Charles Richmond Henderson.

Modern methods of charity; an account of the systems of relief, public and private, in the principal countries having modern methods online

. (page 42 of 73)
Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonModern methods of charity; an account of the systems of relief, public and private, in the principal countries having modern methods → online text (page 42 of 73)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

organized systems of public child saving, usually employing the
placing-out method. A modification of this method, adopted
in several of the States, consists in subsidizing private institu-
tions for the care of publicly dependent children. When a child
is placed with a family the law usually provides that a writtea
contract shall be signed by the agents of the institution placing
the child and the head of the family receiving it, providing for
its treatment as a member of the family with respect to schooling
and other privileges.

The Michigan method, so called because first employed in
Michigan, is now being applied in the six States of Michigan
Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, and Colorado.
According to this method a State public school is provided, in
which all dependent minors of sound mind and body are to find
a temporary home and school, and from which they are to be
placed out, their guardianship being vested in the Board of Con-
trol of the State institutions.

In dealing with the third class of dependents, namely, able-
bodied sane adults in extreme indigence, two public methods
are chiefly employed in the United States ; outdoor relief and
poorhouse relief.

Lazv of Outdoor and Indoor Relief. — By outdoor relief is meant
relief from the public treasury, given and consumed in the
home of the indigent family, without further public surveillance.
Such relief is almost universally provided for. In twenty-four

^Ver., Me., W. Va., Va., Del., S. Car., Ga., Fla., Ala., Tenn., Ky., Miss., La.,
Texas, Ark., Okla., 111., N. Dak., S. Dak., la., Nebr., Mo., Wyo., Idaho, Utah, Ariz.,
Nev., Wash., Ore. (M., Ill, p. 778.)



States the relieving officers are explicitly authorized to give out-
door relief.^ In several States, mainly in the West, the relieving
officers seem to be permitted to give or refuse such relief at their

The fundamental principle usually embodied in the law of
relief in homes is that it shall be temporary or furnish only partial
support.^ Some States limit the amount to be given.* Some also
provide for such relief in the form of annual allowances.^ Meas-
ures to discourage the importunity for relief on the part of
"frauds" are usually provisions for written applications, or better
yet, for a "work test"." In Wisconsin by an act of 1895 all coun-
ties containing cities of the first class (that is of more than 150,000
inhabitants) are compelled to erect and maintain either stone-
yards or woodyards, with shelters in connection, to which all
persons not incapacitated for labor, applying for relief, shall be
sent (except in great emergency) to work for any relief received.

Most of the States of the Union provide for some kind of
medical attendance upon the indigent sick, either through hos-
pitals, almshouses, special homes,'^ or public physicians.

The almshouse has been rightly called "the fundamental insti-
tution in American poor-relief." In contrast to outdoor relief
that of the almshouse is designed to be more or less permanent
and complete. Every American commonwealth has made pro-
vision for this kind of relief. Admission is gained through a cer-
tificate from one of the various relieving officers, or through the
superintendent of the institution. It is open to all indigents
except those classes definitely and specially excluded by law. As
we have seen, in only eleven States are dependent minors ex-
cluded from the almshouse, or their detention limited to only a

' Conn., N. Y., Va., W. Va., Del., N. J., Pa., Miss., Ga., Ind., Ohio, 111., Minn.,
N. Dak., S. Dak., Iowa, Nebr., Kans., Idaho, Tenn., Okla., Mich., Wafsb., Nev.
(M., Ill, p. 383.)

^ N. H., Me., N. Car., S. Car., Fla., Ala., Ky., La., Tex., Ark., Mo., Mont, Wyo.,
Utah, Colo., Ariz., Ore., Cal. (M., ihid.)

' An exception to this rule is sometimes made in the case of indigent soldiers
and sailors and their families.

* Pa., Tenn., Okla., N. Y., Mich., Iowa, Minn. (M., Ill, p. 384.)

^ Okla., Tenn., Kans., N. Dak., S. Dak., Iowa. (M., Ill, p. 384.)

