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® aW
Bureau Publication No. 224

3 L i.l



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington. D.C.
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Price 5 cents
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Letter of transmittal____________________________________________________
Local public social welfare services_____________________________________
Local authorities responsible for social services_;____________________
Special county welfare agencies_____________________________________
County agencies providing single type of care__________________
County welfare boards or officials with broad responsibilities____
Progress in county welfare organization_________________________________ 11
The State in county development____________________________ _______ 11
Development of services and standards_______________________________ 14
Types of recognized programs_________________________________ 14
Use of paid workers--------------------------------------------------------------------- 16
County welfare programs in 16 States_____________________________________ 23
County welfare agencies established by statute______________________
Extent of application of the laws_______________________________ 23
County welfare boards____________________________________________ 25
County welfare officials_________________________________________ 32
County programs developed without special legislation_____________ _ 33
Scope of activities of county welfare agencies_________________________ 36
Special services for children_____________________________________ 37
Other county services_______________________________ .____________ 41
Coordination o f county and State services_________________________ 42
State supervision__________________ l_________________________________ 44
Summary and conclusions________________________________________________ 46

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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


U n it e d S tates D e p a r t m e n t of L abor ,
C h il d r e n ’ s B u r e a u ,

Washington, July 28,1933.
M ad am : There is transmitted herewith a report on the County as

an Administrative Unit for Social Work, which analyzes the present
status o f county organization in the United States and shows the
developments that have occurred since the earlier publications of
the Children’s Bureau on the same general subject (nos. 107, 167,
and 173) in 1922, 1926, and 1927.
Information as to the activities of State departments in the devel­
opment of county social services was obtained from published reports,
from correspondence, and from field visits made in connection with a
study by the Social Service Division of the Children’s Bureau of the
child-welfare work of State departments of welfare. The report
was written by Mary Ruth Colby under the direction of Agnes K.
Hanna, Director of the Social Service Division.
Experience shows that local public agencies employing a profes­
sional staff and serving an area o f at least one county are necessary
to insure that the rural as well as the urban population is adequately
served, that acute social problems do not develop, and that there is
a proper distribution of functions and cooperation between State and
local agencies. Assistance from a well-organized State department
o f public welfare and State financial aid have contributed greatly to
the success of county social programs.
The Children’s Bureau is greatly indebted for assistance given in
the preparation o f the report by State departments, local county
units, and private agencies that have assisted in the development of
State social-welfare programs.
Respectfully submitted.
G race A bbott , Chief.
Hon. F rances P e r k in s ,
Secretary o f Labor.
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In the United States local public responsibility for'the social wel­
fare o f persons living within a prescribed area was first recognized
in the administration of poor relief. In England each parish had
been responsible for its own poor; hence it was quite natural that in
the new country into which had been carried English traditions and
customs the town should be accepted as the local administrative unit.
In the New England States the town was the universal unit, but
elsewhere a larger area, the county, was generally accepted. The
adoption of these two types of local administrative units can prob­
ably be explained by the fact that in New England colonization was
in compact communities, whereas in the South, West, and Midwest,
where there was a paucity of towns, greater need existed for includ­
ing a wider area in the governmental unit. However, even in these
regions the county has not always been the unit within a single State
for all purposes. In some States both town and county systems have
existed side by side, largely because the early settlers in certain coun­
ties were New Englanders and unwilling to give up the town plan.
Although in most States many counties are small for an administra­
tive unit in view of present-day transportation facilities, there has
been general recognition that it is as yet the most practical unit for
the administration of a local social welfare program. The White
House Conference on Child Health and Protection, through its sub­
committee on the administration of local public units of child care,
arrived at the following conclusion:
The county is generally the most practicable unit for the administration of
child care. The majority of the problems of handicapped children require study
and treatment by an agency which is close at hand. To be effective, service
must be immediately available in the neighborhood of the trouble. Only through
such close-at-hand service as can be given by a county agency can an early
discovery of the case be assured, with home treatment whenever possible, and
the development of preventive measures.
The State welfare department, except perhaps in the smallest States, is too
far removed to assume case-work responsibility within the counties, or directly
to influence conditions which are creating dependency or contributing to physical
or mental disorders. The town or township, on the other hand, is usually too
small a unit for social-service administration. Expertness in the field o f social
service, as in any other field, is developed only by practice on a sufficiently large
scale to permit familiarity with many types of care and an observation o f com­
parative results. The number of cases to be dealt with in a town is compara­
tively small, and in addition the basis o f taxation is too limited to meet the
necessary costs of adequate social service. In States having town administra­
tion a group of towns or in States where counties are small in area and popula-

