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A^ 9 6


Bureau Publication No. 53



Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Perhaps the most important time in a child’s life, and the one
most fraught with danger, is when he leaves school and enters in­
dustrial life.
Each year an army of over 1,000,000 children between the ages
of 14 and 16 marches out of the schools of this country to become wage
earners. This does not include the children under 14 years of age,
who, in a number of States, are permitted to work at that early age.
During the past year the. number of employed children has greatly
increased because of the war. The great majority of children enter­
ing industry leave school before the seventh grade is reached; many
of them can barely pass the literacy test in order to get their work­
ing papers, and others are wholly illiterate. With only a meager
education in many cases and without guidance these children are
thrown upon their own resources to find a job in any way they can.
The school’s obligation to these boys and girls suddenly comes to
an end and they are left to use or waste the education it has given
them. For the-children who come from better homes the school
provides education and supervision up to the age of 18, or through
high school; but for the children whose school days end as soon
as the law allows, the school permits chance circumstance to make
or mar their careers between the school-leaving age and 18.
There are a few children who are assisted to suitable openings by
their parents. The parents of these children have observed their
children’s tastes and talents, they have discussed them with the
teachers and they make it a point to know as much as they can about
the opportunities in the occupations for which the children seem to
be qualified. For these children the community should have little
concern. A large number of parents would gladly do well by their
children but their knowledge of the opportunities open to boys and
girls is meager. They do not know how to find work for a child.
They do not know what would be best for the child to do. Still
other parents are concerned only for the immediate financial return
for their child’s labor. They are in very real need of what the
child can earn, or they do not see the advantage of sacrificing pres­
ent comfort to the child’s future.

97674°— 19
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

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Where care and foresight and knowledge of industries are lacking
on the part of the parents the children are left to their own resources
and inclinations. They leave school, many of them, on the very day
they reach 14 and start on their aimless search for a job, making the
rounds of the factories and office buildings in their neighborhoods
and answering the advertisements in the newspapers.
Notwithstanding the hit-or-miss method used in finding work, and
the accompanying dangers, there are some boys and girls who turn
out quite satisfactorily. Large numbers of these children, however,
get into “blind-alley” jobs that demand no skill and offer little op­
portunity for advancement. The work they do is not educative; they
are not learning anything that will be of use to them in later life.
When they are too old for a child’s task and a child’s wage their
places are filled by younger boys and girls while they, having neither
skill nor ambition, drift among the casual workers or the unem­
Many other children find work which they do not like or for
which they have no ability or aptitude. They tire of the monotony
of the mechanical processes which children do, they grow restless,
and so they leave. They go from job to job, hoping that somewhere
they may find work a little more congenial and more interesting.
As a result they acquire neither progressive skill nor the capacity
for steady employment. Other children drift into occupations for
which they are physically unfitted. Their health suffers temporarily
or permanently and the injury that results has far-reaching social
Others, again, are without employment for some time after they
leave school, for in many States the law does not require that the
child first have'a job before he is excused from school attendance.
These children, free to roam on the streets, tend to become undis­
ciplined and often fall into bad habits.
These conditions which confront the working child in times of
peace were accentuated in war time. Now that the war has ceased
there will be a shifting in industry. Large numbers of children
now at work will doubtless be thrown out of employment because
they will no longer be needed. Many children who have been accus­
tomed to high wages will not readily accept the lower wages which
will doubtless follow the end of the war. There will be others who
will take .the first job that offers in order to start earning as soon as
possible. Many employers will prefer the children just leaving
school to those who have already worked, and the child who has
worked for some time will not want to return to school. Many
children will be idle for long periods before finding work; they will
require advice and assistance in regard to employment. If the
children thrown out of positions can not be returned to the school
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



which they left, special classes should be provided for them and
special training should be given them until employment is found.
Every effort should be made to keep in school those children whom
the law permits to go to work.

England is much concerned with the problem of juvenile workers
after the war and for several years has been working out a plan for
protecting the industrial future of its children. This plan provides
for supervision, during the first three years of their working lives,
of the vast majority of children who leave the elementary schools.
The establishment of a national system of labor exchanges, with
separate juvenile departments, made some provision for the care of
juvenile workers. I t was found, however, that a juvenile depart­
ment in a labor exchange would not in itself protect the children
who were going to work. The closest cooperation with the schools
was necessary. In 1910 the Education (Choice of Employment)
Act gave the local education authorities power to—
Make arrangements, subject to tbe approval of the National Board of Educa­
tion, for giving to boys and girls under seventeen years of age assistance with
respect to the choice of suitable employment by means of the collection and
the communication of information and the furnishing of advice ; and on Jan­
uary 3, 1911, the President of the Board of Trade and the President of the
Board of Education issued a joint memorandum outlining a scheme which pro­
vided for cooperation between local authorities exercising their power under
the new act and the Board of Trade working through the labor exchanges.

