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fessional worker is merely trying to provide the detailed
interpretation of legislative policy. His major function is
that of the expert, especially trained both in method and
knowledge to be objective. His activities are directed toward
the assembly of factual as well as qualitative information
and the constructive execution of the legislative will. The
social worker as an administrator is not in politics and
should not be.

As a citizen, however, the social worker may, of course,
have strong views as to the wisdom of political decisions.
He should not compromise his right to express his views
and that of his profession, as to the soundness of the legisla-
tion which he is to administer. As an expert, familiar with
the plight of the underprivileged and recognizing basic so-
cial and industrial causes which account for it, he is well
equipped to provide information and leadership.

There is no formula to bridge the chasm between social
work and politics. Social workers must cease to hold poli-
tics and politicians suspect. They must realize that the
democratic scheme gives an important place to political
parties and to politics. At the same time, social workers
must emphasize the fundamental distinction between the
political process of legislation and policy making and tht
relatively technical process of administration. They must
insist that the latter is essentially an expert function and
that those who carry it on should get their jobs on the basis
of what they know and not whom they know.

But at the same time, social workers must realize that
the merit system alone is not the answer. In a technical
sense both Ohio and Massachusetts operate under the merit
system. The presence of such a law on the statute books is
merely a beginning. An unsympathetic or resentful public
or legislature can circumvent its operation if vigilance is


not constant. However, recent events suggest that the cru-
sade for progressive revision of civil service standards can
be carried on more effectively by non-professional persons
and associations rather than by the social worker. But who-
ever leads the battle, there must be no compromise on this
issue. For upon its eventual success depends not only the
preservation of social work standards but good public
administration and democracy itself.

Social workers need also to evaluate the methods of inter-
preting their job. While they may not succeed in convincing
all local officials, the political attack cannot be met unless
the ideals and methods of the social worker are understood.
The community must itself come to insist on the profes-
sional standards of personnel, on the social gains which flow
from the employment of the social work technique. To do so
it is imperative that the basic tenets of the social worker's
administrative creed be thoroughly re-appraised. Here com-
promises are possible, adjustments may be made. Standards
should be re-valued in the light of more knowledge and
of fresh problems.

How much needs to be done in social work education
and training? The experience of recent years casts some
doubt on the desirability of too specialized an educational
program. Since social work today deals with broad social
and economic issues, familiarity with public taxation, public
administration, local and state government and economics
are basic and must be included in the curricula of schools
of social work.

No compromise can be made on the principle that public
assistance is to be determined on the basis of need and need
only. Political interference here must be resisted at all costs,
because it is a vital threat to the very foundations of demo-
cratic organization.

Social workers must be political realists. They practice
their profession in a world not of their own making. But
they cannot resign from the world ; they cannot withdraw
from the public field on the theory that the obstacles in the
path of a decent job are insurmountable. They cannot afford
to run from a battle in which a vital sector depends on
their courage and their skill.

Clients Aren't What They Used to Be


THERE'S no use talking, the clients aren't what they
used to be not even eight years ago, let alone twenty-
five. No longer, can they be pigeonholed en masse as
the "submerged tenth," the "underprivileged," "the poor we
have always with us." They aren't having it that way, and
they have learned the strength of numbers and the force of
the positive approach. No longer do they supplicate for
charity, pleading "worthiness" in their own behalf. Today
they assert their rights as human beings and as members
of the body politic their worthiness is their own business.
They have learned that the peremptory voice rings louder
than the entreating voice.

Fortunately the clients are not the only ones who have
come out of their pigeonholes. Their change in temper is no
more marked than the change of the general public temper
toward poverty and its treatment. The inability of a man to
sustain himself and his family no longer is connected in
some vague way with a fall from grace; the care of the
poor no longer is a sort of home missionary enterprise to
save as well as to succor. Admitting vestigial remains of the
old tradition we, as a people, in this year 1938 A. D., hold
poverty to be the result of economic, social and physical
forces, of which the individual more often than not is the
victim, less responsible for his plight than the society of
which he is a part. When a good 15 percent of the popula-
tion of a great nation is unable to sustain itself without
assistance you can't write off their condition as the wages
of individual sin.

As I see today's situation, it is not so much that the client
has emerged from his pigeonhole as that the course of events
and the rational thinking of all of us, the client included,
have broken down the pigeonhole. He no longer represents
a mass apart from the rest of us but an individual who be-
cause of some special condition age, handicap or lack of a
job requires assistance. Be that as it may, whether the
client came out of his pigeonhole or the pigeonhole broke
down, he certainly is out and must be reckoned with in the
terms of 1938.

