New York (State). State Probation Commission.

Annual report of the New York State Probation Commission, Volume 12 online

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probationers are much like other people and that delinquents do
not constitute a separate species. They have the same hopes and
longings and potentialities as others, but many of them have not
had the same chance. Instead of being safeguarded at the time
when they needed it most, they failed to receive any protection.

^Methods of Interpreting Probation Work to a Community

The big task of interpreting probation work to the community
may be accomplished in various ways. The probation officer
makes her work known to an ever increasing public through
securing cooperation of all public and private agencies in investi-
gating and supervising probationers, through organizing a volun-
teer committee which will supplement the work of the court and
help to secure added facilities for the care of delinquents, through
definite educational work by means of reports and addresses and
by sharing in allied social movements.

In doing the best case work with individuals, cooperation with
social agencies is necessary. The probation officer turns to the
schools for cooperation in dealing with children of school age, or
for information about previous delinquent tendencies or desirable
and undesirable habits of those who have left school. Through the
trade schools additional training may be secured either in day or
evening classes. Inquiry at the Social Service Exchange reveals
whether other agencies have been working with the girl or her
family, and the names of these organizations. Kelief societies
may be appealed to for necessary charitable help for the family

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Twelfth ANNrAL Ebport 241

or for aid in sending the girl back to her home in another city.
The hospitals and clinics readily serve the probation officer and
provide necessary examinations and medical care. If a dental
clinic is available that also may be called upon. The public or
philanthropic employment bureau cooperates willingly in finding
positions for probationers. The probation officer seeks out various
recreational facilities and endeavors to secure the aid of leaders in
meeting the recreational needs of those under her care. By tm*n-
ing to the church for spiritual guidance for her charges the proba-
tion officer enlists the help of religious teachers and at the same
time helps to awaken them to a greater sense of responsibility for
the moral teaching of youth.

When information about crimes or immoral conditions is ob-
tained from defendants or is discovered in the course of investiga-
tions, the probation officer gives this to the district attorney, the
police, the license commissioner, or other proper authority. If a
crime has been committed or if it is necessary to institute bastardy
proceedings to secure support for children bom out of wedlock,
the probation officer aids the public officials in securing informa-
tion and taking the necessary action.

By turning to the different public and private agencies it will
not be possible to get all the help needed, and yet it is worth while
to secure as much aB possible, to let the agencies know of the prob-
lems which the probation officer is meeting, and to knock again
and again at their doors in the hope that they will increase their
resources to meet the needs. Only by such a method, can we prove
where the gaps really exist and go to work intelligently to fill up
those gaps. Only in this way can the probation officer do her
largest work in teaching the community what are the needs of the
delinquents and of the community.

The organizaticm of a volunteer committee to supplement and
aid the work of the court is veiy important as a means of ac-
quainting the public with work for delinquents. Such a commit-
tee may supply resources which are not provided by existing
organizations, for example, scholarships which will enable proba-
tioners to return to school or to receive training in some special
trade, an employment bureau which will give vocational guidance
and special attention in placing individuals at work for which

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242 State Pbobation Commission

they are best fitted, or a group of volunteer workers to cooperate
with the probation officer in supervising probationers. With the
releasing of many volunteer workers who during the period of the
war have become accustomed to professional standards of social
work, it should be much more possible, now that the war is over,
to secure volunteers who will do work which is genuinely worth

The volunteer organization may also secure a temporary home
where probationers may remain until their needs are discovered
or suitable work is found for them, a place where probation officers
may receive reports from probationers apart from the court, or a
farm or camp where probationers may go voluntarily in order to
get away from an unfavorable environment and have opportunity
for training in out-of-door work and for building up health and
character. The stimulus for securing a house of detention for
juveniles or adults, under the control of city or county, may come
from a committee which is seeking to improve the care of delin-
quents. The need of a house of detention exists in some counties
in New York State, where children are still found in jails with
older and more hardened offenders and where witnesses against
whom there is no criminal charge are in cells behind iron bars.

