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The Assistant Secretary attended meetings held by the Westchester County Committee, at the Almshouse, on June 4th and October 10th. The institution seemed to be in good condition considering its age. In some parts of the building, especially in the hospital and on the top floor, the ventilation was very poor. The overcrowding was also noticeable. The plans of the new hospital were seen and seemed to promise a great improvement in the accommodation of the sick.
The Superintendent of the Poor employs two agents to assist him in placing-out children in free family homes. During the past year these agents have taken 56 children from institutions and placed them in families.
Yates County.-The remodelling of the laundry advocated in our report last year has been secured this year. Other improvements are new floors in the men's side, aud the painting of a portion of the building. The special needs are better accommodation for the sick, protection against fire, and a new roof. The Committee reports that the general administration of the insti. tution has improved and is very satisfactory.
VISITORS TO STATE CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS.
The State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women at Newark has been visited quarterly by the two visitors appointed for that work. Full reports of the thorough and intelligent inspection made by these visitors have been submitted to the Association. We regret that space allows of our publishing only an abstract of these valuable and interesting communications.
During the year the institution has maintained a population of nearly 400. It is in its usual excellent condition and continues to be ably managed by the intelligent, conscientious and sympathetic Superintendent and Matron who had brought it to so high a position in past years. These officials have been assisted by carefully selected and efficient employees. The inmates are treated with uniform patience and consideration. An example of this is seen in the punishments devised for cases that need discipline. Unruly girls are made to sit silent or are sent to bed or kept from meals, or in extreme cases confined alone in a pleasant isolated room well lighted and furnished. The most effective method of punishment consists in sending a girl to a building occupied by inmates of lower grade. Discipline is chiefly enforced through the excellent, because most natural, system of rewards and deprivations-good behavior entitles a girl to certain recreations and other privileges, while bad behavior is followed by the denial of these recreations and the withdrawal of special privileges.
Among the improvements secured during the past year is a large new clothes-room. The dresses of the inmates are hung on portable stands furnished with double hooks. Several hun. dred garments are thus simultaneously exposed to the air. Oiling and waxing the floors instead of scrubbing them has resulted in a decided decrease in the prevalence of throat troubles among the inmates.
The completion of the boiler-house and the building of a new cottage for which appropriations have been made, have unfortunately been delayed by a disagreement among members of the Board of Managers as to the best location for the proposed buildings. The number of needy cases that await ailmission to this institution is so great that unnecessary delay in enlarging the institution is particularly to be deplored.
It is complained that many women when received at the institution are not in a state of personal cleanliness. It seems not unreasonable to expect that persons sent to the State Charitable Institutions should be as well fitted out as persons sent to State Hospitals for the Insane, and if this cannot be attained without a law requiring it, there should be such legal regulation as now exists in the case of persons committed to State Hospitals.
LEGISLATION PROPOSED IN 1898.
The Association made it its duty in 1898, as in previous years, to examine carefully all bills introduced in either branch of the Legislature. Bills affecting the administration of charity were referred to appropriate committees of the Association, and were carefully considered. Such action as seemed advisable was then taken to secure their passage, amendment or defeat. The amount of proposed legislation relating to charitable interests is surprising, and the legislative work of the Association during the winter season occupies a large portion of the time of its active workers.
“DESTITUTE MOTHERS Our last report announced the passage by the Legislature and the disapproval by the Mayor of New York City, and consequent failure, of a bill called by its author “The Destitute Mothers' Bill,” though its scope was in no way limited to cases of destitution or to the aid of mothers. In brief, the bill provided that any child who had been committed to an institution might be returned to its parents by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and that thereafter the Comptroller should pay said Society, to be handed by it to the parents of the child, the same amount of money that the institution had theretofore been receiving for it. The above-mentioned Society was also empowered to take the child away from its parents and return it to the institution at any time during its minority, if, in the judgment of the Society, the interests of the child would be benefited thereby. The Society and the Comptroller were to make rules and regulations for carrying out the provisions of the law. The grounds of our opposition to the bill were stated in the following resolutions adopted by the Board of Managers:
Resolved, That the State Charities Aid Association respectfully requests His Honor the Mayor to return the bill without his approval, for the following reasons:
1. The proposed legislation would establish in this city a system of public out-door relief, a system which in large cities has always been found to promote pauperism, to discourage self-reliance and thrift, and to be especially liable to flagrant abuses.