•Nev., Idaho, Ariz., Ohio, Mass., Wis. (M., Ill, p. 385.)

''E. g. Va., W. Va., Pa., S. Car., Minn., Nebr., Ohio. (M., Ill, p. 386.)




short period. A scant beginning has been made with laws ex-
cluding the insane from the almshouse, and many of that class in
other States are regularly found in the institution. Not only are
few classes excluded from the almshouse, but, except in the case
of vagrants in a few States, there is absolutely no provision for
the detention of the inmates beyond the time of their voluntary
departure nor for their control "further than for the separation
of the sexes, and for the employment of the inmates in a few

In former years two other methods of dealing with common
indigents were in vogue: (i) farming and binding out, and (2)
boarding out. These are obsolete alternative methods for care
in the poorhouse.

Burial of the poor is regarded in the same light as legal main-

Upon becoming a public charge a person's civic relations
are not greatly altered. Usually one loses no right and fre-
quently indeed one is relieved from working the roads or paying
taxes. However, in eight States paupers are explicitly disfran-

B. Administrative Aspects of Public Relief in the United
States. — The Organization of Public Poor-Relief. — As we have al-
ready seen, public poor-relief, as at present administered, falls
into four general systems, namely, those of the town, of the city,
of the county, and of the State.

In the town the fundamental institution is, of course, the alms-
house, — although outdoor relief as well as indoor is adminis-
tered by town officials. Towns also may, and sometimes do,
have minor institutions for the care of children and defectives.
The choice of the town officials of poor-relief is directly in the
hands of the town meeting, consisting legally of all of the local

In cities the superintendent of charities and heads of mu-
nicipal philanthropies are usually appointed by the mayor. Alany

^ In the following States the inmates are to be employed at suitable labor :
Mass., Vt., N. J., W. Va., S. Car., Miss., Ga., Tenn., Ky., Mich., Wis., Iowa, Mo.
The need of legislation upon this point has been felt. (M., Ill, p. 481.)

2 Mass., N. H., Me., N. J., W. Va., Del., S. Car., Texas. Thus in a few States
tax-paying is a requisite for voting. The provision, through the care of the poli-
ticians, does not, however, usually disfranchise many paupers.



American cities have as yet no well organized and scientifically
administered charity department, although most cities have
municipal hospitals and other philanthropic institutions, includ-
ing sometimes in recent years municipal lodging houses and
woodyards. All of these institutions are responsible either to
the mayor or to the city council.

In the county system the chief executive power, including
responsibility for poor-relief, is vested in a commissioners' court
or board, composed usually of two commissioners-at-large and
the county judge, all chosen by the voters of the county. In the
county the almshouse is also usually the fundamental institution
for the relief of the poor. But outdoor relief is also extensively

The State, through its Legislature, is, directly or indirectly,
the regulator of all charity administration. There are certain
philanthropic institutions, however, directly under the control of
State officers. These institutions are, as we have seen, usually
asylums for defective classes, including hospitals, institutions for
the blind, deaf and dumb, etc. The boards of directors of these
institutions are usually appointed by the governor with the advice
and consent of the Senate^ and are unsalaried.^ Continuous
boards have become the rule,^ the aim being to keep the selection
of the boards free from corrupting political influence. Usually
the States have a distinct board for each institution. Seven or
eight States, however, for the sake of more efficient service and
supervision, have centralized all the State institutions for de-
fectives in the hands of a single State board of control.* Other
States have established central boards with only advisory and
supervisory powers.

"^ In Nebraska the boards are elected by the General Assembly.

^ In Georgia trustees for the asylum for the insane receive $300 per year, in
Colorado those for the schools for the blind and deaf and dumb $150 per year, and
those for the hospital for the insane $600 a year. The following States pay boards
for the time spent in performance of duties at a rate of from $2 to $10 a day:
Cal., Ariz., Iowa, Mich., Nebr., N. Dak., Vt., Me., Tex., Wash., Idaho. (M., IV,
p. 67.)

