations tend to specialize, we cannot judge the background of dependency in the large from the clientèle of a few institutions or agencies. Of society's service to these clients and its cost we know nothing.
In the Survey for January 15, 1926, in an article entitled, "A Plea for the Measurement of Social Reconstruction," Dr. Haven Emerson has flung a challenge to social organizations to produce some evidence for the faith that is in them. Are we ready as individual agencies and as communities to accept this challenge, with whatever consequences may follow in our social philosophies and our programs?
THE AMERICAN LEGION'S PROGRAM FOR
John W. Gorby, Director, Child Welfare Division,
The American Legion is today actively engaged in the important field of child welfare, not by accident, but by the undeniable logic of events. The first of these events was our service as soldiers in the world-war. On our return from serving with the colors our first thought was of our comrades who had made the greatest sacrifices. This has now developed into our great service of rehabilitation of which every legionnaire is proud.
We found that many of our disabled comrades were fathers of little children whose care and education were so close to the heart of the soldier-father. In fact, many soldiers who sorely needed hospitalization refused it, and consequently continued working at the bench, or desk, or shop, or field, or mine, because their children needed them. Quite naturally, and true to their glorious record in their country's service, they would sacrifice themselves to help their children to a fair chance in life.
This condition gave rise to a resolution offered the national convention at New Orleans to look into the subject of the dependent children of "legionnaires" (note the word "legionnaires"). At San Francisco the following year the report of the committee on child welfare revealed such splendid growth in the thinking of the committee that no longer does the record show mention of children of “legionnaires,” but of all ex-service men, whether members of the Legion or not. Again at St. Paul in 1924 the development of the thought of the committee had progressed to the authorization of an endowment fund of $5,000,000, a substantial portion of the income of which is to go toward child welfare, or, to be more specific, toward the giving of adequate care to every dependent child of a worldwar veteran.
In entering upon this service the leaders of the American Legion recognized
the fact that it is a highly technical field and that only with the help of such organizations as the Child Welfare League of America, and all other worthy existing child welfare agencies now so nobly serving the American people, could we hope to accomplish anything worth while. We have, therefore, drawn up a "Plan of Organization and Procedure" which received the unanimous approval of our national convention held in Omaha last October. We incorporate this plan herewith in order that the Conference may have on record as a part of its proceedings the official plan for child welfare in the American Legion.
THE NATIONAL PROBLEM
1. The set policy of the American Legion with reference to child welfare is to cooperate in the fullest possible sense with all existing worthy child welfare agencies, to the end that there shall be a home for every homeless orphan of a veteran.
2. This plan of operation applies only to the American Legion within the continental limits of the United States.
3. Any organization of the child welfare service outside of the continental limits of the United States shall be dealt with by special arrangement when and as required.
4. The problem of the orphan or dependent child of the world-war veteran, while a national one, must of necessity be dealt with in accordance with laws and customs of the respective states.
DUTIES OF THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR
The Director of the Child Welfare Division of the American Legion shall direct, plan, and supervise all the operations of the Child Welfare Division of the American Legion.
DUTIES OF THE NATIONAL FIELD SECRETARY
The duties of the National Field Secretary, under the direction of the National Director, shall be to supervise and assist in all the investigational and other work pertaining to: (1) the placement of children in foster homes; (2) the placement of children in billets, and their removal therefrom; (3) home care of children with their own parents; (4) rehabilitation of children in their own homes; (5) transporting children to parents, relatives, foster homes, and to and from billets.
In this work the National Field Secretary shall work in conjunction with the designated American Legion representatives in the field and in cooperation with the Billet Boards, department child welfare chairman, and recognized social agencies to the best interest of the children. The National Field Secretary must be familiar with the laws pertaining to interstate placement of children and the facilities available for child care in the various states.
OPERATION OF THE BILLETS
Our billets have been much misunderstood. They are not intended to be permanent homes for little children. Our service for the children may be placed in four groups: First, caring for the child in his own home with his own mother wherever possible, accepting only the immorality or the physical or mental incapacity of the mother as justifiable grounds for the separation of mother and child. Second, foster home care. The foster homes are thoroughly investigated and approved before the placing of a child therein. Third, temporary billet care. In the billet the child is cared for only until the child can be rehabilitated in its own home or in a foster home. Our slogan is "A minimum of children, a minimum of time in a minimum of billets."
STATE ORGANIZATION: DUTIES OF STATE OR DEPARTMENT CHAIRMAN
1. The department chairman of the child welfare committee shall be selected by the department Commander and shall organize his state in the manner outlined and specifically described in the following paragraphs.