« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
child. This fact has been fully realized by the Home Office, which has appointed a special committee to consider the best means of rendering it most effective. To leave this work entirely to paid probation officers would be enormously expensive, and therefore impracticable; to leave it entirely to voluntary agencies would render it unsystematic, varying and often slipshod. The practical solution will, I am convinced, be found in a systematized correlation of the two methods. When effective means of doing this have been devised, there should be no delinquent child who has not someone to take a special interest in him, while everyone who cares for children and is willing to give a little time and trouble to the matter might well undertake the supervision of some one child who is in danger of embarking on a life of crime. As I have endeavoured to show in my book, these children are seldom really depraved, or dull or unintelligent, and the work of looking after them would prove to be one of real interest to those who undertook it.
While there are several changes needed in the law, as I have indicated, to render probation more effectual, I think the powers already existing might be more fully developed. One of the principal causes of the failure of probation is the fact that both parents and children regard it too lightly, looking upon the trial as a "get off," and resenting the visits of the probation officer.
To counteract this tendency I have recently adopted a plan which will, I believe, produce good results, and which other courts might perhaps also find useful. It is to make it a condition of the recognizance that both parent and child shall again appear before the magistrate in (say) six weeks' time from the date of the probation order, and on any other dates when they may be called upon to do so. If in six weeks the child is doing well and the parents are loyally assisting the probation officer, no further call for attendance need be made, but if the child's conduct is indifferent and the parents are careless, further attendances can be ordered until a real improvement takes place.
All children detained in the Remand Homes should be medically examined and the doctor's report supplied to the magistrate.
The Value of Certified Schools.
There will always, of course, be cases where the parents and the home surroundings are so bad, or the child's wrongdoing so persistent, that the most careful probation work will be of no use, and in such
cases it becomes necessary to send the child to an industrial or reformatory school. It is to be feared that there is often too great a readiness to commit children to schools. This is unfair to the State, on which the financial burden falls, and to the child, for whom the care of even somewhat indifferent parents is better than a reformatory. As a broad principle, it is submitted that no child should be sent to a certified school if there is any other effectual means of dealing with him.
The certified schools are on the whole undoubtedly good, and the Home Office spares no pains to improve them, but to effect this improvement the assistance of the managers of the schools and public opinion behind all are essential. The principal defects of the schools are, I think, firstly, that there is too much enforced external and too little self-discipline and control, and, secondly, that the industrial training is insufficiently specialized. In the strenuous days that lie before us, it is of vital importance that boys and girls should grow up strong, self-reliant, and thoroughly efficient in the trades which they adopt. At present, except in the case of the nautical schools, no school sets before itself any very definite future object, and employment is found for the inmates on leaving more or less at haphazard. It is submitted that there should be special engineering schools providing the most efficient training and in touch with the great engineering firms of the country; special agricultural schools, &c., and that boys should be transferred after a time from their original school to one in which the trade they are most fitted for is specially taught.
The Care of the Illegitimate Child.
Since the main cause of delinquency amongst children is due to insufficient parental control, it follows that of all children those who are illegitimate are most prone to fall into a life of crime. The illegitimate child has by English law no father, and the mother under present social conditions is seldom able to take charge of him. He is thus thrown an unwanted waif upon the world and left to the tender mercies of anyone who will for a few shillings a week undertake the charge of him, or (perhaps his most fortunate fate) drifts into the hands of the Poor Law guardians. This is neither reasonable nor just. The man who chooses to become the father of a child has a clear duty to support that child adequately, but under present conditions in the case of only one illegtimate child out of five is any payment whatever made by the father for him, while in only an
infinitely small number of cases does the father take any interest whatever in him. It seems to me, therefore, to be the clear duty of the State, firstly, to insist upon the father fulfilling his duty in all possible cases, and, secondly, to supplement the want of care which the position of the illegitimate child often renders inevitable by itself supplementing or supplying that care. To meet these two demands my proposals are, briefly, that all illegitimate children should at birth be registered in the name of the father, allowing him to contest such registration, if he desires to do so, before the justices; that the present utterly inadequate maximum payment of 5s. a week should be increased; that the father should have a voice in the care and bringing up of his illegitimate children, and that such children should be automatically legitimized by the subsequent marriage of their parents.