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tion, a group of counties possibly could be combined to form a practicable
administrative unit.1

The suggestion that several counties be merged into a single ad­
ministrative unit is in line with the modem political science view­
point. For some time leaders in political science have urged the
union o f small counties as economically advisable, and in the present
financial crisis union may become a necessity as counties are finding
the burden of supporting their local government more than they can

Until the close of the nineteenth century poor relief, or home relief
as it is called in some States, was practically the only form o f social
service other than institutional care. The administrative unit for
this type o f service has been either the town or the county. When
the town has been used the administering agent has most often
been a township trustee or supervisor or an official known as the
overseer o f the poor, and when the county plan is followed a county
commissioner. In the large cities, however, the volume of work has
made it necessary to employ full-time workers to attend to the ad­
ministrative details, but even in these urban areas the employment
o f qualified persons for this type of work has not been general. Too
often politics rather than training has been the basis of selection of
personnel. Administration o f relief in rural sections almost uni­
versally has been only incidental to other duties. The major re­
sponsibility of the county commissioners is the administration of the
business affairs of the county. In most counties with a small popu­
lation this does not take the whole time of a county commissioner
who, therefore, may also undertake to conduct a private business in
addition to his official duties. An overseer of the poor is rarely ex­
pected to give full-time service. He is often paid on a per diem
basis and may even be limited as to the amount of time for which he
can expect payment for services.
In more than one third of the States administration of poor relief
has been a town or township responsibility, and in these States much
interest is being shown in the centralization o f relief giving and
services to persons in need under a single competent county agency
or official also responsible for administration of county institutions
for the care of the needy, sick, and destitute. The recent organiza­
tion of States for the administration o f unemployment relief has
greatly stimulated this interest.
Mothers’ aid, another form of relief to families, has been a more
recent development. Since the passage o f the first State-wide aid-to1 Organization for the Care o f Handicapped C h ild ren ; report o f the committee on
National, State, and local organization for the handicapped o f the W hite House Confer­
ence on Child H ealth and Protection, pp. 90—91. Century Co., New York., 1932.
2 A study o f the situation in Minnesota produced evidence to the effect that tax rates
per $1,000 valuation and per capita expenditures fo r certain common services were in ­
clined to be much higher in the counties o f small population than in the more populous
counties. In fact, per capita ordinary expenses were found to drop rather steadily as
one proceeded from the least populous to the more populous counties. A sort o f leveling
out In per capita expenditures occurred, however, upon reaching counties having from
28,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. Accordingly, it was suggested that, under M innesota con­
ditions, a county o f about 35,000 could have about as econom ical an adm inistration as
one still larger.
(See The Reorganization o f Local Government in Minnesota, by W illiam
Anderson, in M innesota M unicipalities, vol. 18, no. 3 (M arch 19 33), p. 102. Published
m onthly by the League o f Minnesota M unicipalities in M inneapolis.)
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parents’ law in Illinois in 1911,8 all but two States have enacted
similar laws permitting public aid to children in their own homes.
In a few States mothers’ aid is administered by a central State
agency, but the majority of States have designated a local body for
administration. The juvenile court and the board of county com­
missioners are the two local agencies most often designated, although
there is an increasing tendency toward making local administration
o f mothers’ aid the responsibility of a county welfare board.
The juvenile-court movement, beginning in Chicago in 1899,4
spread rapidly, so that within the next 25 years practically every
State had made some special provision for hearing children’s cases.
The area served by these courts has differed, but in the majority of
States the county has been accepted as the unit. In a few States the
judge hearing such cases serves several counties. In other places
the unit is a single city. With a few exceptions it has been only in
