Remarks on the Funds for Parents Act, ca. September 26, 1913

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In Illinois the Widows' Pension, or as it is technically called, "The Funds to Parents Act," has been in operation for two years. I am most familiar with it as it is administered through the Juvenile Court of Cook County for the benefit of Chicago children. The enactment of this law was urged by Judge Pinckney of the Juvenile Court on the ground that so long as the County paid for dependent children -- $10.00 a month for boys and $15.00 for girls, placed in industrial [schools] it would be no more costly to pay such sums to the mothers and in many cases where the children were separated from their parents solely because of poverty, it would avoid the cruelty and wrong of a family separation. From the beginning of the administration of the law in Cook County it has been most carefully guarded. During the first year, a corps of six assistants, appointed and maintained by the leading Philanthropic organizations of the city, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant, met in conference upon the various cases brought before the court and after careful investigation and discussion recommended to the Court whether or not such cases should receive a pension. Their routine work was not unlike that of the Conference committee of the Charity organization society. The representative at this conference, who had been selected and salaried by the settlements of Chicago had had long experience in the United Charities of the city. Gradually, however, certain probation officers were trained and set aside for this work whose business it is to visit the families receiving the pension in order to see that the money is properly spent for the nourishment and care of the children. At the present moment [out] of the 146 probation officers 17 are in the Mothers' Pension division. One of these officers, [page 2] living at Hull-House, who is a graduate of the School of Civics and Philanthropy, testifies that her daily work is very similar to that which she performed for a year for the United Charities of Chicago. The chief probation officer who was formerly identified with Philanthropic and Reform organizations is convinced that the work in this department compares favorably with that carried on by charitable societies. It is, of course, a matter of little consequence whether carefully trained people devoting their time to "the widow and the fatherless" are salaried from the donations of benevolent people or from the taxes which these [same] people and many others have paid into the public treasury, provided only that the work is well done. The first year of the operation of the Funds to Parents Act, Cook County paid in this way $75000; the estimated budget for this year was $250,000, although the number of dependent children sent to the industrial schools was not lessened but actually increased. At the last session of the legislature the law was amended, so that no children could be beneficiaries of this fund whose fathers had not been naturalized, the children whose fathers had deserted were also deprived of the advantage of the fund. The first restriction is being somewhat modified by the fact that women can now vote in Illinois and that the mothers themselves are thus able to be naturalized, thus making their children eligible, the other children whose fathers have deserted remain as they always do to confound and perplex any agency which endeavors to help them.

It is unnecessary to draw attention to the fact that the administration of such a large fund affords an opportunity for political corruption. There is no doubt that it must be guarded, but our experience in Chicago shows definitely that it can be properly safe-guarded.