A volunteer committee may also assume responsibility for pro-
moting necessary legislation to improve the courts and for securing
specialized courts and for protecting youth more adequately. It
can go before local councils or boards of estimate and help to
secure larger appropriations for probation work, salaries for
additional probation officers or provision for necessary clerical

Educational work in the community may be carried on by the
volunteer committee and by the probation officer through addresses
at public meetings and the publication of reports of probation
work and of other literature. This places upon the probation of-
ficer the responsibility of making reports which are sufficiently in-
terosting to be read. Through an understanding with representa-
tives of newspapers and willingness to give them suitable material,
the exploiting of individual offenders may be lessened and the co-
operation and help of the press secured. Even though the proba-
tion officer 18 pressed for time, it is worth while as an important

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Twelfth Annual Eepobt 243

part of the work, to address public meetings of churches, women's
clubs, parent-teachers' associations, chambers of commerce, and
various social and labor organizations, in order that the gospel of
probation work may reach a larger audience. As a result of the
right kind of publicity, the public gradually comes to have a better
understanding of delinquents and to realize that the greater bur-
den of responsibility rests not upon the individual, but upon

It is necessary for the probation officer to join in various social
movements which are closely allied to her work, if she would be a
real power in the commimity and accomplish biggest results.
Because of her great opportunity for acquiring knowledge about
conditions and for helping to improve them, the obligation rests
upon her to join forces with those who are seeking to secure better
recreation, to improve industrial conditions, to secure greater pro-
tection and care for the feeble-minded, improved treatment for
the diseased and the adoption of more preventive health measures.
It makes a great difference to to her whether or not widows' pen-
sions are available, whether labor laws adequately safeguard
girls and womien from night work, and from dangerous work, and
whether drink and drugs continue as a serious factor in

Data secured by the probation oflScer in the course of her work
may have a very definite bearing upon the need of protective labor
legislation. During the war time, a protective worker in New
York City found girls fourteen and fifteen years of age going
through Eiverside Park to the docks in the Iludson River at mid-
night to deliver telegrams for sailors on board the warships. This
was before the law was passed ruling against girls under twenty-one
years of age from delivering telegrams at night. Information
regarding dangers to young women from doing night work as ele-
vator girls in apartment houses, as bell girls in hotels and as con-
ductors on street cars has been secured by probation officers in
interviewing young women in the court.

The probation officer can give valuable assistance in helping to
secure better supervision of commercial amusements and the adop-
tion of a more complete recreational program. She knows the
dangers in the dance halls, the moving picture theatres, and the

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244 State Probation Commission

amusement parks, and the urgent need of more public provision
for recreation. With the help of the evidence she can give it will
be poFsible to secure more easily the needed community centre and
the organizer of community recreation.

For the first time during the war, many individual workers have
learned the benefits to be derived from association in a council of
organizations or from meetings of workers dealing with kindred
problems. To promote efiiciency in work, to improve methods of
dealing with individual problems, to prevent overlapping in work,
and to secure the adoption of big new constructive measures, all
the forces of the community must get together and continue to
work together.


The result of getting the community to understand the work
with delinquents will be greater support of the probation officer,
increased help for delinquents and far more preventive work.
With greater appreciation of the character and value of the work
will come greater willingness to support and strengthen it. More
of the requests of the probation officer will l>e heeded, and
additional workers, increased salaries, and necessaiy equipment
will ultimately be secured. The effort to keep better records will
be sustained, and the standard of work will gradually be raised.

T^nderstanding by different communities of the needs of delin-
quents will eventually bring juvenile courts, domestic relations
courts, and women's courts ; houses of detention for juveniles and
adults, which will be real clearing houses with provision for men-
tal and physical examinations and complete investigation of all
offenders, and necessary reformatories and institutions for the
feeble minded. As the community realizes that individual delin-
quents are not alone to blame, it will give them a better chance.

The most far-reaching result of a true coini)rohensioii of the
problem of delinquency in a community will l)e action to prevent
crime in the future and to safeguard youth more completely. In
addition to securing better provision for reel cation, vocational
training of youths, and improved industrial conditions, more con-
stnictive and educational work will bo done in homes to prevent

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Twelfth Annual Eepobt 245

the breaking up of families and throwing children upon their own
resources with so little preparation for life and so little protection.
Protective committees will be organized and workers assigned to
deal with boys and girls who are on the brink of danger. Girls
themselves will be trained to do more for the protection and help
of other girls. The activity of law enforcing agencies will be
stimulated to bring to justice more of the men and women who are
responsible for the demoralization of youth, and improved laws
will help to distribute more equally between fathers and mothers
responsibility for children born out of wedlock. The health pro-
gram will be emphasized and fundamental facts of life will be
taught, not by precept but by example. Increased moral training
will be given and greater emphasis will be placed upon the build-
ing and strengthening of character.

A new sense of the value of the individual has come during the
period of the war, so that as never before measures have been
taken for conservation of human beings. In this there has been
the thought of the individual as a factor in the social and indus-
trial life of the future. The very wastage of war has emphasized
the need of greater care in preserving the individual who later on
will be a producer. Shall we take less account of the conservation
of human souls ? Why let so many delinquents go down each year
and lose the chance for happy, useful lives? Why not do more
to bring them back ? AVhy not do more to reach them before they
got into courts and prisons? As each community, understanding
and feeling its burden of responsibility, faces these problems and
gi'apples with them, gradually there will come a new day of real
brotherhood among men, and to many boys and girls and men and
women a realization of greater fullness of life.