counties with large populations that courts have been separately
organized for children’s cases; elsewhere jurisdiction is usually
vested in some existing branch or branches of the judicial system,
such as the probate court, the circuit court, or the superior court,
the court sitting as a juvenile court only when hearing children’s
cases. A study made by the United States Children’s Bureau in
1918 showed that in only 23 of 2,034 courts reporting were the
judges giving full time to hearing children’s cases.® It is known
that this number has increased somewhat since 1918, but definite
information with regard to this increase has not been available.
Closely associated with the juvenile-court movement there has been
developed provision for juvenile probation. Every State except
Wyoming has now enacted legislation authorizing the employment of
probation officers, although this service may be limited to counties
with large cities. In States in which the provision for probation
service is State wide, it is rarely mandatory, and hence many counties
have not taken advantage of the law. Often volunteer service has
been all that was available or part-time service paid on a per diem
or per case basis, with the result that such officers have usually been
wholly unqualified for their duties.
With the passage o f compulsory school laws during the period
1852-19186 the problem of enforcement became important, and laws
were enacted authorizing or requiring counties and cities to employ
attendance officers. The early attendance officers were little more
than police officers, and all that was expected of them in the locali­
ties where they were appointed was the return of the child to school.
In recent years, however, there has come the realization that the
child’s failure to attend school is an indication of other social prob­
lems, and that attendance officers should be skilled social workers
with ability to recognize these problems and to help in their solu­
tion. In the rural districts, however, the early type of attendance
officer usually prevails if any is appointed. A publication of the
Office of Education,7 issued in 1929, shows that in most States some
* Illinois, Laws o f 1911, p. 126.
4 Illinois, Laws o f 1899, p. 131.
United States Hearing Children’s Cases, by Evelina Beiden, p. 12,
U.S. Children’s Bureau Publication No. 65. W ashington, 1920.
• Social Work Year Book, 1929, p. 102. Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 1930.
7 Laws Relating to Compulsory Education, by W ard W. Keesecker, p. 16. U S Office
o f Education Bull. No. 20, 1928. W ashington, 1929,
182235°— 33------ 2
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legislative provision for the appointment of attendance officers has
been made. In nearly half the States appointment is by a county
school authority, although frequently exceptions are made for ap­
pointment by district school authorities in the larger towns and
cities. In other States appointment is limited to the district school
authorities. The qualifications of these attendance officers differ
widely, as does also the amount of service expected. In the rural
districts oftentimes the attendance officer is a part-time worker ap­
pointed because of his political service rather than for his ability
for this particular position, whereas in the cities higher qualifica­
tions are often demanded. It should be noted, however, that in the
work of the attendance officer another type of welfare service has
been provided on a local basis, which may be the school district or
the county. In fact, a single county may have one attendance officer
responsible for the rural sections within the county and additional
officers serving the town or city school districts.
Local political units have also been made responsible, either alone
or in cooperation with the State, for several forms of special relief
or pensions. Illinois in 1903 inaugurated special county relief for
the blind, and by 1931, 22 other States had enacted similar laws.*
In 17 of these tbie county had at least a part in the administration.
The first old-age pension law, enacted in Alaska in 1915,9 was fo l­
lowed by similar laws in other States, so that by April 1933, 23
States had made provision for old-age security. In several of these
acceptance of the law was made optional with the counties. In all
but two the county either bore the whole burden of administration
or shared this with the State. In the administration of special un­
employment relief the county has likewise become an important fac­
tor. A variety of plans have been followed by the States that have
adopted these forms of relief; in some States special county com­
mittees or boards have been created for administration, in other
States additional duties have been assigned to an already existing
welfare board, and in still others the board of county commissioners
or some other official group functioning in the county for general
purposes has been used.

