The investigation is not merely for the purpose of reach ing a decision as to whether relief shall be given or with held. It is for the further purpose of enabling the amount and kind of relief to be determined, and also to reveal the personal and natural resources from which relief may rightly be obtained. The thorough searching out of those facts in the previous economic history of the family that will lay bare the real cause of the distress is to be insisted upon, in order that genuinely remedial and constructive work may be undertaken from the beginning. What is needed is that the cause, if it is in the nature of the case practicable, shall be removed, and the condition of dependence brought to an end. The investigation can not be completed at once, but its foundation may be laid thoroughly at the beginning, and information will then be obtained upon many points which it would be more diffi cult to secure at a later stage. Having thus laid the foundation by a formal and definite attempt to secure all the information obtainable at the outset, full and well rounded knowledge will come gradually.
It is not alone relief societies and other agencies which have to do with the poor in their homes that have need for the investigator. Institutions for dependent children and adults, hospitals, employment agencies, day nurseries, and other philanthropic enterprises have quite as much need to base their treatment and their selection of beneficiaries upon exact knowledge. There will naturally be differ ences in the inquiries to be made, for investigation should always be shaped with reference to the need to be met, but the broader principles underlying, for example, an investi gation for a charity organization society will require little modification when applied elsewhere.
Investigation is sometimes looked upon as an injustice to the poor, and sometimes as a necessary evil. In its proper place, and with a justifiable occasion, it is neither. Investigation is to be judged relatively to the plans which lie beyond. If the relief which is undertaken is inappro priate in kind and inadequate in amount, the fact that it is given only " after a thorough investigation of each case " serves only to condemn the investigation as heartily as the " relief " to which it leads. Only when it is the purpose, and when it is within the capacity, of the one who investigates to give real help, or to enable real help to be given, is it justified, and then it is not to be re garded either as injustice or as a necessary evil, but as an essential part of a service which is wholly beneficial.
In addition to the danger of imposition at the time of application, there are certain dangers supposed to be inherent in the carrying out of a liberal relief policy. The most important of these is the fear of the demoraliz ing effect upon growing children. It is thought that any child of average intelligence will be likely to discover that in addition to what is earned by working members of the family there is coming in, weekly or monthly, a certain sum for which no one renders an equivalent. The possibility of such an income, it is feared, again, may become firmly fixed in the mind of the growing child, and the expectation of receiving some similar unearned income may exert an undue influence over his own later conduct.
Close observation of a number of families in receipt of monthly pensions from private charity, over a period of several years, has convinced the writer that this fear is not well grounded. On the contrary, children who learn about the pension may often learn at the same time why it is granted, and get a first useful lesson in the value of the qualities which have induced favorable action on the part of donors. They are apt to come to look upon
the pension as an advance or a loan which it will be their own duty to repay, either directly to the source from which it has come or to others who are similarly in need. In a family that has been longer in receipt of such a pen sion than any other known to the writer, the oldest boy, who has now for two or three years been working in a shop with steadily increasing wages, recently said to his mother, with earnest feeling : "As soon as I have another raise, we can get along without that money from the Society ; and as soon as we can spare it, I am going to begin paying them a dollar a month from my wages." This attitude, to which the boy came spontaneously, and not as a result of direct suggestion, is hardly typical. It is, however, the result of a long-continued, close oversight by an efficient visitor and nurse, — the mother being an in valid, — and need not be expected in any case in which an allowance, however liberal, is made in a perfunctory way, without an accompaniment of personal oversight.
A second danger which has been especially encountered in connection with the pension system is the temptation to deceive. If the family's circumstances are changed, if relatives who have previously been in straitened circum stances become able to help, or if for any other reason the pension becomes unnecessary, there is, of course, a tempta tion to conceal these facts for the sake of securing the con tinuance of the pension. Perhaps the extreme case is that of a woman who had been receiving a monthly allowance of five dollars, and who continued to receive it for over a year after her re-marriage, the appearance of an infant two months old first suggesting to the visitor that possibly things were not as they had been. In this instance the recipient of the pensibn went so far as to protest volubly that the child had been left with her by a relative to board, and after this had been disproved and the marriage definitely established, she was still ready to present ample testimony that her financial situation had not been im proved by this new alliance, but that quite the contrary effect had been experienced. In another instance, an old couple in receipt of a pension had successfully concealed the existence of the wife's married sister, whose husband was earning a fair income, although not sufficient to enable them to share largely with the dependent couple.
These instances show only the necessity for ordinary caution — or perhaps one should say extraordinary caution. They are likely to occur in the experience of charitable societies that conduct their work in a superficial and perfunctory manner. To avoid the danger of such de ception is by no means impossible or even especially difficult. Against the two examples cited can be placed scores of instances in which the idea of deception has never entered the mind of the pensioner, in which every material change of conditions is promptly confided to the visitor or readily discovered in the course of that con tinuous personal oversight which is essential to the suc cess of the plan.
Close vigilance to insure the elimination of fraud, the detection of imposture, and the removal of the temptation to deceit are often essential in subsequent, as always in the initial, steps, but here again a caution is necessary that suspicion, the withholding of confidence, and the in trusion of needless precautions against deception are apt to give rise to the very qualities against which such pre cautions are taken. It is well to expect fair dealing, truthfulness, and candor and thus to make easier the revelation of the better side of those with whom the visitor comes in contact.