Probation and Politics
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The juvenile court situation at Chicago is of fundamental importance from a national point of view, for it involves issues which are coming to focus all over the country.
It has fallen to the lot of the present administration of Cook county (which includes Chicago) to discover and demonstrate that the juvenile court can be so manipulated as to furnish an unexampled means for political influence over a certain stratum of people in any community. The officials whose strangest reliance for such influence has heretofore been the charitable institutions, hospitals, and relief agencies now understand that in this court, with the almost unlimited power of its probation officers in dealing with parents of children in trouble, there is to their han a new and powerful instrument of control.
The upheaval at Chicago has been closely watched from the beginning. After a long period of almost daily changes and developments, it reached a point at which the whole situation could be authentically stated and intelligently reviewed. The following statement of fact and comment, including a summary of the noteworthy report of the citizens' committee under the chairmanship of - Prof. Willard E. Hotchkiss, was prepared by a member of the editorial staff of THE SURVEY. It represents, however, a carefully considered consensus of judgment by those who have first-hand knowledge of the Chicago situation but whose personal interests are in no wise involved so as to affect their point of view or opinions.]
The most violent attack upon the juvenile courts in their entire history has been directed during-the-last few months against the first and foremost one- among them all--the Chicago juvenile court.
The fighting lead in this attack was taken by a Hearst newspaper --the Chicago Examiner -- with its usual news gathering-methods, in alliance with county Democratic officials who were attempting to lay hold of every branch of county service. so as to strengthen their newly acquired power. The struggle centered in a trial of the chief probation officer, John. H.. Witter, before the civil service commission of Cook county. Its decision, resulting in Mr. Witter's removal, after a complete collapse of the charges against him, is a travesty on the spirit and letter of the merit system.
If the question were merely of Mr. Witter's competency, the interest of THE SURVEY and of the people throughout the country who understand and appreciate the value of properly constituted and conducted juvenile courts, would be concerned only in a statement as to the "trial" of and unfair "frame-up" against an efficient chief probation officer, a condemnation of those responsible for the breakdown of the civil service administration, and a renewed emphasis on the human weal or woe at stake.
Far more important national significance attaches to the case, however, because of the manner in which the public mind was misled and inflamed, the nature of the charges, the imputed and real responsibilities involved, the alignment of forces and factions. and the prevalence throughout the country of similar situations concerning the juvenile court, which have in some places broken out into virulent attacks and in others have been smoldering just beneath the surface. The nature of these attacks or insidious efforts to undermine the effectiveness of the juvenile court movement is essentially the same wherever they have arisen. An analysis of the Chicago situation as typical, therefore, will serve to show the issues and factors in what may as well be recognized and faced as the most serious reactionary attack the juvenile court- movement has met, involving as well the whole system of legislation and administration affecting children. Upon a clear understanding of these issues depend the conservation of the progress thus far gained through the juvenile court and the guidance for future progress.
Far-sighted observers of social effort and institutions have for years apprehended that when the extent of the court's great powers with reference to the home and parental responsibilities should be understood, popular antagonism would ensue, whipped on by those who resent any encroachment of public supervision over their own institutions and care of children.
Such observers, who clearly see the defects in the court and are striving to remedy them, have also been aware that many enthusiasts have almost made a fetish of the
(2004) juvenile court, thinking it a complete solvent for the whole problem of delinquent children, and failing to realize that after all it is still a corrective agency of the state, dealing with the results of conditions which should as far as possible be prevented. Such well-meaning but superficial people hold the court to an impossible standard--of perfection, and are misled by criticism of its administration- when among the thousands of well handled cases their attention is focused on half a dozen children who have not had the best treatment on probation or in any institution. Everything human could be discredited by such designing and unfair methods of criticism.
But such criticism is less sincere when, as in the Chicago trial, the probation department of the juvenile court is charged with responsibility for what happens to the children after they are completely beyond the jurisdiction of the court or of any of the probation officers. The malicious character of the attack on the Chicago court is still further evident from the strong indication that it emanates in part from the very sources which originally brought about such a limitation of the courts jurisdiction.
CAMPAIGN OF MISREPRESENTATION
During last summer a systematic campaign of newspaper exploitation by the Examiner charged that the "mistakes of the juvenile law out-Herod Herod," told of "little Jimmy, torn six years ago from his mother, who cries and prays day and night for her boy," of another 'mother wandering the streets looking for her five babies wrested from her by the law," and how all the mothers of Chicago 'shudder and cuddle up their little girls" as they think of what happened to one poor little girl in a home in which she had been placed after having been put on probation by the juvenile court.
These cases were carefully investigated by the court itself and by volunteer agencies. It is safe to say that every one of these "exposures" by the Examiner was a gross exaggeration, and that essential facts concerning most of them were distorted or suppressed.