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Tuesday Morning, December 10, 1918

Mr. Patrick Mallon, Probation Officer, Children's
Court, Brooklyn, presiding.


Miss A. Leila Martin^ Psychological Examiner, Child
Study Laboratory, Department of Education : The work of
the Juvenile Court is an attempt to make such adjustments in the
offender, or in his environment, that he will leave his anti-social
ways and become a good member of the community. One of the
first steps in fonnulating a plan for this readjustment is to get the
whole situation from the child's own point of view. It is here
*that the psychologist should have something of value to contribute.

It has long been recognized that there are people with five
talents, others with two and yet others with a single talent —
" every man according to his several ability," but in dealing with
children it would seem that much of our system is based on the
idea that what is good for the average is good for each and every
one. This means that a child with one talent ability is supposed
to keop the pace set for those of three. Whart is often the result ?
The one talent boy sees the boy next to him — a boy of three tal-
ents — do his task in a very short time and with seemingly little
effort, and he hears him praised and sees him smiled upon, while
after working many times harder and longer, he is unable to
accomplish the same task, and is, perhaps, blamed for his fail-
ure. Let this go on day after day. Our boy of one talent stops
trying — " What is the use ? " He cannot reason it out for he is
unable to deal in abstractions, but he realizes that something is
wrong. He becomes passive, stubborn, sullen or defiant, depend-
ing upon his disposition. These traits are often a defense he puts
up to hide his inability. He tries to gain his own self-respect by
substituting " I won't " for " I can't." In some cases he closes up
within himself — he inhibits. In other words he becomes a



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Twelfth Annual Bbpokt 247

This idea that there is one standard for all also works hardship
upon the child of five talents. This child does not put the effort
into li^s work that he should in order to get his fullest develop-
ment. He doesn't need to exert himself, consequently he gets into
habits of carelessness, laziness. Success and praise come too easily.

We who deal with children need to have such a prospective —
see values so truly — that we realize the value of effort as well as
accomplishment. We need to remember, that, at the end of the
race. If the two talent boy has doubled his talents he receives the
same praise and reward from the great Judge as does the five
talent boy who has also doubled his.

We recognize the blind and do not ask them to see, not to do
tasks that require sight. We recognize the deaf and do not ask
them to hear. We recognize those partially blind and partially
deaf. Of course, we recognize the low institutional levels of intel-
ligence but it seems hard for us to acknowledge the many levels of
intelligence and to realize that they cannot all function to advan-
tage on the same level. It is in the effort to help understand the
Why of the boy's unmanageableness that the psychologist attempts
to be of value. A mental examination such as he can give would
find the level on which the child can function to advantage for his
own development and growth. Such knowledge should prevent
us from making demands of him with which he is mentally unable
to comply.

Dr. Goddard has used this illustration : "A tree requires a cer-
tain amount of strength of trunk and limb to support the fruit.
If the strength has not developed and the weight of the fruit is
placed upon it, we get deformity. The same is true of mind. An
eight or a nine year old intelligence forced to bear the burden of
a twelve year old intelligence becomes morally deformed and con-
stitutes one of the elements of our social problems. If a child is
twelve years of age but has the mental development of a nine year
old child and we try to get him to do the work of the 4th, 5th, and
6th grades — which requires «ten, eleven, and twelve year old
intelligence — we may expect trouble."

Not only may the psychologist aid by determining the mental
level upon which the boy or the girl is functioning in respect to his
or her chronological age, but many times he can point out special

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248 State Probation Commission

abilities or disabilities which should be taken advantage of, or at
least t«ken into account, when considering future educational
direction or when making a plan for the future.

What instruments are there that will determine mental status
or these special abilities or disabilities? They are the standard-
ized mental measurements or tests which constitute a mental
examination. They are, for the large part, tests in the form of
directions to be followed which have been standardized as to speed
and accuracy for the various chronological age levels. For
example, we have a group of performance tests which should be
passed by four-year old children, another group for six-year old
children, etc.

The value of a single test is only understood when we know
how that test was standardized — when we realize that by actual
experimentation with many children at each age level there was
found one age at which 75 per cent, or more, of the children have
succeeded in passing the test, while at the age above a much
greater per cent have passed ; at the age below a very small per
cent succeeded. In attempting to standardize tests, many have
had to be discarded because each age group would only do as well
as, or a little better than, the age preciHling and following it.