The change in popular attitude did not come overnight.
It was hastened of course by the economic breakdown which
threw onto public assistance vast numbers of people who by
no stretch of imagination could be described as "the poor."
But the change in thinking already was under way, due in
large part to the efforts of those agencies which for years
had been endeavoring to apply to the problem of poverty the
same scientific procedure which the medical profession had
found effective in the field of health. As Robert A. Woods
said, "They used the microscope and the telescope," the one
in the laboratory, the other in the field, to learn if possible
what was cause and what was effect. This spade work by
private agencies was reflected in the establishment of the
United States Children's Bureau in 1912. The private agen-
cies had demonstrated on a limited scale the effectiveness of
prevention and rehabilitation in dealing with individual
families. The Children's Bureau extended the fundamentals
of the program on a nation-wide basis.

A 5 we look back, we can see how the efforts of the bu-
reau, reaching out to discover effects on individuals
but pointing back to causes, made the country conscious
of the need for preventive work on an individual basis. It
has been leaven in the lump of our national thinking.

We had need of that leaven when the depression broke
over us and mass unemployment revealed the inadequacies
of our facilities for dealing with its human results.

Although the signs were clear and the prophets not infre-
quent we had been slow to see technological developments aa
a cause of the steadily rising curve of dependence in this
country. The increase in mechanical and other skilled trades
and the rising standard of living of those who followed
them obscured our view of the decrease in unskilled jobs
and in the odd jobs by which an unskilled man usually could
support his family. The period of prosperity which raised
the standard of large numbers of people and fortified their
sense of independence broke down the narrow economic
margin of many a man with little schooling and skill and



I sent him to "the relief." It was not a particularly new
I experience for him ; he and his family seldom had known a
I time when their needs were filled with much ease or sem-
I blance of adequacy. The private relief agencies as a recourse

in hard times were familiar to him.

These were the clients of eight years ago. The new clients,
I those who have hastened the change in our thinking and
I in our institutions, were the men, skilled and trained, who
I were thrust into economic helplessness at the height of their
I individual prosperity. Naturally they resisted giving up a
I way of life that included homes, automobiles and the latest
I mechanical contrivances. They needed help only because

the\ were out of work, not because they were incompetent
I or guilty of some wrong-doing. They had no stomach for
I the old forms of charity breadlines, soup kitchens, cast-off
I clothing and they were quick to resent as injustice any
I effort to exploit them as objects of charity. As a group they
I were articulate and their attitude quickly communicated
I itself to the old clients, those who for years had been under-
I employed, unemployed or actually unemployable, relying in
I lean times on the grocer's credit book, the spare room back
I home, the occasional basket of groceries from the Ladies'
I Aid, the help of some private social agency.

When government entered into the "business of relief" it
If was to meet the immediate necessities of millions of people.,
i; many of whom never before had required assistance. With
them were a great stream of those others for whom private
1 agencies, churches, lodges and kinfolk no longer could pro-
P vide. The stage was set for the leaders who were to preach
I that not only prompt and adequate assistance, but jobs, re-


Child Welfare

Children's Aid Society of Pennsylvania

SOCIAL DIAGNOSIS, by Mary E. Richmond. Russell Sage
Foundation. 1917.

Because it marked a new epoch in the development of
principles and methods in social case work.

New York State Charities Aid Association, 1924.

Because by its study and critical analysis of 910 place-
ments after the children had grown up, it gave us our first
factual answer to an important question.

CROWING UP, by Karl de Schweinitz. Macmillan. 1928.

Because it dealt intelligently and helpfully with a uni-
versal experience.

and others. Knopf. 1929.

Because it set forth the interrelation of causal factors
that need to be understood in the development of personality.


P. Robinson. University of North Carolina Press. 1931.

Because it marks an important milestone in case work
theory and practice.

1937 BOOK


WORK: A SYMPOSIUM. The Journal of Social Work
Process, Vol. I, No. 1. Pennsylvania School of Social

Because it presented a specific approach to the art of
helping that should be provocative for the children's field.

habilitation and prevention were the responsibility of gov-
ernment, that these things were the right of economically
dislocated citizens.

The rise of the technique of organization among relief
clients at first occasioned considerable bewilderment among
old-line social workers accustomed to the docility of the
old-line client. There can be no doubt however, that the
pressures exerted by the organized unemployed, though
they represented but a small fraction of the relief popula-
tion, resulted in larger relief appropriations than would
otherwise have been made. They resulted too in more ade-
quate administrative provision for dealing with complaints
and probably influenced public thinking to a measurable
degree. In protest demonstrations, hunger marches, and
work relief strikes the unemployed dramatized themselves
as human beings. In a monograph, When Clients Organ-
ize (published by the American Public Welfare Associa-
tion), Helen Seymour has traced the rise of these relief
pressure groups, their leadership, and their motivation,
and has appraised their impact on relief administration.
Without exaggerating this impact she concludes that it
points toward "the possibility of a relatively active and
enduring client pressure movement."