The Examiner proposed to re-assemble families which had been broken up by the "barbarous law and conditions and customs" of the-juvenile court. It planned numerous reforms in the juvenile law, some of them impracticable, and it deliberately ignored the fact that some of the obviously good reforms it proposed have for years been vigorously sought by the very people this newspaper held culpable. Among juvenile court officers and social workers generally there has been an increasing feeling during the last few years that only in the most extreme cases should children be taken from their mothers. All over. the country some of the very people who had secured the enactment of juvenile court laws have been agitating for, and in Missouri, California, Illinois and elsewhere have obtained laws which give pensions to poor mothers who are worthy to care for their children. In other places people working to the same end are providing such pensions from private funds. It has become almost a truism in social and philanthropic work, that poverty should not cause the break-up of a home. The White House Conference on Children called by President Roosevelt in January. 1909, issued a pronouncement that:
Children of parents of worthy character suffering from temporary misfortune, and
children of reasonably efficient and deserving mothers who are wit trout the support of
the normal breadwinner, should, as a rule, be kept with their parents, such aid being
given as may be necessary to maintain suitable homes for the rearing of the children. This
aid should be given by such.methods and from such sources as may be determined by the
general relief policy of each community, preferably in the form of private charity rather
than of public relief. Except in unusual circumstances, the home should not be broken up
for reasons of poverty, but only for considerations of inefficiency or immorality.
In the movement which secured a "funds to parents" or so-called "mother's pension" law in Illinois, taking effect July 1, 1911, Judge Pinckney and Chief Probation Officer Witter of the Chicago juvenile court were leaders. Indeed, it was directly due to their suggestion that the law was framed, and to their initiative that the expert service of relief and civic organizations has been brought into play in the administration of the measure, the tentative and experimental character of which is recognized. For it is understood by all that lax or improper administration would involve dangers and abuses quite as great as the good which will result from careful and intelligent administration.
But the superficial critics upon whom this point of view of family conservation had dawned as a great new light, have failed com-
(2005)-pletely to see the other side of the problem. They have hysterically discovered that the whereabouts of some children is unknown to the parents from whom they were taken by the court. They have not even looked deep enough to see that the kind of an unworthy parent from whom it is necessary to take a child, if the child's welfare is to be considered, is the very kind of parent that would be only too glad to get the child back when it reaches working age and has been trained and educated.
The Examiner having painted a picture of the wretchedness of mistreated children and separated families, and having charged that the court's methods were responsible for their misery, the next move was for the president of the board of commissioners of Cook county, Peter Bartzen, to appoint a committee to investigate the juvenile court law and methods, and the working of the other state laws affecting children who pass through the court. To the surprise of those who had been fomenting the "exposures" Mr. Bartzen did not appoint a committee consisting of people who shared their point of view and purpose. Instead,. acting on the suggestions of social workers, but probably with the hope of getting endorsement for his views from an impartial source, he appointed Professor Willard E. Hotchkiss, dean of the Northwestern University School of Commerce, as chairman of a committee in whose fairness the public has great confidence.
From the beginning, however, Mr. Bartzen and his civil service commission tried to dictate how the Hotchkiss committee should do its work and what it should take up. This the committee resented, and the breach widened when, without consulting Professor Hotchkiss or any members of his committee, President Bartzen summarily suspended Chief Probation Officer Witter, preferring charges on which he should be tried before the county civil service commission. Public protest was at once made by Professor Hotchkiss on the ground that, as he had previously declared, pending the investigation and report of his committee, "any important change in the probation force, or the detention home staff, in the absence of serious emergencies, would be regarded as a disingenuous political move." From then on the committee conducted its work entirely independently of the county officials. Having discovered that he could not control the Hotchkiss committee, Mr. Bartzen attempted to discharge it, and, when the committee went on at its own expense, he made every effort to belittle and discredit it.
The trial of Mr. Witter on charges of incompetence occupied several weeks. The alleged experiences of wards of the court after they had been sent to various institutions and homes, which had been detailed in the newspaper "campaign" were again fully recited as testimony. There is doubtless foundation in fact for some of the pitiful stories told on the witness stand. The flaw in the state's system of legislation and care responsible for these evils will be pointed out and discussed later. A large part of the testimony, however, is thoroughly untrustworthy. Every student of child psychology knows that through the use of suggestion perverted and: morally defective children, and even normal children, can be made to believe and testify to things which actually never happened. Persons who know intimately the history of some of the children who were witnesses. are convinced that they were thus made to tell of events which actually occurred prior to their first appearance in the juvenile court as if these events had happened in the homes to which they were sent by the court or by the institutions which received them from the court. This is especially easy to believe since one of the investigators from the county attorney's office, who had charge of working up the testimony, is known to be disreputable and unscrupulous. Although he was and is admitted to be so by the county attorney, he continues, for some unexplained reason, to be employed.
Three girls who had escaped from one of the private institutions in a suburb, whose methods were being grilled, were put on the. witness stand a few days later to give sensational testimony. The discovery of a voucher in the county accounts for automobile service including a trip to this institution on the day of the escape, coupled with persistent rumors as to the use made of this automobile, have given fair-minded people a strong suspicion that county officials connived at the escape, if they did not actually help carry it out, and that the girls' testimony was coached during their several days in seclusion.
Two other girls escaped at the same time
(2006) from the same institution. Of these two, one has been released to her mother, and according to reports is doing well. No trace of the other has been found. Of the three who testified, one has been released by the temporarily appointed chief probation officer to a home in which her lover lives. One has been reported by her relatives and a probation officer as being at work. The third has completely disappeared.
The carelessness as to what became of these girls after the county officials had no further use for- their testimony is in marked contrast to the zeal of these same officials in pointing out the care they think Mr. Witter should have exercised over cases he had no power to follow.