In thinking of a mental examination it must always be remem-
bered that success or failure in one test is not particularly signifi-
cant. Fatigue, lack of attention or lack of interest may enter. . It
was only after groups of tests were used, instead of single tests,
that mental testing became at all useful. It is only when the
child fails in a great many tests along lines that have been stand-
ardized for his age and his group that his failure is considered
significant. For example, a ten year old child may fail in one
test out of the group of tests standardized for that chronological
age, and little significance is given to the failure. We simply say
that he fails to do what 75 per cent of the ten year old children do
by actual experimentation in that particular line. But if he fails
in all of the tests for that age and succeeds in those for nine years
and below, it is significant. We say he is one year retarded, but
one year retardation is not serious. This ten year old child has to
fail in the standardized tests for ten, nine and eight year old chil-
dren l)efore we sav that he is seriouslv retarded.

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Twelfth Annual Report 249

The value of a mental examination not only depends upon the
tests used but also upon the conditions under which they are given.
In this respect it is very unlike a physical examination. Enlarged
tonsils remain the same no matter under what conditions they are
seen, but for a mental examination the conditions are standard-
ized. There must always be the quiet room, the uninterrupted
test, the length of examination for diffei'ent ages varying because
of the element of fatigue. The attitude of the examiner to the
subject as well as the attitude of the subject toward the examiner
and the examination all are standardized. The child must be
co-operating and doing his best. In testing for the juvenile court
this is sometimes quite a problem. Often a child has to be under
observation for quite a time before the conditions are satisfactory
for an examination upon which judgments can be drawn.

Now a mental examination — the determining of the pi-esent
mental status of an individual — does not in itself attempt to
explain the factors that have produced the condition, nor to give
a prognosis — to tell whether or not the condition is curable. What
it does attempt to do is to picture the present mental condition of
an individual, and to show to what extent that condition deviates
from the normal for his age and his group. On the other hand, to
say a child is feeble-minded is to say he always will be feeble-
minded, for feeble-mindness is an incurable condition and not a
disease. Where the mental examination would show the deviation
from the normal to be very great, a mental and physical examina-
tion may be all that is necessary to determine the mental defect of
that individual. But where it is not so great several other factors
must be considered.

Perhaps the place of mental tests in determining whether or
not a child is mentally defective, is most quickly shown by men-
tioning the other factors that must be considered — and realizing
that a mental test is only one of these. To illustrate, at the Wav-
erly Institute for the Feeble-minded in Massachusetts ten points
are considered before a child is admitted. (1) Physical examina-
tion showing the present physical condition of the child and to
what extent it is responsible for retardation. (2) Mental exami-
nation showing the present mental status. (3) Family history.
(4) Personal and developmental history. (5) Social history and

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260 State Probation Commission

reactionB. (6) History of school progress. (7) Examination
of school work. (8) Economic efficiency. (9) Moral reactions.

And after considering all of these points there aare cases upon
which Dr. Femald (and there is no one in the country wlio has
had so extended an experience with the feeble-minded) is unwill-
ing to pass a judgment and he says that the children may have to
be in the institution under controlled conditions for perhaps a
year before a judgment can be passed. The same is true at Rome,
New York, from which there recently appeared a report on fifty
" border-line " cases. After physical and mental examination had
been made, and by unquestioned experts, and full family histories
gathered, still more was needed before deciding whether or not
these children were feeble-minded.

A short time ago we had a good looking, fourteen year old girl
reported for examination by our juvenile court. This girl had
been victimized. What could a mental examination tell those
interested in her case? It could say that although she was four-
teen years old clironloffically, her reactions were as those of an
eight year old child. She failed in all tests for the ten, eleven and
twelve year levels. She had the language development of a girl
of seven years. She failed in all tests in which concept of number
was involved beyond those for the seven year level. She could not
make simple change from 20, 12, or 10 cents with the money in
front of her. She could not count backward from 20 to 1 and, at
the fourth attempt, after effort had been made to teach her, she
took 55 seconds and counted in this fashion, 20-18-19-16-17-18-17-
16-15-14, etc. She could repeat the names of the months but
could not tell what month comes before any one. She could not
tell right from left nor hold two familiar objects in mind and pick
out a difference. When situations were presented concretely, as
in the Healy tests, she failed as badly as when they were presented
verbally. It happened that we could tell more, for in 1914 before
she had left the city she had been in a special class. When twelve
years old she had tested seven years mentally. She had at that time

Online LibraryNew York (State). State Probation CommissionAnnual report of the New York State Probation Commission, Volume 12 → online text (page 18 of 45)