The purpose of this scheme is as follows :
(A) To see that children on leaving school enter as far as possible the
trade for which they are best suited. This involves a knowledge of the child’s
educational qualifications, physical condition, and his own and his parents’
wishes as to employment.
(B ) To see that children who enter “ blind-alley” employment qualify them­
selves when possible to undertake other work by attendance at evening school
and classes, clubs and similar societies.
(C) To provide for each child who is in need of advice and guidance a friend
who will endeavor to keep the child in touch with healthy ideals and pursuits
and watch over his industrial progress.
As this system is perfected the. parents of all children should have the oppor­
tunity of obtaining expert advice as to suitable openings, while the future of
every child will be a matter of active concern to those who have been interested
in his education.

The supervision of juvenile labor in England has been looked upon
for some time as a national responsibility and for the past four years
even more thought has been given to the care of working children. In
the report of the Great Britain Departmental Committee on Juvenile
Education in Relation to Employment After the War it is urged that
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all municipalities under the Education (Choice of Employment) Act
be compelled “ to set up machinery for dealing with adolescent labor,”
so that all children may have the benefit of advice and guidance and
supervision after they start to work; that special classes be provided
for children who are thrown out of employment after the war and that
maintenance scholarships be granted to children whose earnings are
needed at home in order that they may attend these classes until em­
ployment is found. I t was urged, u in the national interest, that all
children be given a good chance of health and satisfactory employ­
ment and above all of developing character and giving them life, not a