This mass of testimony, even if wholly true, was shown by Judge Pinckney of the juvenile court, during his examination on the witness stand, to be entirely irrelevant to the case of Mr. Witter. Since the other charges against Mr. Witter, as to his executive handling of his duties and the probation officers under him, had been entirely disproved by competent and authoritative testimony, including that of Judge Pinckney, the whole case against him collapsed when Judge Pinckney clearly demonstrated that the evils which had been so voluminously "exposed" were beyond the legal power of the chief probation officer, or of the court itself, to control. Instead, it was shown that both judge and probation officer had for a long period of time, persistently sought means whereby the situation might be improved.
It had been the contention of the prosecution that the chief probation officer should have investigated the institutions and associations to which children were sent by the court, and should have kept track of the individual children so sent, investigating also the foster-homes in which any were placed by these institutions and associations. The citation and interpretation of the juvenile court statute by Judge Pinckney shows that the chief probation officer has no power further than that he "shall have charge and control of all other probation officers subject to the direction of the court." By law the court may send children to institutions and associations which hold charters from the state board of administration. Such institutions and associations must first be investigated by the state Department of Visitation of Dependent, Neglected, and Delinquent Children, and after the children are received these institutions and associations must be investigated annually by the same department. Neither the juvenile court nor its chief probation officer has the authority or the duty to investigate such institutions and associations or the foster-homes in which they place children.
After this clear showing that the chief probation officer could not be held responsible for the methods employed by the accredited institutions and associations, it was moved by his counsel that the testimony as to the mistreatment of children after their reception by such institutions and associations should be stricken from the record. The civil service commission-- for reasons known to itself-- did not announce a definite decision upon the point, but instructed the counsel for Mr. Witter to proceed as if this evidence were stricken out as irrelevant This attitude on the part of the commission, under the presidency of Ballard Dunn, seemed a sure indication. that the only logical decision would be reached, -- namely, that the charges against Mr Witter were not supported by the evidence, and, that he should be reinstated as chief probation officer.
INSIDE STORY OF CONSPIRACY
Suddenly, on the eve of the decision, County President Bartzen deposed Mr. Dunn as president of the civil service commission and appointed another member, Frederick Greer, in his place. The reorganized commission returned a verdict of guilty against Mr Witter, and his suspension became a dismissal. The action was taken by a vote of two against one, the deposed president, Mr. Dunn, protesting that Mr. Bartzen had reorganized, the commission for the sole purpose of getting Mr. Witter discharged, and that the two members constituting the majority had subserviently followed the dictation of Mr. Bartzen, the new president promising to convict Mr. Witter in return for a reappointment as a member and president of the commission. This accusation of Mr. Dunn's is given further weight by the fact that only a few months previously a similar reorganization of the civil service commission had been spectacularly made by Mr. Bartzen when his previous appointee, a man who had the confidence of the general public, was ousted from the presidency for refusing to follow Mr. Bartzen's dictation.
Although Mr. Dunn may well be criticised for some of his actions as president of the civil service commission, and especially during the time of his complete subserviency to Mr. Bartzen, his statement, which is very generally accepted as the truth, reveals in all its details the conspiracy and deal to "get" Mr. Witter. He declares that some days prior to the filing of the charges against Mr. Witter he was called to the office of Mr. Bartzen, where he was introduced to Timothy D. Hurley. Mr. Bartzen is quoted as saying that he intended to get rid of Mr. Witter and appoint Mr. Hurley as chief probation officer temporarily, assuming that after a civil service examination he could be certified for the position. Some days later Mr. Hurley presented to Mr. Dunn a draft of the charges against Mr. Witter, and was told to take them to the county attorney. A day or two later the formal charges signed by Mr. Bartzen were brought to Mr. Dunn as president of the civil service commission. They were discovered to be almost, if not entirely, identical with the charges prepared by Mr. Hurley. Mr Dunn declares that Mr. Bartzen told him "not to get cold feet on this case" and that he must "get" Mr. Witter.
At the time Mr. Witter's counsel was told to proceed as though the evidence concerning the treatment of children by the institutions to which they were sent by the court were stricken from the record, Mr. Dunn declares that the failure to announce a definite decision thus was due to the fact that the time under the law had nearly arrived for Mr. Bartzen to appoint a successor to Commissioner Greer. Mr. Dunn reports Mr. Greer to have said that he had been given to understand that it was Mr. Witter's job or his own, and that he would like to have formal announcement of the decision as to the relevancy of the evidence in question postponed until the day after his reappointment. Shortly after this, according to Mr. Dunn, although Mr. Witter's defense had not yet been heard, Mr. Bartzen sent word to Mr. Dunn asking that the Mr. Witter case be ended at once. This, of course, Mr. Dunn declared to be impossible. Finally, on one of the Iast days of the trial, Mr. Bartzen reorganized the commission, as already described, putting Mr. Greer in Mr. Dunn's place as president. "I considered then," says Mr. Dunn, "that one of the main purposes of Mr. Bartzen's order was to dictate the decision in the Witter case, and my belief was borne out by later results, and especially by the conduct of Commissioner Greer."
