DISCRIMINATION IN RELIEF The object of an investigation as a preliminary step in the relief of distress is not primarily to expose impos ture, or to enable the brand of " unworthy " or " undeserv ing " to be placed upon such as do not satisfy the standard of the investigator. The inquiry is rather directed toward the discovery of the root of the trouble in the particular instance, and the discovery of the facts which need to be known in order to enable an intelligent decision to be reached as to the course which should he pursued. Inci dentally, it leads to the rejection of fraudulent claims and the correction of any wrong impression which misleading statements by the applicant, whether intentional or unin tentional, may have caused. The elimination of fraud, and the selection of those who are legitimate and promising candidates for charitable relief, are fundamental in all rational relief policies. To allow the fear of imposition to paralyze the strong arm of charity is, however, as heed less as it is foolish. Independent verification of the appli cant's statements ; thorough and businesslike inquiry by trained visitors into the essential facts ; the preservation and the use of records, and a reasonable disposition to profit by experience, afford the safeguards necessary to successful work.
A good investigation demands that each application shall be considered on its merits, without prejudice. The one indispensable qualification of the visitor who is to make the inquiry is an open mind, which will take nothing for granted, but which will also give to every new applica tion the benefit of every reasonable doubt, in spite of any disappointments which may previously have been experi enced. The investigation should be neither superficial, 171 leaving essential points neglected on the one hand, nor, on the other, mechanical, carrying out a rigid programme re gardless of the purpose for which the particular inquiry is made. The inquiry should be directed not only toward the immediate decision which is to be reached, but also toward the discovery of real but unrecognized needs. It will naturally vary with the nature of the application, and with the information previously acquired, and will be shaped in each instance to some extent by the particular features which develop as the inquiry proceeds.
The points upon which societies that give relief to the poor in their homes have found that it is desirable, as a rule, to have information, are the following :— Surname.
Husband's first name.
Wife's first name.
Age, occupation, and income of each.
Age, work or school, and income of each.
Married children in family.
Others living with family, and relationship.
Color or nationality.
How long in United States? How long in city or town? Number of rooms.
Apparent cause of need in first instance.
Married children not living in family.
The applicant's own statement should ordinarily cover at least the following points : I. Chief breadwinners in the family.
II. Other breadwinners as above.
Debts, and to whom. Articles in pawn.
Insurance, name of company.
IV. Sickness in family. Physican, treatment, etc.
V. Relatives and friends able to help, and other possible sources of relief.
VI. Aid asked.
VII. Aid received.
VIII. Supplies on hand.Viii. Supplies on hand.
IX. Miscellaneous. Schools.
Usually long before a complete investigation covering all of the field outlined in the above enumeration has been made, conclusive evidence will have been ascertained as to whether the application is a bona fide one, and whether there is a reasonable prospect of that degree of coopera tion on the part of the family which will justify serious efforts in their behalf. If the application has not been made in good faith and the statement has been found to be lacking in accuracy and frankness, it may still be advis able to act in the light of the knowledge that has been obtained, and to attempt to exercise disciplinary influences either in lieu of, or as a supplement to, material relief. If, however, the attitude of the family is essentially uncoop erative, and if it is obvious that with the resources at hand no good result can be accomplished, it may be wiser to withdraw entirely and to concentrate attention upon those who are more receptive and more responsive.