'Ariz., Conn., Cal., Col., 111., Ind., Ky., La., Md., Mass., Mich., N. H., N. J.,
N. Mex., N. Y., N. Car., N. Dak., Ohio, Pa., Tenn., Tex., Utah, Vt., Va., Wash.,
W. Va.

*Kans., R. I., Ark., S. Dak., Wyo., Iowa, Wis. (M., IV, p. 68.)


Titles and Duties of Officials. — In the towns the selectmen are
empowered to arrange for the establishment and maintenance of
the poorhouse and other local institutions of relief, as well as to
administer assistance in the home. The superintendent of the
almshouse, usually elected at the town meeting, is, as a rule,
given authority to make all minor rules and regulations of the
institution in his charge.

It is the duty of the county commissioners to appoint reliev-
ing agents, both for institutional and for home relief, and with
the county judge to decide cases of residence and other legal
relief claims brought before them by the agents.

Boards of directors of relief institutions are commonly given
large discretionary powers in the organization and management
of their respective institutions, making regular reports to the
public and to the governor. The existence of a general State
board, with an expert secretary and a uniform system of accounts,
tends to economize expenses, and prevent abuses, — especially
where partisanship is not allowed to interfere in the choice of the
best men.^ The special office of these boards is to determine
methods of supervision for local institutions, to decide questions
relating to the residential claims of charity applicants, to inves-
tigate and set forth the most recent and most effective principles
of poor-relief, and in general to criticise and direct the efforts of
the superintendents. In several States the board has the power
to inspect private institutions of charity ; and in New York new
institutions for children may not be erected without their sanc-

The fundamental principle in deciding the kind of relief to
be administered in a given case, is, that the case should be re-
ferred to public poor-relief where careful control of personal con-
duct is necessary, and to private charity where it is desirable to
admit as much free activity as possible. The tendency in all
charity work, both public and private, is to make an individual
study of individual cases and to treat them accordingly. It is

1 The influence of the American political watchword now beginning to fall into
disfavor, "To the victors belong the spoils," has wrought havoc among the public
relief institutions of many of the States. In some States, however, as in Minne-
sota, the principle of the merit system and of expert service is being earnestly
and successfully applied.



to this growing conception, namely, that persons are individuals,
that we are indebted for the increasing specialization and skill,
for the removal of children to proper institutions, for the removal
of the sick and defectives from the poorhouses, and for the better
classification of those who remain in these institutions.

From all these confusing details it is to be seen: (i) that
officers administering relief generally serve for short terms; (2)
that in the great majority of the commonwealths relief is ad-
ministered by officers as one, and a minor one, of their many
duties; (3) that relief is administered by councilmen, selectmen,
township trustees, county commissioners, justices of the peace,
and county judges, who are not elected especially for that
purpose. "... .Records are to be kept and accounts rendered to
the town, to the court, to the county commissioners, or to the
county auditors as other accounts are kept and rendered. Where
the relief system has been placed under the supervision of the
State boards of charities .... reports of the outdoor relief as
well as of the almshouses must be made."^

The duties of the superintendents of almshouses, as in general
of all public relief institutions, consist in seeing that commit-
ments are made in accordance with the law, in supervising the
physical maintenance, health, morality, and education of the
inmates, and frequently in selecting the assistants, heads of de-
partments, and other subordinates. The ideal administrative
method is to select for superintendents thoroughly capable men,
free from political influence, give them as much liberty as pos-
sible in the formation and execution of their plans, and then hold
them strictly responsible.

The superintendents of outdoor relief, appointed usually by
the county commissioners are responsible for the detection of
imposture, and the economical and wise distribution of the public
supplies. Usually the aim is to give only widows, defectives,
critically indigent, and aged this kind of relief. When an in-
digent applies at the relieving office a visiting agent first makes
a personal inspection of the residence and economic condition of
the applicant, files a statement of the same in regular form in
the relieving office, and presents therewith to the superintendent
a written recommendation regarding the case. This system well

^ M., Ill, p. 390.


administered is very effective. To secure capable and honest
officers for the work, however, is difficult ; and in some cases, as
the recent experience of Indiana seems to indicate,^ public poor-
relief is better administered without much assistance of the poor
in their homes.

