Charles Richmond Henderson.

Introduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment online

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voluntarily seek such helps, and must be compelled. Such are
the habitual vagrants and professional tramps. Salvation Army
methods cannot reach these. Private charitable societies can-
not be trusted with power to compel obedience to their rules.
State and municipal police must take hold of this class with
vigor and rigor, in cooperation with railroad companies.

Habitual drunkards and criminal tramps ought to be subjected
to indeterminate and progressive sentences; but here we touch
a subject which will be treated under the head of corrections or
criminal sociology.

There are various preventive methods which might be discussed
as fruits of philanthropy in general and which are very useful.

The^ Unemployed and Homeless Dependents. 97

but are not strictly charitable in the ordinary sense : industrial
education, trade unions, mutual benefit societies, building and
loan associations, regulation of child labor by law, factory
inspection, insurance against accident. In such measures gov-
ernment and business managers and the humane public might
well cooperate, and thus anticipate the forces which make for
humiliation and pauperism.



1. Cooperation with the Home. — It is a first principle of
charity to avoid breaking up the natural relations of the family
so long as the interests of the children are not in jeopardy.
Parental responsibility must not be weakened, and the affections
which cling to offspring and parents must not be lightly destroyed.
In many dependent families the need of relief is due to the
burden of children, especially when excessive numbers and pro-
longed illness occasion unusual expense. So long as children
remain with parents, outdoor relief is given to the family in order
to maintain its integrity, and it is not given directly to the chil-
dren. The duty of support is still borne by parents. In case of
the death or desertion of the breadwinner, especially of the
father, the burden of the half-orphans may be the chief or sole
reason for requiring foreign aid.

The care of children in homes of extreme poverty may take
two forms : protection and oversight of conduct; or physical,
hygienic, and sanitary aid.

A limited number of institutions may be necessary for board-
ing children. A widower may be left in charge of a brood of
motherless children, and may be able to pay for their support,
and eager to maintain his paternal relations to them, and yet be
utterly unable to keep up a household. Or a mother, left a
widow, may desire to retain possession of her children and work
for their support, and yet be hindered from securing employ-
ment so long as she must keep them together in a home. Tem-
porary care, with or without pay, in some establishments may be
the wisest and most humane method.


Relief and Care of Dependent Children. 99

The day sanitarium for feeble and sick children is a useful
arrangement in great cities. Such agencies frequently preserve
the lives of infants and teething children during the hot weeks
of summer, and bring rest and hope to many a weary mother who
feels the depressing force of crowded conditions in the tenement
districts. An old ship floats in the river, or a great tent is
spread by lake or sea, or a permanent tabernacle is built where
the breezes blow, and there is play and cheerfulness and new
life. Nurses and medical care must be at hand, and means of
transportation without cost must be furnished, for carfare under
these circumstances makes the distance a prohibitory barrier to
the poor.

Charity finds a significant field of service in supplying pure
and sterilized milk for infants and children. Too frequently the
food of the city children is tainted and dangerous to life, and
the ignorance or helplessness of parents prevents the supply of
wholesome diet. Pasteurized milk is one of the most important
factors of health, and it greatly reduces mortality.

Among the prophylactic methods should be mentioned medi-
cal examinations of school children to prevent and cure diseases
of the eyes and skin, curvature of the spine, and other ailments.
In the same connection may be mentioned free dentistry and
education in the care of the teeth of children in public schools.

The day nursery, or creche, has for its purpose to give suitable
care to young children while their mothers go out to work. This
mode of charity often opens the way to instruct and encourage
mothers in regard to proper methods of caring for infants, in
diet, dress, bathing, and other matters of personal hygiene.

The day nursery is not without its dangers. Mothers may
learn to find it agreeable to leave the care of their little ones to
others. Fathers, disposed to shirk duty, may willingly let their
wives go out to labor for support, while the home is neglected.
The creche itself may be unfit for the purpose, and not carefully
attended; and, in consequence, contagious diseases may spread.
Sometimes epidemics break out, and the place must be closed

lOO Relief and Care of Dependents.

and work be suspended for weeks together. This entails irregu-
larity and disappointments. The essential factors of such an
establishment are well-ventilated and well-lighted rooms, always
fresh and clean; little beds of simple structure and clean as they
can be; and skilful nurses during the day. At night the children
are taken home by the mothers.

Only infants of widows, or of women whose husbands are dis-
abled, should be accepted, lest men be taught to rely upon their
wives for maintenance. A small fee is usually charged, more to
prevent pauperism than to secure means of support. For both
sanitary and moral reasons the infants of unmarried mothers
cannot ordinarily be accepted.

