Dependent Children: 1898

Secretary Nichols Does Not Think That N.Y.'s System of Caring for Them Is A Success
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In his second lecture on "Social and Industrial Problems in Brooklyn," before the Brooklyn Institute last night, Secretary William I. Nichols of the Bureau of Charities took up the subject of the care of dependent children. Mr. Nichols during the course of his remarks said:

"The true method to be pursued by the state in caring for its dependent children is to recognize that it stands in the relation of parent, and as nearly as possible its large family of children should be treated as the children of the families who do not look to the state for their support. When first the evil of grouping dependent children with the adult poor was recognized, the first method adopted was that of establishing separate pauper institutions or asylums, as they were commonly called, for the children, where they were cared for separately from the adult poor, but in methods not so very different.

They were herded together in large numbers, and were made to feel by their very congregation in these pauper asylums that they belonged to a distinct class that in some way they were different from other children who were living in their own natural homes. Very commonly they wore uniform dress, as do the inmates of a penal institution, setting them apart from those who are living their independent lives. But those who gave thoughtful attention to the subject became convinced that while the caring for dependent children in institutions by themselves is better than the caring for them in the institution along with the adult poor, it is by no means the ideal method, and some states have taken steps to abolish institutions as not suitable places for the care of dependent children. In other states the institutions, while still retained, are used only for the temporary care of children until they can be transferred to family homes.

"The custom in vogue in the state of new York is, as is well known that of placing the dependent children in private institutions at the public expense. The result has been a steady and enormous increase of children in institutions in this state. New York is noted we may truly say is notorious for the lavish expenditure for dependent children. Over 30,000 children are supported in asylums and other institutions in the state at an expense of $2,500,000 annually. Parents who are anxious to rid themselves of the responsibility of caring for children apply to the Charities Commissioners for admission at public expense to some institution. The law requires that an institution shall be selected of the same religious denomination as are the parents of the child to be committed. The institutions are glad to receive the children in order to obtain the money paid by the state and also to secure their being trained in their own religious denomination. Very little effort is made to remove children from the institutions and to find family homes for them. Statistics for the past twenty years show that the number has increased from the year 1877, when 16,000 children were supported in institutions, to 32,000 in 1896; whereas, the number placed in families in 1877 was 1,100. and in 1896 but 1,300 from which it appears that while the number of children in institutions has doubled, the number placed out has but slightly increased.

"Public sentiment should be aroused so that the entire system of boarding children in institutions should be set aside, and the plan which is working so admirably in Massachusetts, of boarding children in families, should be adopted. In this connection mention should be made of the excellent work accomplished by the special committee of the State Charities Aid Association in providing situations for mothers with babies. The last report of this committee shows that during the year 1897 311 homeless mothers with their babes have been provided with situations, and of the mothers not one has died, and only three of the children less than 1 per cent. When it is remembered that the mortality among babies in public institutions varies from 14 per cent. among children cared for by their own mothers to 80 or 90 percent, among foundlings, the record is highly significant. But still more striking is the pecuniary saving. The average expense for providing homes for these mothers with their babies has been for each $5.20, whereas the ordinary cost for supporting a woman and child in a public institution is over $350 annually, and the moral benefit effected by this change is of far greater importance than the physical benefit or the pecuniary saving.


Website: The History
Article Name: Dependent Children: 1898
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 11, 1898
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