I t is quite urgent that we in this country, as a reconstruction meas­
ure and as a work that should be developed to meet the needs of over
2,000,000 children, should make some provision in every community
to prevent the wastage that comes from a child’s walking the streets
in search of a job and still more from his haphazard choice of em­
ployment. No nation can or ought to afford this waste of human
resources. These considerations call for some organization in the
schools, or in connection with the schools, for supplying knowledge
to those who seek it, and for offering guidance to those who need it,
for assisting in finding suitable openings for children, and for super­
vising their employment and continued education. This scheme for
following children into the industrial world should not only safe­
guard the working children but it should, if intelligently carried out,
be of real value to the school.
The school through its contact with industries, with homes, and
with neighborhoods .and all the agencies that contribute toward the
development of youth would be enabled to keep ever before it the for­
tunes of its chiddren; it would be in a position to see where they suc­
ceed and where they fail and would be able to criticize intelligently
the training which it gives as well as the occupations into which the
children go; it would be better able also to plan the curriculum in the
best interest of the child.
So far, in this country, little attention has been given to the afterschool careers of boys and girls and only a few cpmmunities have pro­
vided any safeguards for their health or individual development or
social efficiency. The Child Conservation Section of the Council of
National Defense may aid in starting a piece of work which will be
of great value to the child, to the school, and to society.
No attempt is made in this leaflet to outline a general plan or
policy, or to go into the subject of vocational guidance and its rela­
tion to vocational education. Vocational guidance is still in its
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experimental stage and general policies can not be formulated. I t
is intended only to point out the need for some machinery in the
school, or in connection with the school, for adequately protecting
children who leave school to go to work, and to offer suggestions
to the local committees for meeting the problem in -their own
Most of the work accomplished along this line in the United
States has been started by privately financed organizations and in
a number of places has later been taken over by the schools.
In undertaking work of this sort it is important to get the coop­
eration of the schools and of the employers. In several cities where
the salaries of the workers are paid by private organizations the
work is carried on in the school under the supervision of the super­
intendent. While local committees may do much in stimulating pub­
lic opinion and in organizing resources, the carrying out of the
plan must be in the hands of some responsible and competent indi­
vidual who is familiar with school problems and industrial condi­
tions. If a person with such training and experience can not be
found in the community a teacher might be selected to do the
work. She should first, however, gather knowledge of local indus­
tries by visiting the shops, the offices, the factories, and by inter­
viewing employers and labor officials, and children who have al­
ready worked. Perhaps there is, no better way of learning about
an occupation or the conditions in shops than through the experi­
ences- of working children. In order to find out what kind of work
the children of a community are engaged in, the wages paid, and
the opportunities for advancement the children from several schools
who have been at work two or three years might be followed up
by visits to their homes. This follow-up work done in close coop­
eration with the .school should serve to bring the school in contact
with working children and should give it valuable information to
use in advising pupils. All facts and information concerning the
occupations and industries in a community should be kept up to
date, for conditions in industries are ever changing. This informa. tion would be helpful in advising the children and improving the
schools and should be made available to the parents, the teachers,
and the children themselves.
In some cities in this country and in England and Scotland book­
lets or leaflets on occupations open to boys and girls have been pub­
lished. They give the requirements for entering an industry or an
occupation, the character of the work, the advantages and disadvan­
tages, the opportunities for advancement, the hours of labor, and the
wages offered. Children should have such knowledge of opportuni­
ties open to them before they leave school.
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In advising children who are leaving school for employment an
effort should be made to reach them before they have obtained their
employment certificates, for the first aim in any such undertaking
should be to encourage boys and girls to remain in school longer.
Children frequently leave school thoughtlessly; they are tired of
school, they become restless, or they want to earn money. Often the
parents are indifferent or fail to see the value of an education. On
the other hand, they do not know conditions in industry and the few
opportunities for skilled work open to children under 16 years of
age. When parents are told that the number of good openings for
children under 16 are limited; the advantages of getting a child well
trained instead of making him an immediate wage earner; the mate­
rial value to the child of health, character, and skill if he remains in
school longer; of the training available that will fit the child for
the work he would most like to do, the parents are often willing to
keep the children in school longer and the children are more content
to stay.
In one city where a bureau for advising and placing children has
been established as a part of the school organization, every child who
comes to the bureau is urged to return to school if, after consultation
with the child, the parent, and the teacher, that seems the wise thing
to do. As a result from 25 to 30 per cent of the children who come to
the bureau are returned to school; sometimes this bureau finds it
takes very little encouragement to accomplish this. It is only neces­
sary to point out to the parents the advantages of an education and
the poor opportunities open to boys and girls so young, to convince
them that after all school is the best place for children. They find
many children, however, who are leaving school because they do not
like it. They are not being benefited by the regular school work;
yet they would stay and make progress if the school offered industrial
training to meet their needs. Where possible, these children are
transferred to schools where they may get that training. Such a
bureau should do much to encourage the extension of vocational and
industrial training in the school.
This bureau found at first that it was useless to urge the children
of very poor parents to return to school no matter how eager they
were to continue their education, so, through this bureau, a scholar­
ship fund was established by a volunteer committee to enable such
children to remain in school longer.
A plan for advising and placing children should include some
provision for giving scholarships to children who can not stay in
school without such assistance because their earnings are needed for
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the support of the family. A leaflet on scholarships for children has
already been published by the Children’s Bureau.
Talks might be given to children while they are still in school on
the advantages of an education and the opportunities in school and
industry open to boys and girls. These talks should not be made
too general but should include facts relating to local industries and
occupations that will be of practical value. Similar talks might be
arranged for the parents. Such meetings might lead to conferences
with individual parents, in which the plans for the child are dis­
cussed. •
If a conference can not be held with the parents before the child
leaves school, a letter might be sent to them from the school urging
their cooperation in keeping the child in school longer and pointing
out to them, the dangers of sending a child to work too young.
In one city the following letter was sent to parents of children
leaving school:
D ear S ir


M adam :

Your (daughter or son) informs me that (she or he) does not
expect to return to school. There is little chance for boys or girls
to secure good work until they are 16 years of age. The trades never
admit boys under 16, and few offices will employ boys or mrls so
As a result, children who leave school at 14 are compelled to take
up factory or errand work. This work may offer a good wage at the
beginning, but it gives no training and does not prepare the bov or
girl to earn a living in later life.
Much of the work open to children is seasonal, and the boys or girls
are generally laid off after a few weeks. The result is that the ma­
jority of children work about half the time, until they are 16. The
rest of the time is spent in idleness, and they are on the streets, where
they often get into trouble. By the time they are 16 they have little
desire to work.
. Since these are the conditions, we would like to help you in urg­
ing your child to continue in school until he (she) is at least 16 years
of age. I he schools offer training which prepares for work'in a
trade, including dressmaking, millinery, etc., for girls, and carpentry,
electrical, and machine-shop work, pattern making, and mechanical
drawing for boys, or for office work, including stenography, type­
writing, and bookkeeping. Two more years of training will mean
increased 'wages later.
We shall be glad to talk with you'concerning future plans for your
daughter or son if you will call at the office of the Bureau of Voca­
tional Supervision.
In some cities the work of advising children is connected with the
employment-certificate bureau. All the children leaving school then
have the benefit of s^me advice and guidance before going to work.
An effort may be made to return them to school, or if they must go
to work they may be advised regarding employment and kept from
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doing work that may be harmful. Any attempt to advise children
means not only a thorough investigation into opportunities of em­
ployment open to children but a careful study of the particular child.
I t means interviews with the child before he leaves school to find out
what he wants to do and thinks he can do ; interviews with the parents
in the home, if possible, to find out what their ambitions are for the
child and along what lines they think his capabilities lie; and inter­
views with the teacher to learn what she believes him to be fitted foi
mentally and physically.

