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Among the public agencies, we find that the federal government through the Department of Agriculture is stimulating the organization of farm bureaus. Every state now has one or more county agents, and home demonstrators are also found in many counties. Over 5600 men and women already are employed in this work, in more than 2400 counties in the United States. The farm bureaus, through county agents and home demonstration agents, have organized Home Makers' and Canning clubs, Farmers' clubs, Boys' and Girls' clubs of various kinds, including Pig and Corn clubs, and those of siimlar nature. The farm bureaus bid fair to be a more widespread rural social agency than has yet been established, and an exceedingly useful one.
The other public agencies are under state or county supervision and control. Among these the public education departments are most widely represented, these being stimulated by the federal Bureau of Education. The extension departments of state universities and agricultural schools have been extremely active in some of the states in organizing and in fostering movements for the social betterment of the rural districts. State and district superintendents of schools in many of the states have organized very effective social work. The development of schools, especially of consolidated schools, as social centers, is notable in many states, particularly in some of the south, and in the middle west. In South Carolina the schools have organized such interesting social functions as "all day singings," "fiddlers' conventions." In North Carolina the state has adopted a moving picture program for the rural schools. Parentteachers' associations are found in many states, and are most useful social agencies.
In but one instance was a school visitor cited, although substituting school visitors for attendance officers in all rural school districts would seem desirable. In Cook county, Illinois, we find a most interesting work in the county outside of the city of Chicago, under the direction of the superintendent of schools. Under this compulsory school home project, every pupil over the age of ten must be instructed in some practical work in the garden, in chicken or stock raising or canning, or in some other practical home subject. There are also social center activities, community festivals, and a variety of social movements. There is also in Cook county a Bureau of Social Service which has developed a complete nursing service for the rural parts of the county, and is doing much to meet the other social needs of the county.
Among other public agencies must be mentioned the juvenile courts and the probation system for adults and for children, although these are effectively covering but a comparatively limited rural territory in the United States. Illinois, New Jersey and all the New England states, except Maine, are among the states having county probation officers, and New York has county officers in more than half the counties.
The administration of pensions to mothers is a useful social influence in rural sections of the states in which they are granted.
Many state boards of charity, under whatever name known, have well defined social activities which reach the rural parts of their respective states. The Indiana boards of county charities and county boards of children's guardians, the Massachusetts board's Division of Minor Wards, the new Minnesota Children's Bureau, the Ohio Children's Welfare Department, with its bureau of juvenile research, are but types of the social organizations of central state boards.
State boards of health have been active in stimulating rural nursing service, and to a more limited extent in establishing clinics. In many instances the interest of these boards has been manipulated mainly in rural sections through measures for the prevention of tuberculosis; but the public health nurse is gradually superseding the tuberculosis nurse in many of the states, and broader health program will follow more rapidly as the nursiag service is extended out of the city into the country. In two instances only is a rural dental clinic mentioned, one being conducted in a barber shop on off days.
In Vermont, and on a larger scale in-New York, the boards of health have carried clinics for the after-care of infantile paralysis to the very doors of the most rural and humble inhabitants of the state. At these clinics the most expert orthopedic advice was furnished by the state to those who could have secured it in no other way. This method of reaching the victims of infantile paralysis has recently been followed in other states, and in each instance, state nurses and muscle trainers have been left in the field to visit the homes of the patients. As the aim of these clinics is to prevent deformities, and not to cure or to prevent disease, this work becomes a social service rather than a purely health measure, and seems to point a way of bringing to rural communities that expert medical advise of which they stand so much in need.
In a few states the public libraries have actively undertaken a rural development, notably in Delaware, and parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland, where book wagons are sent into the rural districts, and where some of the librarians on these wagons have become very genuinely social agents.
Among private agencies we find a large group of national associations, each interested in organizing one phase of social effort throughout the country—the National Child Labor Committee, the Playground and Recreation Association, and others equally well known. The Rockefeller and the Russell Sage Foundations have also assisted in bettering rural social conditions in the states in various ways.
Turning to the private agencies in the states, we find two groups. One group consists of those having national organization and control, such as the granges, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Young Men's Christian Associations and Young Women's Christian Associations, Chautauqua Circles, etc., each of social value in the communities it affects. Of this national group by far the most widespread in its influence is the Grange—reaching into most of the states, and covering practically all of the rural territory wherever organized. The Y. M. C. A. and the Y. W. C. A. have county units at many points in the country which are doing excellent work.
Distinguished from the foregoing are certain classes of state, county and local agencies having chiefly a local origin and scope. These divide themselves into three groups. First are the societies for the promotion of state programs for the improvement of social and health conditions, such as the New York State Charities Aid Association, and somewhat similar organizations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Ohio, and the anti-tuberculosis societies which exist in numerous states. In New York state the Woman Suffrage Party has organized a committee on rural conditions which is actively interesting itself in furthering social programs affecting rural conditions.
Secondly should be named the societies organized locally to administer social and health measures, such as village improvement societies and community welfare associations; child helping societies; district nursing and relief societies; clubs of men, of women and of children, each organized to handle some bit of local work, usually in the center of population in the county, but, in all too few cases, reaching into the more rural sections.
