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Dependent Children

institutions, homes, cottage, system, hundred and parents

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DEPENDENT CHILDREN Among our thirty-one million children* there are a few—something like one hundred and fifty thousand—for whom society has a greater responsi bility than for the others, a different kind of re sponsibility, because their parents are dead or unable to provide for them or unfit to do so, and * Total population under sixteen.

this inability or unfitness has been brought to light and clearly established by court action or investigation of some kind which has led to the acceptance of the children in institutions or in fos ter families under the oversight of child-placing agencies. There are, no doubt, some thousands more for whom parents are really unable or unfit to provide without assistance, but those, we may assume, are in their homes or at school, somewhat neglected, it may be, less fully nourished and less carefully taught and trained, it may be, than their normal life demands, but still sharing in the rising standards of child care in the community, not en tirely neglected by their parents, and discovered from time to time by relief agencies, by the church, by a settlement, or by a good samaritan. Of com plete neglect by everybody, state and church and neighborhood, there are certainly plenty of cases, both in cities and in remote country places. And for such exhortations and proddings and demon strations as are furnished by child welfare exhibits and like agencies there is abundant need.

One hundred and fifty thousand children who have been left orphans, or taken away from their parents for any reason, present, however, special problems: the problems most often discussed in conferences of charities when children are under consideration. Dependent children are for the most part in orphan asylums, congregate institu tions under private or church control of the type familiar in all the older states: although, as the Census Bureau tells us in its special report on benev olent institutions, there is an increasing number of state detention homes where dependent and de linquent children are cared for pending final dis position by the juvenile courts; of receiving homes under the conduct of home-finding organizations; of state public schools, intermediary between the orphanage and the reformatory; and of training homes and schools of many kinds which practically are educational institutions. In New York State

in 1910 one hundred and forty-four institutions re port an average number of two hundred and ten children in each institution, and of these twenty are conducted on what is known as the cottage system. In Maryland there were thirty-three institutions with an average number of seventy-five—two of these thirty-three being on the cottage system. I hope that number has increased since then, as the change in architecture from barracks to cottage, although expensive, represents a determined effort to get away from wholesale methods to retail; from uniformity to individuality; from regimen tation to something like family informality; from the impossible to the still difficult but not im possible substitute for a home.

Aside from the gradual—very gradual—intro duction of the cottage system, the two marked tendencies to which the census report calls atten tion are the assumption by some state authority of supervision over benevolent institutions, including those for children, and the extension of the super visory care of institutions over children placed by them in family homes or elsewhere. The report calls attention to the close relation between the extension of the cottage system and the emphasis laid in some states on county homes and general state supervision.

Children's institutions present a number of very serious and very difficult problems, about some of which unhappy controversies have raged, fanned by religious bigotry, and representing, even when free from acrimony or misunderstanding, very sharp and fundamental differences in the theory of social construction.

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