Charges of a similar nature are made by Joseph Meyer, recently ousted by President Bartzen from the position of county agent in charge of poor relief. His reputation for efficiency, recognized by prominent officials of charitable organizations in Chicago, gives weight to his statement that Bartzen asked him to allow the use of some of his investigators "to get something on Witter," as the jobs at the juvenile court were "wanted." He has asked Mr Bartzen if the real reason for his dismissal was not that he "refused to do your dirty work in connection with the John H. Witter case."
It is announced that efforts will be made in the court to assert Mr. Witter's rights. But still more significant is the declaration of lawyers who advised Mr. Dunn that the conduct of Mr. Bartzen and others in the Witter case is conspiracy within the meaning of the criminal statutes of Illinois. For public welfare demands imperatively that Mr. Bartzen's erratic and outrageous administration of affairs come to an end. "Rampaging Peter," as he has been dubbed, has in one year well nigh destroyed the progress of a decade in the manage-ment of the Cook county charitable institutions; according to the estimate of the best informed authorities on public charities in the state He has made a mockery of the merit system, for revelations have been made covering numerous specific instances other than the Witter case Wasteful mismanagement has come into nearly all the branches of the county service. And the increased annual expenditure of the county involves flagrant pay-roll padding amounting to $500,000 a year. Evidence submitted by Mr. Dunn and the Civil Service Reform Association and information from both as to other available evidence are in the hands of the state's attorney, who promises to take such action as is warranted.
The animus clearly shown in the Witter case has made this one man a scape-goat for all the evils which are due to the defects in the Illinois system of law and administration affecting children.
STATE CARE OF CHILDREN
Study of this system with a view to suggesting and instituting improvements will be of the greatest public importance not only in
(2008) Chicago but in every community where similar defects exist, and especially where the resultant evils are being charged up to the juvenile court. In addition to the investigation by the Hotchkiss committee,. the report of which has recently been made public another investigation has been started which is expected.to occupy a much longer period of time and is likely to afford further valuable. data. and recommendations bearing on the subject. This investigation concerns every institution or association which receives children from the juvenile court, and to which any county funds are paid.. According to the law, the county judge is authorized to appoint a visitation committee of six for this. purpose, and Judge John E Owens has selected George E Cole, long active in civic reform, as chairman. The other members are Charles H. Wacker, president of the United Charities, Minnie F. Lowe, active in Jewish. charities, Daniel McCann, identified with Catholic charitable work, Rose Kiolbassa Kwasigrock,. daughter of one: of Chicago's pioneer Polish-American citizens. and familiar with Polish philanthropies, and Dr. Mary B. White,. who is interested in various charitable activities. The engaging of a capable paid secretary, Wilfred S. Reynolds, formerly connected with the Indiana Board of State Charities, indicates the thoroughness with which the committee is undertaking its work.
THE HOTCHKISS COMMITTEE REPORT
Painstaking fairness, clear insight, broad knowledge of all aspects of the problem, and definite presentation of well reasoned specific recommendations give the report of the Hotchkiss committee constructive value of the highest degree. Its unerring analysis of present difficulties is only exceeded by its discernment of the newer standard of social welfare to which present institutions and methods must measure up. The committee has rendered a public service of great worth not only in its own community but to the nation.
With Professor Hotchkiss as chairman, and Mrs. James Quan as secretary, the other members were Mrs. Henry Solomon, long identified with Jewish charities -- who was afterward replaced by Saul Drucker, head of an orthodox Jewish orphanage -- the Rev. Father C. J. Quille, and the Rev. Augustus Schlechte, connected with Lutheran charities.
The committee conceived its function to be the discovery of merits and defects in the system of child care, not necessarily fixing personal blame for failure to obtain good results, but. considering legal or administrative changes which might lessen failure in the future.
It points out that every one in contact with child problems in Illinois knows of conditions that need correction. But it vigorously declares "that the advance in child care represented by the work of decades would be sacrificed if the juvenile court were to become an attachment to a political machine." Readers of this article will gain something of the local significance of this statement from our foregoing recital of events. It may be-added that one of the first "reforms" urged by those who sought to "get" Mr Witter was an increase in the force of probation officers. The report shows no bitterness at the treatment accorded the committee, but indicates the firm stand which it continually had to take against dictation and the methods used by county officers and investigators. It frankly states that the "political situation has impeded but not impaired investigation."
Before proceeding with its main work the committee gave a. brief hearing to the charges concerning the Illinois Industrial School for Girls, one of the institutions receiving a per capita allowance from the county for.the care of dependent children committed by the juvenile court. These charges had. been given a sensational newspaper airing. Some of the girls testified to various abuses and others to excellence of treatment. The indications that the evidence was secured and coached by the disreputable investigator heretofore mentioned, and the absence of corroboration, led the committee to give little consideration to it. Lax financial relations between the county and the school, however, were discovered, a former county administration having induced the school to accept a lump sum monthly payment without reference to the per capita amount, perfunctory lists of children being made in compliance with the formal requirement. Blame for this condition was laid upon both sides.
The main investigation was conducted along three lines:
1. Juvenile court law and jurisdiction and operation of the court.
2. Probation department and detention home.
3. Disposition of children, involving institutional care, child placing, and public supervision.
Many conferences were held with officials and citizens connected with the social agencies of the state, county, and city. Visits were made to institutions and schools. Expert accountants were secured to study record systems. Historical and legal studies were made of the juvenile court law and its relation to other statutes. And comparison with laws and methods in other states was gained not only through public reports but through replies to a questionnaire. The ground covered by the report,. and the recommendations it proposes, are here briefly indicated under its main divisions, the language of the report being closely followed.