TO those who have shared in organized labor's strug-
gles for recognition, such a technique is understandable
and acceptable. To those whose standard of living had been
carefully built up and then wiped out, it is the logical
answer. And to those who, because of old age, physical
disability or for other reasons, had been dependent on
family or community, it is a new and attractive idea holding
the possibility of standards of assistance which many of
them have never known.

The sheer size of the group dependent on public assist-
ance gave it a strength of which it was wholly conscious.
At the same time, that sheer size made it apparent that any
proper treatment which took account of rehabilitation and
prevention required that the group be broken down into its
component human parts, with each part treated according
to its needs. Here again action followed the course of ex-
perience as blazed by private and a few progressive public
agencies. The popular mind was prepared for the work
program and for the categories of the social security act
which set up on a national scale provisions for the aged,
the blind, dependent children and certain others.

The federal program "took the curse off relief" so far
as the recipient was concerned. Work on WPA was "a
real job," the President himself said so; assistance under
the security services was a "pension." It was easy to forget
the unpleasant "needs" basis for both jobs and assistance.

What the public generally had not anticipated, when it
accepted the theory of categorical assistance, was the
strengthening of the group consciousness of the people cate-
gorized by the system, and the competition among them that
has resulted. There is reason for this competition. The
difference in the amount and form of assistance as between
one group and another is marked. Some must work, others
need not; some get assistance based on one measure of
need, others on another measure. These differences are
acutely felt and have bound the members of each group
together in a common purpose to protect and extend what
they hold to be their rights. "Bigger and better" is the
motto; organization, the technique.

As a general thing, our American communities have ac-
cepted the proposition that public assistance is a public re-



sponsibility, but in the discharge of that responsibility they
cling to what they consider good public welfare practice.
The individual, however, deep in his personal problems and
fortified by group consciousness, does not always see this
practice as consonant with his "rights." The group pressure
to which he resorts results in a sort of borrowing from
Peter to pay Paul, satisfying the stronger pressure at the
expense of the weaker. But as I see it the difference between
the community and the pressure group attitude is more in
approach than in objective. Both actually point in the same
direction, toward some measure of assured economic security
for the individual. Undoubtedly we have a leveling-off
process still ahead of us, with a candid appraisal of the
proposition that public assistance is something not to be
prayed for but to be demanded as a right.

The cohesion of clients in the several categories into ac-
tive pressure groups is reflected in the legislative trends
of the country, particularly in relation to old age assistance.
Here the hopes and emotions of the Townsend Clubs have
been translated largely into a drive for more generous
allowances on a wider base of eligibility. In some of the
western states, for example, where such movements have
been strongest, legislation has created a standard of old age
assistance which is not only higher than that in other parts
of the country but higher than that of any other group in
the same community. These states have in their population
a large proportion of unattached old people, residue of the
seasonal labor that developed their lumbering, fishing and
agricultural enterprises. With ties of kindred long since
broken, and lacking the support of adult children, they
naturally look to old age assistance as their one hope of
warding off the poor house. Given their history and that of
the labor movement in these states it is altogether logical
that they should see organization as the effective means of
getting and keeping the highest obtainable level of assistance.
It follows that since public laws determine the character-
istics of this assistance its level can be influenced by politi-
cal action. Every candidate for public office in these states
has found it to his advantage of late years to have in his
platform at least one plank dealing with old age assistance.

THE political pressure tactic grows by what it feeds on.
The success of an effort in one state or county brings a
rash of similar efforts in others. Take the case of Colorado,
for example, where a constitutional amendment fixes a level
of old age payments which lays such a heavy charge on
state financial resources as to threaten the breakdown of
many other services. The proponents of bigger and better
pensions point to the Colorado standard as the fruit of
organization and pressure, and today in half a do/en or so
states [see Survey Midmonthly , April 1938, page 1 15] peti-
tions are circulating to initiate constitutional amendments
which would fix old age pensions at a high level, virtually
taking them out of the control of legislative or administrat-
ive bodies. And do not think for a moment that these
petitions, however fantastic, will lack signatures.

What will be the ultimate result of the new concept
that a measure of security belongs to everyone and must be
underwritten by some form of public assistance, be it
through insurance, work or direct relief?