The ^^ Country Week^' and Holiday Colonies. — Rich people
know from experience the advantages of summer residence in the
open country, near to the green fields, with life in sunshine and
fresh air, far from dust and smoke and perpetual noise. Such
change from city to country is far more important for the poor,
whose residences are crowded and unwholesome. Farmers are
often willing to receive children gratuitously, or for a moderate
compensation; but careful selection and supervision are neces-
sary. Sometimes children whose parents are quite able to pro-
vide for them are sent out by charity societies, while many very
needy ones are overlooked. It is not safe to send children who
are afflicted with communicable disease, or who are morally
depraved. Without careful oversight accidents may happen in
transporting the careless, happy crowds. In some situations it
is not prudent to rely on isolated farmers caring for scattered chil-
dren, where supervision is difficult; and it is found better to
establish camps with tents or rude shelter, so that the little com-
munity may be controlled by wise and trustworthy leaders, known
to the association of charities.

These rare and exceptional enjoyments of country life and
seashore ought not to be regarded as substitutes for more general
and comprehensive measures. Cities should be urged to pro-
vide free playgrounds and small parks in all crowded districts.

Relief and Care of Dependent Children. loi

where children may romp and play in open air, and older sisters
and mothers can take the babies to rest in the shade of trees,
near cooling jets of fountains.

Vacation schools in summer months are valuable aids to
health and morals. The little ones are kept off the streets and
saved from the perils of idleness. Roguish boys find a natural
outlet for energy, and do not fall into ways of mischief and
crime. Wise teachers know how to continue instruction as a
pleasant recreation. Pupils do not forget so much of what they
learned during the school year, as they would do if instruction
were entirely suspended.

Charity should not be content and satisfied with sending chil-
dren to the country and with opening vacation schools, but
should follow them back into the noisome and stifling homes,
and take up the tenement house problem.

The children of very poor families often come to school suffer-
ing from hunger, cold, and raggedness. Associations of good
people may find it wise to provide food for the bodies of those
who are weak from deficient nutrition, and decent clothes to
protect them from the bite of frost.

Nor must we forget in this connection the vital importance
to the poor of so directing the instruction that the young may
acquire mechanical skill, have brain and hand training for con-
structive work, and so be better fitted to compete in a world
which has no place nor patience for awkwardness and idleness.
Economists tell us that the tendency of industry and trade is to
secure for each workman the whole value of the product of his
individual industry.-^ So far as this tendency is real it implies
that the wisest charity is that which raises the industrial efficiency
of the youth by trade training.

Special departments are needed in the public schools for the

training of that large class of slow and partly defective children,

— the blind, the deaf, the stubborn, — who cannot profit by

ordinary class work, and who are sorely tempted to play truant and

1 J. B. Clark, "The Distribution of Wealth."

I02 Relief and Care of Dependents.

escape from the agony of hopeless struggle in competition with
normal children. Many of these do not need to be sent away
from home to state schools, but should be taught by special teachers,
and permitted to grow up at home and in natural surroundings.

Medical care and hospital aids for the crippled, deformed,
and feeble will be mentioned in the chapter devoted to medical

Kindergartens are among the most useful and promising means
of maintaining the integrity of the family and promoting its
functions of education. Like the creche, it not only educates
the little children, but it gives a point of natural contact between
the teacher and the mother, who is often ignorant and discour-
aged. The methods to be employed belong to the literature of
pedagogical science and art. We should insist that real kinder-
garten work cannot be done without ability, training, and insight
into educational aims and principles. In the pioneer stages,
so slow is the formation of public opinion, the cost of support
and experiment must often be borne by individuals and by vol-
untary associations. At a later stage public sentiment usually
demands that the work be carried on by the public school sys-
tem; but there are nearly always neglected areas where private
philanthropy has a free field.

In any complete system of child saving, compulsory education
must occupy a large place. Parents must not be left at liberty
to educate their offspring, the future citizens, whose ignorance
and evil habits are a menace to order and political institutions.
If parents are too poor to provide food, clothing, and books, then
charity in some form must come to their assistance.

An ungraded school or a day industrial school is a wise
arrangement to give instruction and discipline to children who
play truant and who may properly be left in charge of their
parents at home. Parental schools are found necessary in
carrying out the rules of compulsory attendance, because some
families are quite unable or unfit to control the children. In
both instances, where expense is incurred for board, the parents

Relief and Care of Dependent Children. 103

should be required to pay all that they are able to do, so that
the sense of responsibility may not be weakened and the public
burdened with a cost which should be borne by parents. At this
point we see the connection of charity with measures preventive
of crime. -^

Humane societies seek to teach the young to protect dumb
animals from cruelty, and this charity reacts on human beings
themselves, and makes them more considerate of each other.
Poverty and neglected childhood are closely related to each other
and to crime. A rational charity, comprehensive in its scope
and method, adequate in equipment, directed by leaders of
education and power, is one of the most promising means of
preventing crime.