1. Juvenile court law and jurisdiction and operation of the court.
Statement is made of the history of the law, its object to remove children from the criminal courts, and the stigma thus involved, and the development of the probation system under the direction of the court. In the accomplishing of the removal from the atmosphere and jurisdiction of the criminal courts, the report commends the erection of a separate building in another part of the city for the juvenile court and detention home; it suggests also that two buildings, separate but in close proximity, would enable the court and the home to preserve their own atmospheres, and recommends especially that a playground and other cheerful surroundings be given the home. The co-operation necessary between the juvenile court and the court of domestic relations may make it desirable that these two be brought together in a place apart from other courts. Three minor administrative recommendations are that the juvenile judge should have power to reject unfit police officers assigned to probation work, that transfer of children in patrol wagons should cease and that female escort be provided for all girls.
In pointing out the clear purpose of the law to reduce to a minimum state interference with normal relations of children in natural homes, the report describes the "funds to parents" law. It describes the formation by Judge Pinckney of an advisory committee, composed of representatives of various philanthropic and social agencies, to aid the court in the administrator of the law.
It urges more careful dovetailing of the compulsory education and child labor laws, to insure that every child between fourteen and sixteen is either in school or at work, with an amendment making relief from school attendance between fourteen and sixteen depend not only on employment but on the attainment of a prescribed minimum of educational fitness. In view of the fact that juvenile delinquency is essentially a problem in education, the need of co-operation between court and school is emphasized. While it recognizes constitutional and other difficulties which prevent turning over to the schools the administration of child legislation, including the juvenile court functions, the report sees in such an arrangement not merely a greater unity of child policy but a greater emphasis upon moral aspects of education.
Obstacles in the way of giving the juvenile court jurisdiction over adults who contribute to juvenile delinquency, the desirability of which is recognized, increases the need for placing the juvenile court and the court of domestic relations, or a branch of it, together. Private conferences in chambers are declared to be indispensable in some cases for the welfare of the child, the judge being the best one to decide; but an annual report of the extent and reasons for such conferences is suggested to protect the court from criticism and avoid any dangers. The time required for hearings need not be long if the preliminary investigation is thorough. This sifting would materially lessen the recognized strain of protracted attention- to the aggravated situations which juvenile cases usually present. The report does not, however favor the establishment of two additional courts since three judges equipped for the peculiar duties of the juvenile court would be more difficult to secure than one, and three courts might tend toward lack of unity in the administration of the law. Not so many objections are seen in branch courts all under one chief judge, but in spite of possible advantages the committee believes that consideration of this should be postponed until comprehensive efforts have been made to reduce the number of cases that come to court.
Perhaps the most important part of the report as it deals with the first of the three main lines of investigation is that concerning the jurisdiction of the court especially in its relations to the institutions established under the Industrial School Acts, since it is on this point that much of the difficulty thus far has arisen. The juvenile court law is shown to be clearly supplemental to and in no sense a substitute for, these acts, a special provision stating that it shall not be interpreted as repealing any portion of them. This involves such serious limitations upon the jurisdiction of the juvenile court that the committee believes the problem should be faced even though the constitutional doubts as to extending its jurisdiction, and assuring its present validity, should necessitate a constitutional amendment.
The committee's findings as to this lack of control by the court over children sent to institutions strikes the very crux of the situa-
(2010)-tion revealed by the Witter trial. When a child is committed to an industrial school by the juvenile court the jurisdiction passes from the court to the school. Although these schools attempt to carry out court decrees and respect specific demands of the court, investigation shows that there is an unfortunately large number of cases in which children have passed completely out of control of the court and have returned without its sanction into the very surroundings from which they had been taken, . . . The return of a child without court consent to an environment which the court has just found to be unfit is an humiliating travesty on judicial procedure, and is in no way necessary to uphold the autonomy of. institutions. The occasion for committing a child to an institution is found in the unfitness of its environment or the inability of parents to accomplish its proper nurture or discipline.... If, after a child has been committed to an institution, facts are presented to the court indicating that advantages of the institution over the child's natural home have been magnified, or, in the case of unfit parents, that they have reformed, or that parents have moved from a bad environment -- in short, if the situation offers expectation of proper control and care, then the court which had removed the child from its home should at all times have power to restore."
The report lays the evils due to laxity in the placing of children in foster-homes by institutions or associations to which they are committed by the juvenile court at the door of the court's inadequate jurisdiction, and of the state's inadequate visitation and supervision of such homes. "Plenary jurisdiction exercised heretofore by custodial institutions has given them authority to place children committed to their care in families, and they have been given the right to sign papers of adoption under the same conditions which have obtained with reference to regular placing organizations. The kind of equipment required for satisfactory placing is so different from that needed to conduct a custodial or educational institution that the two functions ought to be kept distinct. To this end, placing by a custodial institution should occur only with consent of the court. In the case of societies which place children in foster homes the court should at all times possess evidence of satisfactory personal, financial, and administrative equipment for investigating homes and for continued rigid supervision after children have been placed, and it should assure itself that the equipment is efficiently employed." The court "must have power to inform itself at all times of the conditions under which its decrees are being carried out. Such a power cannot exist if the jurisdiction over a child passes completely from the court with its commitment to an institution. To endow the juvenile court with adequate jurisdiction over child placing and institutional care would relieve institutions of responsibility which they are not equipped to meet and which are foreign to their fundamental purposes By conforming their activities to definite recognized standards which the court would set they would occupy a more certain position in public esteem and avoid constant danger of attack. They would thus be left entirely free to carry out their educational, moral, and religious objects." Emphasis is placed on the seriousness of permanent separation of a child from his parents, which should ensue "only when evidence is conclusive that future rehabilitation of the family is not to be contemplated." In the case of parents consenting to adoption, such consent should not be taken at a time of financial distress, but adoption should be postponed with the expectation that it can be avoided altogether through the parents' becoming better able to provide satisfactorily for their child.