Right or wrong, the effect of this new conception of so-
ciety's responsibility for its members has created a demand
far beyond the capacity to obtain necessary revenue through
existing tax devices. The inevitable attempt to rob Peter to
pay Paul quickly brings the supporters of longer established

governmental services to their defense against attempted
raids by the supporters of these newer interests. The old-
line taxpayers who for years resisted imposts for roads,
schools, and the like now are joined by those who favoi
such things but oppose these new government grants. These
two groups seem to be gaining recruits from those who ad-
vocated a program of assistance but who now are turning
from it in disillusionment at the inability to satisfy people
who have made it clear that the more they get the more
they want.

There are many signs of growing public reaction to the
increasing pressures of the organized and articulate client
groups. Undoubtedly the program, particularly in the west-
ern states, has moved too rapidly if not too far and it it
inevitable that, because the states themselves and possibly
the federal government will be unable to finance their re-
spective parts, it will bog down of its own topheaviness.

Some day, I am confident, this fight back and forth ovei
public assistance as the guarantor of security will retire
backstage and the chief characteristic of security again will
emerge in the form of our early American hero self-reli-
ance. The job, as it relates to economic security, more than
ever will be the cornerstone on which man's social security
will be built, and the efforts of the community will be
directed to strengthening the man for the job and the job
for the man. We know now that along with individual
needs of health and education there is need to train youtll
for the kind of jobs that are inherent in the development
of the community and its natural resources. Public assist-
ance, either as a right or as a privilege, is not the answer
to the problem of security for the oncoming generation, as
many of the disillusioned older generation have discovered.

Family Case Work

Family Welfare Association of America

SOCIAL DIAGNOSIS, by Mary E. Richmond. Russell Sage
Foundation. 1917.

Because it was the first noteworthy attempt to orient case
work as a genuine discipline in treating the problems of
individual human relationships.

WHAT is SOCIAL CASE WORK? by Mary E. Richmond. Russell
Sage Foundation. 1922.

Because it is a basic interpretation of social case work.

Milford Conference. American Association of Social
Workers. 1929.

Because it was the first major attempt to visualize social
case work as a generic approach.

SOME ASPECTS OF RELIEF, by Grace Marcus. Charity Organ-
ization Society. 1929.

Because it helped make social case work more articulate on
the significance of relief in our practice and to our clients.


Robinson. University of North Carolina Press. 1931.

Because of its challenge to case workers in the exploration
of the relationship between the case worker and the client.

1937 BOOK


Yale University Press.

Because it is a study of social conflict by a man who realized
that he had first to analyze his own attitudes.



The vast majority of the people of this country still have
>bs and the self-reliance that goes with them. To a greater
r Ir^s extent they have the answer to the "right" to eco-
omic security. The "right" of those who now demand relief
, the "right" to get on the conveyor which leads to the
>b. This certainly is a right, the demand for which can
roperly be made upon our society as a whole. As a nation,
ate by state, community by community, we shall lie wist-

to the extent that we make such provision for health, educa-
tion, vocational training and similar opportunities for in-
dividual development as will make it possible for all our
fin/ens to enjoy that "right."

What we need today is not less articulation of the
"rights" of the clients but a type of leadership that will
direct this sense of "right" into channels more beneficial
and more adequate than public assistance ever can be.

And It Came to Pass


IN the year of our Lord 1929, being the fifty-sixth year
of the life of Noah of the House of Charities and
Corrections, in the tenth month, on the twenty-ninth
day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of
the great economic life broken up, and the windows of
chaos were opened in the firmament.

And the rain of depression was upon the earth ten
months and ten days.

And the self-same year there entered into the Ark of
Professional Standards, Noah of the House of Charities,
Survey his wife and their three daughters, National Con-
ference of Social Work, American Association of Social
Workers and Family Welfare Association of America.

And with them, one by one, entered also flappers, peli-
cans, neurotics, spinsters, widows, postgraduate mothers,
unemployed, rank and file, practitioners, job-getters, has-
beens, hope-to-bes, van cliquers, princesses, saints, and
those with 300 credit hours of sacred contact magic in
supervised family social case work. Every bird of every
sort, each according to its kind and some in a class by

And they went in unto Noah into the Ark, one by one,
a sisterhood of all flesh ; and they shut out the newspapers
and politicians, taxpayers and Babbitts and unbaptized
administrators. And on the waters thereabout rose waves
of impatience and irritation.

And the flood was upon the earth four years and four
months ; and the waters increased, and raised up into re-
sponsible administrative positions salesmen and playground
directors, case workers and settlement workers who never
before had dealt with either dollars or human beings in
more than four columns of figures.

Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesSurvey midmonthly : journal of social work (Volume 74) → online text (page 40 of 109)