The conditions of the poor in the South require separate con-
sideration. According to the statistics of the census of 1890
it appears that there is a smaller percentage of people in the alms-
houses of the South than in those of other portions of the Union ;
but that the ratio of children retained in the poorhouses is higher.
The private institutions of charity, as hospitals, orphanages,
homes for the aged and for children are fewer. It must be re-
membered that before the Civil War few immigrants went to
the South, because of slavery. Manufactures have sprung up
as by magic, but only in recent years. The population is scat-
tered over a wide area and families are isolated. The war left
the white people poor and it destroyed many public institutions
and arrested development of philanthropy. The public mind was
devoted to politics and theological controversies, and only re-
cently has turned toward social amelioration. There were no
large cities to force attention to the working class and their needs.

There is very much distress among the poor whites, and
in the new industrial towns the miseries of child labor have
appeared. There are few occupations open to poor women and
the wages are low.

If we turn to the poorest class of all, the negroes, we must
remember that they are excluded from many trades, although
they are sought for as farm laborers. Race feeling, fortified by
the sentiments and habits of caste, has separated the whites from
the blacks. Negroes generally assist each other so long as they
have anything, and in the warmer regions their standard of life
is very low, so that their poverty is not felt as wretchedness.

After making all allowance for these explanations it must be
conceded that both public and private philanthropy in the South

* In 1899 Indiana passed a law which greatly restricts outdoor relief, with the
result that, while in 1895 the expenses for outdoor relief were $630,189, the
expenditures in 1900, including medical relief, were only $209,956, with a parallel
decrease of the population of poorhouses. Cf. Miinsterberg, American Journal
Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 523.



needs yet to be brought into living touch with the methods of
modern science. A generous and kindly people, once brought
back into contact with modern life, freed from slavery, busy with
international commerce, will rapidly develop measures and insti-
tutions which are in accordance with the lessons of experience in
civilized nations.

Porto Rico. — The new colonial policy of the United States in rela-
tion to charitable relief is illustrated in the system adopted for
Porto Rico which came under our control in 1899 in consequence
of the Spanish-American War.^ There are now on the island
an insane asylum which, June 30, 1903, provided for 194 patients ;
a Girls' Charity School, with 160 pupils; a Boys' Charity School,
with 259 pupils; a leper colony, caring for 19 patients. The an-
nual outlay is $108,000. All public agencies are under the office
of Public Health, Charities, and Correction, with a director who
is a native of Porto Rico, appointed by the governor and remov-
able by him. The institutions have been thoroughly equipped
and brought under enlightened regulation. An asylum for the
blind, and a school for deaf mute children are provided. The
municipalities have a few unimportant hospitals. The Superior
Board of Health has introduced sanitary improvements. The
cause of the dreadful disease anemia has been discovered and a
remedy found by American medical officers. Some outdoor relief
is given, but in the mild climate not much is required. Both
Catholics and Protestants are building up hospitals and schools
for the poor. Industries are increasing and the economic condi-
tions of the people are improving.

State Boards of Charities and Correction. — The first central board
of charities in the United States was the Massachusetts Board
of State Charities, established in 1863 and reorganized several
times in later years. There are two forms of central supervision
known in this country and a long controversy, not yet concluded,
has been waged over their relative advantages. All that space
permits here is a description of both methods and a brief sum-
mary of the arguments used.^

* S. M. Lindsay, The Public Charities of Porto Rico, in Annals Am. Acad., May,
1904, p. 98.

*The following paragraphs devoted to State boards are written by the editor of
the volume. One of the most recent and valuable studies of the State boards is


Dr. F. H. Wines has thus defined the difference between
boards of supervision and boards of control, and, at the same
time described the chief types of organization. "A board of
control is an executive board, or board of trust, in charge of an
institution or of a group of institutions. Boards of managers
of State institutions are in some States called boards of control.
When the different institutions are governed by separate boards,
it is usual to speak of them as local boards of control. A State
board of control, on the other hand, is entrusted with the man-
agement of the afifairs of a group of institutions, embracing, in
most of the States where they exist, all of the State institutions,
except those of a purely educational nature and purpose.