2. The system of out-door relief proposed by the bill is particularly dangerous and objectionable in that it proposes a grant of a fixed sum of money per year for each child, without reference to the particular circumstances and needs of the family or to changes that may occur in such circumstances.
3. The bill places the entire responsibility for the actual administration of the proposed system of out-door relief in the hands of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which is a private corporation and has no direct responsibility to the people of this city.
4. The bill authorizes the summary recommitment by such society, of children who may be discharged from institutions under the bill, and who may subsequently have been with their parents for a term of years-a power which is now, and should ever be, entrusted to none but duly constituted judicial authorities, and the exercise of wbich should be safeguarded by the statutory requirement that in every case there shall be a hearing, after due notice to all parties concerned, and that there shall be a record of the evidence presented.
5. The duty of formulating rules and regulations to goveru the administration of such out-door relief is imposed solely upon the Comptroller of New York City and the above mentioned 'So. ciety, no part of such responsibility being vested in the Mayor of the city, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, or the Department of Public Charities, which in all other respects is charged with the public relief of the poor of this city.
Resolved, That we desire to hereby place on record our conviction that children should not be committed to institutions for the sole reason that their parents are destitute, except as a last resort, and that cases of hardship should be obviated, so far as possible, through a more effective co-operation between private relief-giving charities and committing authorities, and not through public out-door relief.
Although the bill was opposed in 1897 by practically all the charitable societies, it was again introduced on the first day of the session of 1898. The Association at once filed a request for a hearing and notified the leading charitable agencies of the city that the bill had again been introduced. The President of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stated in reply to a communication from the President of this Association, that the Board of Managers of that Society had adopted a resolution expressing their unwillingness to accept the power sought to be conferred, as some of the provisions did not properly come within their corporate functions. A conference of charitable societies and institutions was called by this Association, in connection with four other societies, to consider the bill and take suitable action in regard to it. Twenty-four different institutions were represented at the conference; resolutions were adopted disapproving of the bill, and a committee was appointed to act in behalf of the conference. On the 8th of February a hearing was had before the Senate Committee on Cities, the Secretary of this Association being one of the speakers in opposition to the bill. The only speaker in favor of the bill was its introducer. From all the various societies engaged in the relief and care of the poor in the City of New York, not a single voice was heard in its support. The charities were united” and their opposition was effective, for the bill made no progress in the Legislature.
The resolutions adopted by the Board of Managers of this Association expressed the conviction that children should not be committed to institutions for the sole reason that their parents are destitute, except as a last resort, and that cases of hardship should be relieved through a more effective co.operation between private relief-giving charities and committing authorities, and not through public out-door relief. We are glad to be able to report that during the past summer the Charity Organization Society has taken up tentatively the work of securing assistance for parents who are proper persons to care for their children, but are in such reduced circumstances that they have applied for their commitment, the Society's object being to enable them to retain their children in their own
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has also expressed a willingness to assist worthy families who would otherwise be obliged to have their children sent to institutions, and the United Hebrew Charities has cared for families of this nature referred to it. We sincerely hope that these Societies will continue and extend this work, which is open to none of the objections which were so strongly, and justly, urged against the Ahearn bill. That there were cases of grievous hardship of the nature described by Senator Ahearn, and which his bill was intended to relieve, is not doubted, but if the plan above referred to is fully carried out, on the lines of the experiment already made, there should be no such hardships in the future.
BILL TO REGULATE THE PLACING-OUT OF CHILDREN. Our last report noted the passage of a bill by the Legislature, which failed to receive the approval of the Governor, authorizing the State Board of Charities to establish rules regulating the placing-out of children, requiring that the children should be placed with persons of their own religious faith; and that