As regards the duty of the State, I suggest that all illegitimate children should be wards of the Court of Summary Jurisdiction of the district in which they reside. The duty of looking after these wards would be carried out by police court missionaries, probation officers, and inspectors of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who would be responsible to the court on whose behalf they were acting. Where adequate provision had in fact been made for the child supervision could be relaxed, or abrogated, by order of the court. All proceedings in such cases should be heard in camera.
The Management of Delinquent Girls.
Girls for some reason are far less prone to crime than boys. There are about ten boys charged with theft in the Children's Courts to one girl. On the other hand, the moral dangers to which girls are exposed are far greater than those of boys. The habitual prostitute has in the great majority of cases begun her career of vice at an early age. It is, I think, universally recognized that the present methods of dealing with prostitution are utterly unsatisfactory. My suggestion is that young girls would receive a far wider measure of protection, and the chance of their reformation be greatly increased, if they were allowed to come under the provisions of the Children Act. Their shame. would no longer be publicly advertised; they would be placed in special homes while awaiting trial or on remand; reformatories would be provided instead of prisons, and the courts could give the custody of them to any fit person willing to take it. All this could at once be brought about by altering the age limit in the Children Act in the case of girls from 16 to 19 (or even 21) years.
The "Committee of Social Investigation and Reform " have just inaugurated a temporary home in London for girls of this class. Its object will be to provide shelter for girls remanded on bail or awaiting more permanent homes; to give careful study to the case of each girl while in residence; advise as to what, in view of her special temptations and characteristics, is best to be done with her, and to draft on suitable cases to the "Women's Training Colony" at Newbury. Such an institution as this would serve as an excellent "remand home" under the scheme I have suggested, and I feel sure that many magistrates would be glad to avail themselves of it rather than remand girls to prison. To detain a girl of 16 in prison, even if only on remand, is in nearly all cases clearly undesirable.
I have been able to deal only in the briefest possible manner with the various aspects of the question, but in every aspect of it there is much work to be done, and it behoves the good citizen to see that it is done. It will be lamentable if all the wonderful self-denial and unselfishness which the War has called forth ceases when the War is over, for the nation will still need all the service that can be given to it. The delinquent child is in most cases the neglected and the friendless child, and the root of his delinquency is his friendlessness. Is there any necessity that in this country any child should be either neglected or friendless? I see none.
Old Street, E.C.
THE DEPENDENT CHILD AND THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE STATE.
By THOMAS R. ACKROYD.
Hon. Secretary of the Manchester and Salford Boys' and Girls'
CHILD welfare is a subject which of late has been prominently brought home to the mind of the nation. We have been constantly reminded that the children are our greatest asset, and at last "the child has come into its own." I believe this to be perfectly true, and the question has now become one of the most interesting, as well as one of the most important studies for all social and religious workers. Many problems are now before the country which will require the very best thought and wisely considered action for their solution. Amongst the number we must place that which affects the health, education, work, and general well-being of all children.
In speaking of the dependent child I am quite aware, of course, that all children are dependent. It is the natural order of things, which we are bound to accept. How absolutely dependent all of us were upon another in the days of our infancy and childhood. venture to believe that it is this very dependence which helps to make motherhood so truly noble; and wherever there is the true realization of this the mother herself gains through the very dependence, not less than the child itself.
But the child is not dependent alone upon its parents. At its birth it becomes a member of the community and counts for something in the life of the nation. It is recognized by the State, and to some extent, at all events, the State is responsible for its well-being. Such welfare, however, can only be promoted and secured by good laws, justly and wisely administered. Unfortunately these have been sadly lacking in the past with respect to the young life of the country. Legislation on behalf of poor children has always been slow and difficult to accomplish. Less than 100 years ago one half of all those employed in the new cotton mills in the country were children under 16 years of age and one-sixth under 9 years. Sir Robert Peel declared in the House of Commons that it was not uncommon for little children of not more than 6 to be torn from their beds and compelled to work