"A board of charities, or of charities and correction, has no
executive control over the afifairs of any institution. Its powers
are merely those of visitation, inspection, investigation, report
and recommendation. It is a supervisory board ; and the primary
aim of such executive powers as may be confided to it, is the pro-
tection of individuals of the various classes for which the State
makes provisions in institutions, not the management of the
institutions themselves.

"A board of control is formally or virtually a public corpora-
tion, with power to sue and be sued, to plead and be impleaded ; it
makes appointments, purchases, contracts ; it holds the title to
property; it makes conveyances. A supervisory board has no
such power; its power for good resides in its moral influence.

"The members of a State board of control are ordinarily re-
quired to give their whole time to the duties of their ofifice, and
are paid a salary for service rendered. (Rhode Island is the con-
spicuous exception to this rule.) The members of a State super-
visory board in every State except New York serve without com-
pensation (and there it is nominal). Their work is a labor of
love, undertaken by them from purely patriotic and humanitarian

"It is customary to extend the supervision exercised by a
board of charities over State institutions to county and municipal

the report of Dr. F. H. Wines in the i8th Annual Report of the State Charities Aid
Association of New Jersey, 1903. Cf. Report to National Prison Association, 1903,
and my article in Annals of American Academy, May, 1903, and in the American
Journal of Sociology, Nov., 1903.



institutions as well ; and in a number of States to private charities,
especially to such as receive State aid. State boards of control
sometimes have, but more frequently have not, jurisdiction over
county or municipal institutions."

The problem of central control and administration may be
considered quite apart from that of State supervision. The most
vital factor in administration is the expert superintendent, who
is often forgotten in this debate. He is the person who does
the work if it is done ; and if he is incompetent, negligent or
otherwise unfit, the wards of the State suffer. For the care and
treatment of each class, insane, epileptic, deaf, blind, prisoners, a
trained professional director is essential ; and it is possible for
a competent man to conduct an institution under any form of
State control which will secure him a place and freedom with-
out interference from partisan politics. It is not absolutely nec-
essary that he should have any board over him, and if he is the
right man for his place he will know his business better than
laymen can instruct him. Indeed, all boards derive their infor-
mation from the director and act largely on his advice.

Yet a board of managers, control or direction, or a single
commissioner representing the administrative department of the
State for a group of institutions has been found advisable and
desirable. There are two aspects of institutional life, the pro-
fessional and the economic or business side; and for both these,
especially the latter, consultation with men trained in business
is helpful. The capable director is not only conscious that he is
doing his duty, but he also is certain that representatives of
the public have constant proof of his fidelity and efficiency in his
office. Many directors also affirm that it is a relief to them if
they are not required to attend to purchases of supplies, accounts,
building and repairs, and other matters which are purely
economic and material. A very able teacher of the blind, or
physician to the insane, may have no business experience. Thus
the separation of functions and the specialization of faculty may
be promoted by providing for the business side of the institu-
tion through a commissioner or a board of control ; and the
board of control may be either local or central.

As a matter of fact only nine States have adopted the policy
of the central board of control, and the usual method is to appoint


a board of managers for each institution. The general tendency
in Europe and America is to secure State central administrative
control of all local institutions. Thus the ministry of the interior
in Italy and in certain German states, and the Home Secretary
in Great Britain have been charged with the duty of directing
local institutions so far as the general interest required, and many
important reforms and improvements have been effected by this
method, without injury to local interest and activity.

But a board of control or a commissioner armed with power to
direct and regulate can never take the place of a board of unsal-
aried agents of popular supervision and intelligence. The two
functions are not identical; they are contradictory, and both are

The most vital point at issue, in the judgment of the writer,

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonModern methods of charity; an account of the systems of relief, public and private, in the principal countries having modern methods → online text (page 42 of 73)