Committee on Economic Security (CES)
"Social Security In America"
SECURITY FOR CHILDREN
Part III is based on material provided by
Katharine F. Lenroot, Chief of the Children's Bureau
and Marta M. Eliot, M.D., Assistant Chief
CHILD WELFARE IN A GENERAL PROGRAM OF ECONOMIC SECURITY
THE CHIEF AIM of social security is the protection of the family life of wage earners, and the prime factor in family life is the protection and development of children. Security for families, the broad foundation upon which the welfare of American children must rest, involves economic, health, and social measures which pertain to the entire economic and social structure of our civilization. Among them are an adequate wage level and a reasonable workday and workweek, with provision of regular and full employment necessary to yield a stable and sufficient family income; unemployment insurance or compensation when full employment fails; provision of adequate medical care and promotion of physical and mental health; prevention of accidents; provision for the old, the sick, the widowed, and the orphaned; adequate opportunities for education and for vocational guidance and placement; crime prevention and correction; and social services for persons whose welfare is threatened by the inadequacy or instability of those naturally responsible for their care and support, by their own instability, or by the breakdown of the primary measures of economic and social security.
All social security measures may be described, in fact, as affecting child welfare--even old-age security, which lifts the burden of support of the aged from those of middle age whose resources are needed for the care of children.
In planning for any form of security adequate consideration must be given to the protection of the health and welfare of the children in the families coming within its scope. All children need health protection, to provide which the community and the State, as well as individual parents, have a responsibility. Such protection should begin with the preparation of boys and girls for marriage and parenthood; should then provide for adequate care of the mother during the prenatal period, at childbirth, and following delivery; and should be extended throughout the infant, preschool, school, and later adolescent periods. Many children require special medical care or social protection by reason of physical handicaps, mental defects.
orphanage, desertion, or grave conditions of incompetency, discord, neglect, and demoralization in the home.
The effect of economic insecurity upon children is brought vividly to public attention by the fact that in December 1934 about 8,000,000 children under 16 years of age were in families receiving unemployment relief--representing about 40 percent of the total number of persons on relief--and by evidences, given later in this report, of the effect of the depression upon the health and welfare of children and the resources of the agencies created to serve their needs. Those engaged in the administration of relief and others having an opportunity to know the problems at first hand are deeply concerned over the gravity of the health, educational, employment, and social problems of the children and young people in relief families, and are impressed by the necessity of adequate consideration of the needs of children, both in the relief program itself and in transition to other forms of aid or rehabilitation, such as emergency work, rural rehabilitation, insurance, or pensions. In reallocations of financial or administrative responsibility between the Federal Government and the States, between States and local communities, and between emergency relief and permanently established welfare or health agencies, special care must be taken to see that no gaps are left which may mean suffering and neglect to children. The Federal Government has a responsibility in these matters which it shares with the States and the local communities.
Development of provisions for the health and welfare of children has been uneven in both extent and quality. In many areas, particularly in rural territory, there has been general neglect of these needs. During the depression period the degree of care which had been achieved at the cost of much planning and struggle has been put in jeopardy and often seriously curtailed or eliminated by reason of the financial retrenchment of public and private agencies.
Attempts to provide social security for the unemployed, especially for the unemployed now on relief, by measures which will enable them to become again self-supporting, through private industrial recovery or through a work program, will not benefit families whose breadwinners are absent. This is also true of unemployment compensation. For these groups of families special provision must be made.
The United States Children's Bureau was asked by the Committee on Economic Security to act in a consultative capacity with regard to sections or parts of the security program relating to child health and child welfare. An advisory committee on child welfare worked with the Children's Bureau in developing the factual material and recommendations submitted to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Security. The membership of this advisory committee is given in appendix XIII, page 519.
The measures that were thus recommended are, of course, in no sense representative of a complete child-welfare or child-health program in this country. It was felt that it would be most logical and most reasonable to select, in the first place, those parts of the child-welfare or child-health problem which were very closely related to the problem of unemployment; in the second place, measures which would attempt to meet the basic needs of children throughout the country, such as the need for economic security when the father is absent from the home and the need for a measure of health protection, which must be supplied through community activities and community agencies; and, in the third place, special social protection when grave conditions of incompetency, neglect, abuse, or defect in the child himself are present.
These principles are incorporated in the three sections of the program relating to aid to dependent children, welfare services for children needing special care, and maternal and child-health services, including services for crippled children--a group of handicapped children needing special attention. Other handicapped groups--the feeble-minded, the blind, and the deaf--have not been included in the program except insofar as the child-health services and the social services provided will place our local communities in a very much better position to find out where there are children in need of care, to bring together existing resources, and to develop further experience concerning the total child-care problem in the country.
The provisions with reference to security for children do not contemplate any lessening of the burden now being carried by State and local agencies or by private voluntary agencies, which are rendering very great service to children in this country. The program recommended would attempt to make universally available throughout the United States certain minimum measures of public protection, without which any private effort or any purely local effort is bound to be uneven and most inadequate in the places and areas where children are in the greatest need.
Moreover, the recommendations regarding security for children do not set up any new or untried methods of procedure, but build upon experience that has been well established in this country. In that sense the children's security measures are essentially American measures, building upon American experience and designed to establish a foundation of Federal, State, and local cooperation which will not lead to any difficult administrative realms or to any unpredictable costs.