2. Probation department and detention home.
After discussing the function of probation work -- not to place children in institutions or bring them to court, but to tone up family life so that they may still have parental care -- the report points out the conditions under which tactful, sympathetic, and able probation officers may be secured. A civil service administration, honest, intelligent, and not a. part of a political administration is deemed essential. The examination in conducting which the civil service commission should secure the co-operation of especially qualified citizens, should be open to persons between twenty-five and fifty-five years of age, after wide publicity has been given both to the examination and the conditions of work. Concrete suggestions are given whereby written, oral, and experience tests may emphasize judgment, training, and moral fitness. There should be no technical questions which presuppose an unreasonable time devoted to specific preparation. Actual or hypothetical cases such as probation officers have to handle should be submitted. The oral test should especially discover defects or abnormalities which should debar an applicant, but owing to danger of abuse it should have only a small positive credit. All appointments should be made for a trial period of six months. Temporary appointments pending examinations are regarded as vicious.
Many detailed recommendations for the improvement of record systems, clerical facilities, and administrative methods are made. The pay of regular staff probation officers is suggested at $1200 per year. In a large force the value of special investigators and special officers supervising probationers under employment or sent to institutions is pointed out, and a general field officer to visit regularly the territory of other probation officers and to advise and assist them in their work is strongly recommended. Volunteer officers should not be generally relied upon, but the power of appointing them is recognized as extremely valuable in dealing with particular situations. A probation cabinet to consider general policies and promote handling of cases outside of
(2011) court is suggested, its membership to consist of the judge, the chief probation officer, and two supervisors of probation. An average of fifty families to each probation officer is considered reasonable, and quality of service is emphasized over number of officers, "Not only is it more important to have the right kind of officers than to have a sufficient number, but it is so important that none be appointed except on an honestly administered merit basis that judges should satisfy themselves of the conditions under which examinations are to be held before requesting additional appointments."
The detention home, although a place of temporary care, should in the estimate of the committee have adequate provision for classification and segregation, for handling infectious and other diseases, and for educational and play needs. It should not be used as a correctional institution or as a convenience, and delays in court hearings should not fall too heavily on detention home cases.
3. Disposition of children, involving institutional care, child placing, and public supervision.
Emphasis is not placed upon facilities for public care of more children, but upon the relation of civic conditions to family breakdowns. Playgrounds, social use of schools, better housing, decreased congestion, provision against industrial hazards, and regulation of public amusements are considered more important than the multiplication of institutions for children who, because of backward civic conditions, are thrown in increasing numbers upon the public care. To this end one of the farthest reaching recommendations is that a comprehensive study of civic conditions in relation to child care be undertaken by the State Charities Commission or some other body enjoying public confidence.
Better and more adequate provision for certain classes of defectives, especially epileptics and feeble-minded, is urged, however, as an immediate need. For normal children, adoption or placing in foster-homes is advocated as far superior to any institutional care. But strong emphasis is put upon the perfection of these placing agencies The Massachusetts experience is cited, showing the success of different organizations "in evolving common records for investigations of families and subsequent supervision," demonstrating the feasibility of successful work in the field. "Financial support sufficient to provide needed personal and administrative equipment should make placing one of the most constructive activities in behalf of children." But for normal children who for any reason cannot be adopted or placed in foster-homes, boarding in families near vocational school facilities is regarded as preferable to institutional life. Institutions, which the committee considers a last resort for normal children, need efficiency standards by which their results can be estimated. It points out the inadequacy for this purpose of present institutional record systems. So strongly is the desirability urged of keeping the institutional surroundings of the normal child as natural as possible that even the cottage system, if arranged like a university campus, is considered not so good as small houses on ordinary streets, cared for by a house-mother, the children attending the public school. The same principle should be applied as far as possible in the case of delinquents. Present methods of segregation of delinquents are not sufficient to prevent evil associations whereby innocent or less hardened children are seriously harmed. This is especially condemned in the John Worthy school, the close proximity of which to the city prison hampers the commendable efforts of the superintendent.
The committee vigorously urges more adequate state visitation and supervision of children placed in family homes or cared for in institutions. At present, under the state board of control, there are but three visitors for the whole state; thirty would be more appropriate, and a campaign for such a larger staff should, in the opinion of the committee, be started at once. These visitors should not merely ascertain that children are humanely treated, whether in institutions or in family-homes, but their work should also relate to the financial and administrative equipment of particular institutions to perform the task which they are undertaking. The state board also should interest itself in establishing standards of childcare, and in suggesting records and reports by which the efficiency of institutions should be judged, but it should at all times remember that its-work is not administration but supervision. To draw a parallel from business, it should do the work of bank examiner rather than of president of a bank. The responsibility of institutions for the work they undertake should not be diminished.