I f there is no hope of keeping the child in school longer, then there
is the selection from among all the available jobs that can be found
of the job to which the child seems best adapted. Frequently it is
necessary to persuade a child to give up a job that offers a high wage
but has no future and to persuade him and his parents that it is
better to take a job where he will learn as well as earn, though the
wage at first may be smaller. Then it is important to keep in con­
stant communication with the child after he has been placed in
Placement saves the child from the dangers of wandering the
streets in search of a job and from choosing a job haphazardly.
Better ways of getting work are needed and the community must do
what it can to take the matter out of the realm of chance. The place­
ment of boys and girls under 18 years of age is an educational
Up to the age of 18, at least, schooling should never cease. Too
early employment should be discouraged and when it is unavoidable
it should be regarded from the standpoint of its effect upon the de­
velopment of the child physically, mentally, and morally. In plac­
ing children in occupations the present welfare of the child should
be the first consideration rather than the immediate earnings of the
child or the benefit of the family or of the employer.
The task of placing children should be in the hands of some one
who possesses educational ideals and who knows school problems and
the opportunities for training as thoroughly as he or she knows con­
ditions in industry. A very close relationship exists between the
school career and the industrial career of the child. The schools then
should be brought into close touch with industries.
England found that the closest connection must exist between the
school and the juvenile-labor exchange if the best possible chance was
to be given the child. In that country the juvenile department of the
labor exchange is under the supervision of the^school. The Educa­
tion (Choice of Employment) Act, 1910, gave the education author­
ities power to appoint a central care committee to bring about co
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



operation between the school and the juvenile-labor exchange. The
central care committee has the power to advise as to employment, to
exercise a decisive voice in the placement of juveniles, to appoint
members to be in attendance at the juvenile exchange, to determine
the location of the juvenile employment office, to follow up through
the school care committee the children who have been placed. Under
this scheme the school records of the children are available to those
in charge of the placement work, as are also the school physicians’
reports, which are necessary in placing children but which would
not be readily accessible to an employment bureau not connected with
the schools. Children and parents who would not otherwise do so
make use of the bureau because it is under the supervision of the
In a number of cities in this country the schools have undertaken
placement work. The placement bureau should cooperate with em­
ployers and urge them to notify it whenever there are vacancies.
One advantage in having the placement of boys and girls closely
identified with the schools is that if there are no available jobs chil­
dren may be retained in school until there is an opening. Another
reason for conducting the juvenile placement office in close relation to
the school lies in the fact that in most States the school issues the
employment certificates to children who work and is in a position to
develop a follow-up system which would strengthen the enforcement
of the child-labor laws. -A placement office which operates in con­
nection with the employment-certificate office has an advantage in
that it is sure of getting in contact with every child of employmentcertificate age leaving school.
In some communities there are already well-organized free employ­
ment bureaus that may be able to handle the placement of juveniles.
All employment work should, if possible, be centralized to serve all
classes of people. The juvenile department should, however, be sep­
arate from the adult departments. There should be some form of
joint control by the school and the juvenile-employment office, so
that the employment bureau will serve both as a school office and a
placement office. A committee composed of school people, employers,
and labor officials might be appointed to bring about cooperation be­
tween the juvenile-employment office and the school.
The Boys’ Working Reserve, in connection with the Employment
Service of the United States Department of Labor is planning to
provide junior counselors in the local branches of the Employment
Service whose first duty will be to make an effort to return to school
boys under 18 who apply for positions. If argument fails and the
boy insists on going to work, the counselor will urge that he take
only a position well suited to his future development. The coun-
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selor will also arrange, if possible, for the boy to take up a continua­
tion course of study suited to the applicant’s capabilities.
If the school is to continue its contact with the working child and
provide for his training after he has entered employment, the place­
ment of children should be carried on at least in connection with the

