DEPENDENT CHILDREN To preserve a normal family life for growing children, to keep children, even with sacrifices and even by external relief, with their own parents when they are fit guardians, and to prevent the breaking up of any family until the evidence is clear that the physical and spiritual welfare of one or more of its members make it absolutely necessary, are primary considerations of a sound relief policy. Such efforts, however, will not always prove successful. Un fortunately there are parents who are demonstrably unfit to rear the children whom they have brought into the world; there are orphan children for whom no home offers with near relatives and for whom the parents have made no provision. There are children whose parents or natu ral-guardians are disabled by illness, not only from earning their support, but from giving them such care as would justify material relief. There are instances in which a widow with many children may more wisely submit to the removal of one or more to enable her to care for the re mainder with or without aid, although, as has been pointed out, the presumption is in favor of the family's remaining intact, if this is possible.
Death, sickness, abuse, neglect, or sheer inability may therefore, here or there, leave to the community the re sponsibility for the care of dependent children. In primi tive communities either of two courses is likely to be followed. Exposure and hardships may lead to the death of a large proportion of such orphaned or neglected chil dren, leaving but a remnant of exceptionally tough fibre to survive, or they may be taken in by neighbors to become virtually integral members of the family which thus for mally or informally adopts them. Numerous instances 107 might readily be cited of the adoption by kind-hearted neighbors of whole families of children with or without some claim of relationship. When, for any reason, the number becomes noticeably large, the church or private individuals are likely to establish homes in which such children are gathered for education and maintenance, and finally the support of such asylums is apt to be undertaken in whole or in part by the state. Childless families de siring young children for adoption, or those who wish to secure inexpensive service, giving maintenance as com pensation, repair to these asylums, and a system of inden ture or placing out grows up as a means of disposing of the children who come into the asylums. In some instances the managers of the orphan asylums take the initiative, and seek homes of a suitable kind for their children at whatever age they deem suitable. Eventually there arise
societies for the express purpose of placing children in foster-homes, and these societies may either maintain a small home for the temporary care of children until they are suitably placed, or, as in a few instances, they may adopt a plan of boarding their children in private families, pending a more permanent disposition.
The institutional care of children has been marked in the past by notable philanthropic endowments and large annual gifts, by religious zeal, and by remarkable personal devotion. The introduction of a system of subsidies from the public treasury, which has later in some instances been modified into what is virtually a system of contract pay ments by the state or one of its minor civil divisions on a per capita and per diem basis, has had the effect of les sening private contributions, and when not held rigidly in check by some plan of supervision on the part of the state, has led to an abnormal growth in the number of institu tional children.
The drift toward an excessive institutional population of children is checked by three distinct influences, the ab sence of any one of which may be regarded as an indication of a low standard of responsibility for child life. The first of these is the appreciation of the value of the normal family life to which attention has repeatedly been called. The second is the tendency to develop alternative, and even a variety of methods, some of which will be more or less experimental in character, for helping children who are deprived of parental care. Human nature revolts at the attempt to force a multitude of children, made depend ent for a great variety of reasons, into a single channel, and to assume that a single method of dealing with them is necessarily better than others which can be devised. This feeling will show itself in the adoption of makeshifts for individual children, full of danger it may be, but giving to the exceptional child an opportunity for the natural development of his individuality. Then clubs and other definite plans spring up, societies for educational ends, for physical recreation, for providing employment and other special purposes come into existence. The institutions under the pressure of outside competition and under the guidance of managers of greater than average initiative and individuality, differentiate among themselves, and the word " institution " finally comes to stand for agencies which differ as greatly among themselves as from the out side agencies.