The county agencies for dependent children of the New York State Charities Aid Association, and the county branches of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children are examples of standard welfare effort under the auspices of state societies which is reaching rural problems. The Monmouth county branch of the New Jersey State Charities Aid and Prison Reform Association has developed very extensive social work in the county of which Red Bank is the county seat. Its activities include child welfare, probation, nursing, and recreation, and in addition it is concerned with social legislation and varous lines of investigation.
Rural recreation apparently has been organized in very few places of less than 2500 population, although rural centers other than those connected with schools are cited in nine states—at one point in seven of them, and at two points in the other two states.
In the third place should be listed the churches that have organized to meet the social needs of their communities, and that have become centers of social and recreational activity. Such development usually hinges on one strong personality. In some states there are church or Sunday school committees on rural conditions, which stimulate the social activities of the rural churches.
In the third general group are the war emergency organizations, represented by the National Red Cross, with its Home Service Sections, and the Council of National Defense, with men's committees and women's committees in the states and in the counties, and with the special committees on child welfare under the Woman's Committee. In many states there are Home Defense Leagues organized by counties. The objects and methods, as well as the value, of these are too well known to require explanation.
The Principle of Coordination
A study of the organizations represented in the above outline shows the vast variety of auspices under which social effort has developed in rural communities. We find county probation officers, agents of charity organization societies, agents for dependent children, the driver of a book wagon, a visiting nurse, a Y. M. C. A. or a Y. W. C. A. secretary, a home demonstration agent, a visitor from a state board of charities, a school teacher, a representative of the home service section of the Red Cross—each visiting in the homes of its respective communities, and each rendering, or capable of rendering, practically the same service to the families it visits, namely case work for each individual in the family. We are led to exclaim with Shakespeare, "What's in a name?"
Rural work in the several states has grown up in one spot after another, to meet one condition or another, in quite a haphazard fashion, without any well conceived plan. There is a woeful lack of knowledge on the part of the individual societies as to what other agencies exist within their own state, and even with their own territory. This was illustrated by a letter from the chairman of a prominent state committee in Missouri who wrote that in the whole state there was not a single agency coming within the scope of our study—this in a state which has within its borders since 1912 such a remarkable development of rural work as the Porter Schoolhouse, to cite but one of the many activities in Missouri. A county Y. W. C. A. secretary in Kansas, than which there is no state with more widespread social activities, wrote that there was no social work in the state except that of the county Y. W. C. A.
With such lack of mutual information on the part of rural agencies, there can be no coordination, and the resulting development must be sporadic and insufficient to the needs. Many counties have made surveys, and a few localities, notably in Los Angeles, California, have made serious attempts to coordinate all of the social activities within a county. Barnstable county, on Cape Cod, has for three years had a committee of five on cooperation for social service. The Missouri Children's Code Commission recommended a practicable plan under county boards of public welfare. These boards were expected to employ trained superintendents with assistants who could be used by courts and schools as attendance and probation officers; who could administer pensions to mothers; act as agents of the state employment bureau; as visitors to persons released from state hospitals or state institutions; as inspectors of almshouses, especially those still open to children; and who could, in fact, render any needed social service to the people of the county. The appointment of such boards in Missouri and nearby states is being pushed by the National Public Welfare League.
North Carolina has established a State Bureau of Community Service which plans to organize permanent Community Service Leagues throughout the state. This state board is composed of representatives of the State Department of Agriculture, State Department of Education, State Board of Health, State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, State Normal and Industrial College and State Farmers' Union. Each Community Service League is to include a territory of at least twenty square miles, and is to have committees on education, farm progress, cooperative marketing, health, and on organization and social life. To give the rural community more stability, North Carolina has enacted a law permitting the incorporation or chartering of rural communities in the same general way as are towns and cities. The law has not been applied as yet, but the plan is one deserving of study.
More recently the Council of National Defense has recommended a plan to bring together all existing social agencies through the organization of a community council in every school district. It has recommended that county auxiliaries of each State Council of National Defense, and of the State Woman's Division of the Council shall jointly call county war conferences, to include the officers in charge of county government activities, representatives of county organizations and societies, of schools, of farm bureau committees, etc. The program for these community councils when once organized is expected to include community meetings and rallies; patriotic education; reports as to the resources of the community; food; Americanization; community safeguards; labor and industry; community thrift; community subscription to the liberty loans and war savings and Red Cross, Y. M. C. A., Knights of Columbus and so forth; soldiers' aid work; coordination of all existing agencies and those organized for war work; and the execution of requests issued by the national government and by state and county councils.
The North Carolina plan is not dissimilar to the plan suggested by the Council of National Defense, except that it is based on the needs of the community in normal times, and being a state agency, would be permanent in character, while the similar organization recommended by the Council of National Defense is to meet a war emergency, and might or might not retain its organization after the war is over.
A Plan for Systematic Organization
A thorough organization of the interest in rural social problems is thus seen to be in the minds of many groups. If a community, say a county, could be organized under some committee, league or commission,