I t is not sufficient that a child be advised regarding his employ­
ment; it is not enough merely to place him in a position. I t is quite
important to know that he has been suitably placed. In order that
the school may be able to test the value of its work, it should know the
progress of the child from the point of view of the parent, the child,
and the employer. A child may have been placed in a position for
which he is physically unfitted, or he may. have secured work which
is of a temporary nature or which offers no opportunity for advance­
ment; it is desirable to find him other employment. He may need
further training in order to advance in the work he has chosen; he
should be informed where he may get that training. A child may
want to change his job frequently; it is necessary to counteract the
aimless drifting or to see that, if a change is advisable, it is made for
the child’s benefit and that there is no interval of unemployment
between jobs.
I t may be thought that the supervision should be left to the
parents. If supervision meant nothing more than looking after the
child, it should ; but it means testing and revising the work of the
school, it means^ bettering conditions in industry. And the coopera­
tion of the parents is necessary in any such undertaking.
In parts of England and Scotland a scheme for following up chil­
dren who have left school to go to work has been developed by the
local school care committees, which are appointed for each elementary
school and work in cooperation with the juvenile-employment offices.
These have demonstrated their usefulness in the last few years and
England is now urging that this plan of after care be developed in
every community aftei the war.
Employment supervision in this country would not only benefit
the individual child, but the knowledge obtained concerning the con­
ditions under which children work would undoubtedly awaken pub­
lic opinion and would lead to. higher minimum standards for all
No general schemes have so far been devised in this country for
supervising the employment of children. In a few cities children
have been followed up by the school after they have gone to work,
but little attempt has so far been made to supervise the employment
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of the great mass of children who leave school at an early age and
who need help and guidance.
A few States, through legislation, have an opportunity to super­
vise the employment of children. This legislation provides that no
child shall leave school until he has a position in view. The employ­
ment certificate issued by the superintendent of schools is mailed to
the employer instead of being given to the child. When the child
is discharged or leaves his position for any reason, the certificate is
mailed back to the school authorities, who know immediately that the
child is not at work and so should see that he is returned to school
until he secures another position. If the child must return to the em­
ployment-certificate office of the school each time he changes posi­
tions, the school has an opportunity to question the child regarding
his employment, to find out why he left his position, to advise him
and to help him choose the next job more wisely. This plan enables
the school to collect a vast amount of information regarding the in­
dustrial careers of children, and the information thus obtained should
serve to assist the schools in planning the curriculum for the benefit
of the children. The certificate office is given a measure of supervi­
sion over working children up to the age of 16 and is enabled to en­
force the regulations about the kinds of work permitted children as
well as those concerning the hours of employment. This scheme is
not effective unless the law is well enforced and unless the school pro­
vides some one to offer advice and assistance to children who return
for new employment certificates.
A scheme for placement and supervision of juveniles is not com­
plete unless it includes some provision for further training.

In order that working children may be trained to be efficient in
their work and may be able to lift themselves out of the blind-alley,
jobs in which they find themselves upon leaving school and entering
industry, they should have an opportunity to attend continuation
classes. In order to be effective these classes should be compulsory
and should be held in the daytime. No employer should be allowed
to engage a child except under conditions which will enable the
child to attend on the employer’s time. ■When the child is out of
employment his hours at continuation classes might be increased until
employment is found. With the establishment of continuation
schools all children up to the age of 18 would be under the guiding
influence of the school and would have an opportunity to increase
their industrial efficiency.
England as a reconstruction measure made provision in the new
Education Act which was passed by Parliament in August, 1918, for
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day continuation classes for employed children from 14 to 18 years
of age. In this country only a few States have legislation providing
for continuation schools. The Federal law, known as the SmithHughes Act, provides that one-half of the sum expended for salaries
of teachers of vocational studies will be returned to the local com­
munities from the National Treasury. The quality of this instruc­
tion is standardized. This law will undoubtedly influence States to
make provision for continuation schools.
The Child Conservation Section, with its State organizations reach­
ing into every community in the State, has an opportunity to stir
public opinion and to push legislation providing for the establish­
ment of continuation schools, and to see that the schools in every
community provide for such instruction. It might be well for local
committees to get in touch with the Federal Board for Vocational
Education and the State department of education, which in many
cases includes a vocational education board, to find out how the com­
mittees might help to start continuation schools in their communities.
Perhaps no constructive work that may be Undertaken is more im­
portant than the work of advising children in their choice of employ­
ment and supervising them during the first few years of their work­
ing lives. The Child Conservation Section of the Field Division of
the Council of National Defense, in cooperation with the schools, has
an opportunity to render a service that will affect not only the wel­
fare of the children in helping them to get the proper start in life
but also the educational, industrial, physical, and spiritual nealth of
the community.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis