Adjusting Our Lives

Twenty Russian Jewish Families Settled on Farms in the Southeastern Part of South Dakota in 1882.

In its narrower meaning the term “child welfare” applies to activities which promote the well-being of handicapped children: The classes of children most frequently classified under this term are the dependent, destitute, delinquent, neglected, incorrigible, wayward, truant, illegitimate, mentally defective or feeble-minded, crippled, physically handicapped, or children in need of special care.

Dependent children are those who have lost one or both parents or whose parents or guardians are unable to support them, or have surrendered them legally or informally to a social agency, public or private. Care may be provided for such children in their own homes, either by general family welfare agencies or relief societies, or by agencies which administer mothers’ aid laws, or by other agencies, public or private, which give aid to families in their own homes. In addition, day nurseries provide day care for the young children of certain employed mothers.

TWO TYPES OF CARE

There {SPAN}a##{/SPAN}{SPAN}###ly{/SPAN} institutions for dependent Jewish children in the country. Thirty-three of these housed, in 1930, an average of 4,100 children a month. Many communities have also independent placing-out organizations, caring for 3,780 children in foster homes.

Now, foster home care is provided for children who can adjust themselves more easily in private family homes. There has been a decided trend in the last ten years toward placing out children in foster homes. Child workers prefer to place children under eight in foster homes. Frequently, however, children under this age are accepted into Jewish Children’s Homes, Orphan Asylums, etc. , especially older brothers and sisters.

The institutional type of child care offers several opportunities for family life. The children are encouraged to continue loyalty and devotion to brothers and sisters; are made to feel part of a large family group; have definite places in household management, and are surrounded by sympathetic understanding which builds in them a sense of security.

As to the second type of care, the advantages of foster homes for dependent, more particularly for deliquent children, are many. By means of life ### a family and in a community, the child can be best prepared for adult life in a family and in a community. To the child, commitment to an institution, even of a benevolent character, seems more like punishment than does placement in a foster home. Such a placement tends to eliminate the feeling of hatred which a child has when he thinks he is being punished unjustly.

CHILD BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS

The average length of stay of the children in an institution is about seven years. The average age at which the children leave the home is thirteen to fourteen years. However, a large proportion of children remains under care until they have reached the legal age of self-support.

Recently, Jewish child care agencies in New York have taken to foster home placement of infants, thus lowering the population of the institutions. After placement of children in foster homes, periodic home investigations by agents of Jewish Home Finding Societies and other similar organizations are made and, if needed, transfers to other homes or institutions are effected.

Cases of child care are seldom free from complications known as behavior problems. Among these are stealing, truancy, temper tantrams, sex behavior and the like, which demand careful and expert attention. The establishment of child guidance clinics is the n###st form of response to this urgent social and educational problem.

Various studies have shown that these problems are associated with physical, mental, and emotional disturbances in some degree and usually respond to better and happier adjustments made in the home or by the supervisors of the placement agencies. Sometimes psychiatric studies are made.

The mental level of institutional population for which information is available compares favorably with that of general child population. In order to determine to what school the child should go, the children are given vocational guidance tests, and school and family conferences are held.

EFFECTS OF THE DEPRESSION

In the first years of the depression, the Jewish child care agencies reported a decrease in the intake of new cases. But the rate of discharge, too, has been falling off and at a greater speed than the intake, which situation resulted in a steadily increasing population. The same conditions prevail in the non-Jewish field.

In spite of the increased load per institution, there has been a reduction of income from the regular sources, particularly in institutions attached to fraternal organizations, ladies auxiliaries, and so on. Agencies affiliated with Jewish Philanthropic Federations, and Community Chests, and drawing income from public taxes, have suffered less. Collections from parents and relatives have dropped sharply, as could be expected.

To certain new matters child care agencies are forced to pay heed For example: How does the physical condition of the children compare with the physical condition prior to the depression? Are not causes of family break-up resulting from ill health among parents, particularly consumption and insanity, on the increase? What about the manner of discharging children into industry where they become, after the age of seventeen or eighteen, competitors with their elders? Is there a possibility of developing increased public responsibility for children in need of foster care?

GROUP PLAN FOR CHILDREN

In many communities, tax funds are now available for foster care, but there are still many communities that do not provide adequately for the care of children out of public taxation, and— strangely enough—Jewish organizations here and there are hesitant to accept tax money.

Not so long ago a meeting of child care workers was held in Baltimore. The prevailing opinion was in favor of development of public service for dependent and neglected children at public expense, but with proper safeguard of the standards, often very high ones, developed by private agencies. Public subsidy of private agencies was not considered either practical or wholesome in the long run.

In other words, the present situation demands an alignment between voluntary Jewish effort and the programs of general community activities, that should be prompted by a large spirit of doing away with slums, lack of economic security, low standards of living, etc. Of course, specific problems which are of importance to the Jewish group, such as the support of Jewish culture and the problem of prejudice and discrimination, should be paid due regard in a rounded out community program for Jewish child welfare.

Twenty Russian Jewish Families Settled on Farms in the Southeastern Part of South Dakota in 1882.

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