The committee submitted a supplementary report prepared under its direction by Price, Waterhouse and Company, accountants. This deals not only with the systems of business management and handling of funds but with the whole system of records as showing the methods and efficiency of the institution in supervising children and training them for careers of usefulness and good citizenship.
The report finds the accounting systems and payment of moneys to the institutions by the county and by parents of children to involve much looseness and carelessness, of the sort indicated in an earlier paragraph. It calls attention to the absence of published annual reports and makes strong recommendations in favor of publicity and uniformity of accounts.
The records of the court showing commitments to institutions were compared with the records of the institutions themselves, covering the period from January I, 1909, to September 1, 1911. While only a slight discrepancy was discovered, the records of the institutions as to what becomes of children after entering and leaving the institution are very inadequate. In fact, the superintendent of one
(2012) school from which over a score of boys disappeared stated without hesitation that when a boy considered undesirable for the good of the school escapes or disappears no effort is made to find him. This may be well from the standpoint of the school; but if such an undesirable child is permitted to live in a questionable environment the good of the child, if not of the community, would seem to be disregarded. The report commends the investigation of foster-homes before children are placed in them, as carried out by the Children's Home and Aid Society. It criticizes the absence of court reports of such investigations by volunteer probation officers. It characterizes visitation of such homes after children are placed in them as inadequate. While the principle is recognized by the Glenwood School for boys and the Illinois Industrial School for girls, as well as by the Children's Home and Aid Society, the visits have not been obligatory, nor as systematic and frequent as they should be, due to lack of funds. And in the case of the visitation department of the State Board of Administration, which is charged by law with the duty of inspecting these homes, the visitors are still less regular and frequent than those on behalf or the institutions themselves. It is pointed out that the law might be amended to require the schools and institutions to make such visits, the state board to act in a supervisory capacity, or that the decree of the juvenile court in each case might require that a placed child should be visited.
Since the career of a child after leaving an institution is the best test of the efficiency of the training it received in the institution, stress is laid on following the progress of the child wherever it may be after its discharge from the institution.
The two Catholic schools, St. Mary's Training School for Boys and the Chicago Industrial School for Girls, refused to permit the accountants to proceed with an investigation of their records. A conference was held with John A. Lynch, representing the St. Mary's School, and D. F. Bremner and Timothy D. Hurley, representing the Chicago Industrial School. Their refusal was reiterated in ensuing correspondence on the ground that the law prohibits disclosing the names and addresses of children placed in foster-homes.
[This affords an interesting commentary on the prolonged newspaper lamentation over the mothers who could not learn the whereabouts of their children whom the juvenile court had taken away, and also on the blame heaped upon Chief Probation Officer Witter for not keeping track of the children sent to the institutions and thence into foster-homes. But no reasonable man can doubt the propriety and legality of giving access to these routine records to a duly authorized and constituted public body specifically charged with investigating and reporting upon this very matter, especially in view of the readiness of the other institutions to give access to their records.]
The investigation by the accountants proceeded far enough to ascertain that in eight months of 1909 nineteen boys disappeared from St. Mary's School and were not returned, and one was taken by his mother without permission. The sister who attends to the business details of the school stated that homes to which children are released are investigated by the police officers representing the school at the juvenile court, who report verbally on the results of their investigations, and that the parish priests are expected to visit and otherwise supervise the children after their release from the school. "But'' say the accountants, "so far as we could ascertain by inquiry made of the sister above referred to, the priests are not notified of the releases and make no reports to the school as to visits or otherwise."
The report of the accountants closes with detailed suggestions and recommendations regarding a uniform system of forms, records, reports, and accounts for the institutions.
The value of the report of the Hotchkiss committee can hardly be overestimated. Its thoroughness and fundamental wisdom are increasingly impressive the more it is studied. It should serve for years as a land-mark and compass in the progress of child care in Illinois; for not only has it determined the precise bearings of the present situation, but it has provided invaluable steering directions for future- action. The very sanity of it discredits all the more the contemptible political machinations and the newspaper hysterics which preceded it. Against these malign forces a group of public-spirited Chicago citizens has waged a courageous and determined struggle during the entire progress of the efforts to demoralize the court and its probation system. Their unremitting support of Mr. Witter, supplying generously the sinews of defense, was a genuinely patriotic service to the community. The burden, harassment, and cost of this trial cannot be measured in dollars, for it stands as a tremendous discouragement to any faithful and meritorious civil service appointee who may at any time be called upon to defend his rights. When civil service standards are so completely destroyed as they have been in the Witter case, it is essential that justice be secured through the courts rather than through the uncertain turn of the political wheel. The Witter case should be vigorously pushed to a final adjudication in the courts -- a splendid fight such as has been waged thus far should not stop short of its goal.