2. Care of Destitute Homeless Children. — It is a cardinal
principle of public and private charity that the family must be
held to its task and responsibility by all available means, so long
as it can possibly serve its functions; that parents and relatives
should not be bribed by charity to neglect their own flesh and
blood. This law is frequently violated and with disastrous results.

But there are circumstances in which children must perish, or
suffer moral ruin, if they are not protected by the community.
Children are naturally and necessarily dependent on others for
physical support and for education. The events which make
family support impossible or undesirable are the desertion or
exposure of offspring by unnatural parents, especially by unmar-
ried mothers; the death of parents; the unfitness of parents,
through immorality, cruelty, or crime, for the care of their chil-
dren; the impossibility of giving maintenance, as in case of
some half-orphans. The methods adapted to these various
conditions must be treated separately.

One principle must be insisted upon: If children are taken
from parents, it should always be through a regular judicial
process, so that parental rights and duties shall not be set aside
by arbitrary, private action nor be wantonly overlooked.
1 Compare the chapter on Juvenile Offenders in Part IV.

I04 Relief and Care of Dependents.

Foundlings and othe7' Abandoned Infants. — There is a social
need for some refuge for unmarried mothers in the hour of their
terror and shame, to meet the demands of humanity, to prevent
suicide, infanticide, and hopeless prostitution.

There are dangers and difhculties in establishing such humane
arrangements for deserted infants and unmarried mothers. For
parents are sorely tempted to hide their guilt, to leave the fruit
of sin to their neighbor's care and cost, and, finding the way of
evil so easy, they are tempted to repeat the deeds of wrong and
shame. Therefore the principle of investigation must be strictly
applied, and all regulations must look to the reformation and
rescue of the transgressors, and to prevent the growth of vice in
the community.

Philanthropy must discriminate carefully between orphans and
foundlings and other abandoned children. Orphans are not
deserted by the wilful and selfish act of those who gave them
birth, but are deprived of natural support by death. If aban-
doned children are taken by societies without question or inves-
tigation, a social vice is fostered. France tried an experiment
from which we may learn much. By an edict of 1811 the turn-
ing-cradle {tour) was authorized in foundling asylums, and babes
could be placed in them by unknown mothers whose faces could
not be seen from inside the building. The consequence of this
rule, which was introduced into 235 hospitals, was a frightful
increase in the number of children surrendered to public care.
People began to transfer their infants to the hospitals as a matter
of course, and the custom spread by imitation. In 1784 there
were 40,000 cases; in 1815, 68,000; and in 1834, 134,000.
Hamburg, London, and other cities tried similar experiments
with the same results. This device is now rarely used. There
could hardly be a better illustration and proof of causality and
prevision in social science. There are social laws.

The best methods include the application of the following
principles: careful investigation of the entire situation; the
enforcement upon both parents of legal responsibility for sup-

Relief and Care of Dependent Children. 105

port, as provided in most poor laws; and the most careful effort
to save the mother from repetition of her offence and bring the
father to a sense of his duty.

Great buildings are not suitable for the care of infants. If
many infants are sheltered in one house they are sure to develop
a high rate of mortality, and it would be as humane to drown
them all at once. An authentic example will illustrate the law.
In the New York Infants' Hospital, of 366 infants admitted,
when under six months of age, without their mothers, during
1896, but 12 remained alive on April 15, 1897; a mortality rate
of 96.7 per cent. The average duration of life of 354 children
who died was between five and six weeks. Of the 12 surviving
children two were bottle-fed and ten were nursed. The death
rate is the standard of judgment for institutions devoted to
infants; it is as infallible as a barometer.

The foundling asylum which attempts to keep infants together
in large numbers is condemned by experience, and there is no
longer any reason for supporting or tolerating it. All such
institutions should be suppressed by law.

While seeking by all possible means to discover the parents
and compel or persuade them to perform their duty, this will be
found in many instances impossible, and the community must
provide for the innocent babe. The best method is to shelter
the helpless creature temporarily in a very small hospital, spe-
cially built for the purpose, and remove it as soon as a good woman
can be found who will give it suitable nourishment and care. Such
foster mothers must be paid a sufficient sum, and must be under
competent medical inspection and care. It is understood from
the first that they will not be permitted to adopt the foundling as
their own. Families in the country usually have a more desir-
able situation than city families, but this is not an invariable

The ideal method looks to rescue and restoration of father and
mother with the child, and by means of the affections awakened
by its birth. But this is a difficult, tedious, and precarious task.

io6 Relief and Care of Dependents.

Many persons of wide experience believe that it is better for both
mother and child, where marriage is not practicable, to separate
them, and let both begin life anew without the burden of dis-
grace. This controversy cannot be settled by absolute rules, and
administrators must take such a course as seems wisest to them
in particular cases, with the best use of tact and discrimination.
Not all unmarried mothers have the moral strength of the heroine
of Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter," and the courage to stay in the
very community which knows of the sin until confidence, and
even reverence, are won by devotion and sacrifice.

But it has been shown in all parts of the country that there are
plenty of places, especially in rural communities, for such mothers
at domestic service, even if they take the infants with them. In
the present condition of that occupation people are quite willing
to overlook the past, if a woman will bring her infant and per-
form labor enough to earn her living and something beyond.

In our great city there are private establishments popularly
known as "baby farms," whose existence and location are made
known through specious and attractive advertisements in the
great newspapers. Women are invited to board in these places
before and after confinement; their stay is concealed from the
public, and they are promised that the infant will be "adopted."
The meaning of all this is that the "farmer " frequently consigns
the illegitimate babe to some charitable home-finding society,
which accepts a fee for the service; and society takes up the
burden of support, and the erring mother and father go free of
care or responsibility. Unfortunately, the name of charity is
often disgraced by unscrupulous agents of home-finding societies,
who are in collusion with keepers of such places and with low
lawyers. The general public is little aware of the extent and
evils of this iniquitous calling. All such houses should be placed
under rigid legal control and inspection by representatives of the
state board of charities. Legitimate home-finding societies would
thus be protected from suspicion in their necessary functions,
and the scoundrels would be brought to justice.

Relief and Care of Dependent Children. 107

3. Dependent Children in Poorhouses. — In the early history
of our country there was no other public institution for the care
of orphans, and it was not difficult to place children in homes,
if they were strong enough to work, because labor was in demand,
and a child could be made useful. But population increased in
density, cities grew apace, with no occupation for the young;
neighborhood ties were less close; and a more depraved class of
paupers arose. At last the evil of keeping children in alms-
houses became manifest and glaring, and evidences of injury

There are many and serious objections to this method. The
adults are of such a low character, as a rule, so indolent, coarse,
and immoral, that they are not fit to be companions and instructors
of innocent childhood. A pauper record as a poorhouse ward
injures the prospects of the child. The authorities of a county
asylum are not able, even if competent, to maintain an efficient
system of supervision for adopted and apprenticed orphans
during minority.

In the chapter on Indoor Relief we have already noted the
wholesome tendency to abolish the custom of sending children
to such places, and to provide for them in a more desirable way.
Those who still remain are usually infants of pauper mothers, or
are feeble-minded children, crippled or otherwise not attractive
for adoption or for apprenticeship.

4. Orphans and Neglected Children, taken by Legal Process from
Parents, in Normal Physical and Mental Condition. — All such
persons can be considered together, since they are equally cast
upon public or private charity for the means of existence and
education. Two methods have long been in use, and are still in
controversy, at least in respect to details: the institutional
method, and the placing-out system. Under the institutional
method the dependent child is kept for a long period, perhaps
during minority, in a great institution where all its physical and
spiritual wants are met. After a term of years the youth is
apprenticed or finds a home. No one advocates keeping normal

io8 Relief and Care of Dependents.

persons in institutions indefinitely, or even after majority. It
is now generally admitted that such establishments are entirely
unnatural, artificial, and, after youth is . past, injurious. To
marriageable persons they would simply be prisons. The only
controversy now relates to the period during which the minor
should be kept in the large asylum.

At the twenty-sixth National Conference of Charities and Cor-
rections, the Committee on the Care of Destitute and Neglected
Children formulated the agreement of all parties in controversy.
This report deserves special consideration because of its repre-
sentative character, the chairman being Mr. Thomas M. Mulry,
president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of the city of
New York. The conclusion to which all came was thus stated :
" All workers agree that the home is the natural place to properly
develop the child." This pregnant sentence may be regarded as
the monument of an epoch-making decision in the history of
charitable methods; and it will become a regulative principle
which must gradually transform the means and agencies of many
societies, as its significance comes to be generally understood.
Like all wide principles, it seems so simple, obvious, and rational
as to require no argument, yet it has not been reached without
immense waste of money and long and bitter controversies.

5. Need of Institutions. — ^ It will be admitted that there is a
certain limited field of usefulness for institutions and for perma-
nent buildings, even when we exclude all feeble, sickly, crippled,
and otherwise abnormal children. Buildings and interior arrange-
ments should be adapted to the functions of rescue, quarantine,
training, and central supervision; but all on a much smaller
scale than was formerly thought desirable. There are way-
ward youths, difficult to manage during adolescence, who
quiet down and become worthy citizens if they are placed for
a time under patient, tactful, high-minded persons during the
period of storm and stress, the revolutionary and rebellious
years. But such persons should not be kept in large num-
bers under one management, since they require individual

Relief and Care of Dependent Children. 109

treatment, outdoor life, manual labor, school studies, hygienic
and pedagogic help.

There are several types of arrangement of such buildings.
In the congregate plan all the inmates are housed in large bar-

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 9 of 35)