The same vigilance of public-spirited citizens must be continued. Pending the holding of a civil service examination for the office of chief probation officer, one Henry J. Lynch, for some years an employee of the county institutions at Dunning, was temporarily installed in the position. Little as to his qualifications for this work is known. It is asserted that ward politics occupied no inconsiderable part of his time during his incumbency at Dunning, and he is alleged to have boasted at one time that he could carry his precinct for Lorimer -- an interesting side-light on the bipartisan politics of Illinois. It is known that he "worked up"' the charges against an efficient staff physician at Dunning whom even Mr. Bartzen's political civil service commission was compelled to reinstate when the charges against her were found to have no foundation.
An examination for chief probation officer was taken by Mr. Lynch, and also by various other candidates, among whom were several of indisputable fitness and experience in the care of children and in the work of the juvenile court. But when the result was announced the grades of the well-qualified candidates were low, while Mr. Lynch was placed at the" head of the list".
It is significant to recall in this connection the conduct of an examination last fall for staff probation officers. A special committee, including in its membership Judge Pinckney and others who have the confidence of the general public, was asked to prepare the questions, at the same time being assured that it would have charge of the reading and marking of the candidates' papers. After the examination the civil service commission deliberately ignored the special committee, and made another arrangement for the reading and marking of the papers. Comment is unnecessary on the fact that Judge Pinckney refused to accept as probation officers any persons certified by this examination.
It should be clearly understood that in the entire discussion of civil service presented by this article there is no intention to discredit the merit system as a means for securing probation officers. In the past it has secured for chief probation officer of the Chicago juvenile court such well equipped men as Henry W. Thurston and Mr. Witter, and it has kept out candidates whose pull would have entitled them to the position. It is still to be regarded as the best method of securing probation officers. But the ingenuity of man cannot make a civil service law which would automatically operate properly when administered by officials whose prime concern is to dicker for political purposes.
But there is a still more fundamental situation which demands vigilance and broadmindedness on the part of those who stand for the welfare of the whole community rather than any special group or institutions. We have already pointed out that the elements which originally secured the limitation of the jurisdiction of the juvenile court are the very ones which have now aided, if not instigated, the attack on the court for its failure to do the things it had no power to do because of these limitations. These elements are certain factions claiming to act on behalf of the industrial schools and especially in those religious sects which resent any public supervision of their activities. This is a field in which issues of sectarianism should not stand athwart a movement which vitally concerns the humanitarian progress of all the people.
In the interests of all, it is fair to ask whether there was mere coincidence or deliberate discrimination in the fact that all the cases brought forward to expose evils in institutional care, just prior to and during the Witter trial, were from non-Catholic institutions. It is significant, moreover, that in times past most of the cases, and certainly the more flagrant ones, in which the influence and effectiveness of the juvenile court have been set at naught through the immediate or early return to their homes of children committed to institutions by the court, have occurred in connection with Catholic institutions. That this procedure does not represent the whole of Catholic sentiment, if indeed it represents any considerable part, and is probably due to the narrowness of some factions, is demonstrated by the fact that the Hotchkiss report -- which so vigorously condemns this procedure -- is signed by Father Quille, representing Catholic charities as a member of the committee, and the further fact that some of the most vigorous supporters of Mr. Witter, who testified to his efficiency, were Catholic probation officers.
It would furthermore be interesting to know if there was anything more than an accidental connection in the fact that last spring there suddenly came before the gov-
(2014)-ernor of Illinois a bill -- the very existence of which was unknown to the judge and chief probation officer of the Chicago juvenile court -- nominally affecting smaller counties, but which in its application to the county of Cook would have destroyed the juvenile court system of that county so far as the existence of a central court with a single judge and a central probation service is concerned. And again it may be inquired if there was merely a coincidence in the fact that after the bill failed to become a law, and at about the time the charges against Chief Probation Officer Witter were formulated, a bill was filed in a county court, on behalf of a person closely identified with leaders in the whole attack, seeking to enjoin the county from paying the expenses of the juvenile court on the ground that the law is unconstitutional
The participation of so many different interests and religious groups represented in the membership of the Hotchkiss committee, and especially their unanimity in signing the report, inspires the hope that sectarianism may not again seek to embarrass or hinder the juvenile court or to thwart public welfare. With so splendid a basis for unified action as this report affords, it should not be too much to hope that all public-spirited citizens in Illinois may now rally in a campaign to secure more adequate state supervision of children who are public wards more adequate jurisdiction for the juvenile court and a complete system of child care which measures up to the newer standards and ideals so finely set forth.
For the other communities throughout the country in which the juvenile court has been attacked and which are struggling with difficulties like those with which Chicago has been contending, this analysis of the Chicago situation may help to clarify the issues.
The juvenile court is not an automatic contrivance for weighing offences and punishments. It is the state's means of handling the most delicate problems affecting tender lives. It requires a nicety of perception, a humane patience, and a far-sighted judgment not required in administering perfectly a criminal code. It is still experimental and tentative in method. The people who are responsible for its inauguration and acceptance throughout the country must hold themselves responsible for keeping it above the reckless greed of politicians and their allies. For either it must work incalculable cruelty upon those whom it is intended to serve, or it must be administered with absolute freedom from influences of the sort which have in the last few months wrought so much harm upon the Chicago court.
If the widespread effort to exploit or attack the juvenile court has reached its most acute crisis in Chicago, the very exigency has brought out in Illinois, and, be it hoped, throughout the country the determination to deal with the situation, conserve the progress already made by the juvenile court, and assure the basis for more rational and humane child care.