The fact that children need a different sort o f treatment from
adults was first recognized in the early attempts to prevent the con­
tinued use of the almshouse as a child-caring agency. Accordingly,
private societies and State agencies interested themselves in pro­
viding other types of care for dependent and neglected children.
Ohio was the first State to place this responsibility upon the counties.
A law passed in 1866 authorized counties to establish homes for
children.10 These homes were to be entirely separate from the alms­
houses and were to be controlled by boards of trustees appointed
by the county commissioners. Almost immediately counties accepted
the provisions of the law, and during the next 55 years 60 such homes
8 Social W ork Year Boob, 1933, p. 44. Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 1933.
8 Alaska, Laws o f 1915, ch. 64, p. 116.
10 Ohio, Laws o f 1866, p. 45.
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were established in Ohio’s 88 counties.11 The county children’s home
law was supplemented in 1921 when a law was passed giving the
county commissioners authority to appoint a county child-welfare
board consisting of 4 members, 2 of whom should be women.12 This
board was given the same powers and duties relative to dependent
children as the trustees of county children’s homes but could be
appointed in any county whether or not it maintained such a home.
The board of county commissioners was further authorized to pay
for the board of children placed in private homes under the general
supervision of the county welfare board. As a result of this action
the county children’s homes in some Ohio counties have been aban­
doned, and foster-home care has been substituted for children who
would otherwise be in the county institution.
Indiana in 188113 and Connecticut in 188314 likewise authorized
the creation of county children’s homes. In Indiana boards o f un­
paid visitors were appointed, but actual control was in the hands
of the county commissioners. Later in some counties management
of the county children’s homes was entrusted to “ local associations.”
In 1931 Indiana had 26 county children’s homes in operation.15
Connecticut in 1883 authorized each county in the State to establish
a temporary home for children, and by January 1, 1884, such homes
were opened in each of the eight counties in the State.10 Manage­
ment in this State has been through a county board of 5 members,
each consisting of 3 county commissioners, 1 member of the State
department of health, and 1 member of the State department of
public welfare. Expense is shared by the State and the towns from
which children are committed.
With the creation of State schools for dependent children another
type of county service for dependent children was developed. Michi­
gan in 187417 opened the first State school for dependent children,
to care for all destitute children becoming State charges until they
could be placed in free foster homes. From the beginning a system
of county agents was established to investigate applications *from
families desiring to receive children and to visit the children placed
in homes in the county from any of the State institutions. Michigan
has retained this plan, for county agents, whose services are paid for
by the State and who are appointed by the State welfare commission.
In 1933 the State school was closed. .
Minnesota followed the example o f Michigan and established a
State school for dependent children in 1885.18 In the beginning
Minnesota did not have county agents, but in 1897 county superin­
tendents of schools were made ex-officio agents of the State school
to assist the State agents employed directly by the school. Little use
was made of these county agents, however, and with the passage of
11 Ohio's Dependent Children, by Mary Irene Atkinson.
Connecticut Child W elfare
i'g®Q1jlssion Bull. Imo. 1. H artford, Oct. 11, 1920. (Reprint from the Survey o f July 17,
12 Ohio, Laws o f 1921, p. 533.
18 Indiana, Laws o f 1881, p. 580.
14 Connecticut, Laws o f 1883, ch. 126, p. 305.
w Forty-second Annual R eport o f the Board o f State Charities for the Fiscal Year Ending Sept. 30, 1931, p. 272. Indiana Bull, o f Charities and Correction No. 204, Mav—June
1932. Indianapolis.
" Report o f the Department o f Public W elfare fo r the Two Years Ended June 30, 1928.
PP.. 170, 171. State of Connecticut Public Doc. No. 28, Hartford, 1929.
w The law was enacted in 1871 (Laws o f 1871. p. 28 0).
18 Minnesota, Laws o f 1885, ch. 146, p. 172.
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the county child welfare board law in 1917,19 the former provision
was repealed. A number of other States created State public schools,
but did not follow the Michigan plan for county agents.
Although the plan was never extended widely, at least three States
have officially appointed groups o f lay persons, known as town or
county boards of children’s guardians, for the protection o f children.
In Indiana a law passed in 1891 20 authorized the appointment of
boards o f children’s guardians in counties (original law passed in
1889 was for townships) having a population o f more than 75,000.
In 1893 the law was made applicable to counties of more than 50,000,
and in 1901 it was extended to all counties.21 The present Indiana
county board o f children’s guardians is composed of 6 persons
appointed for a term o f 3 years by the court having juvenile juris­
diction and has as its major duty service to this court. It is author­
ized to appoint the necessary agents to carry out its duties within
a county, which duties include general supervision of the county
children’s home, care of children in the county home, in other insti­
tutions, in private homes, and in their own homes, and general re­
sponsibility for the protection of children. The county council is
required to appropriate and the county commissioners to allow the
funds necessary for this work. Each county board of children’s
guardians, although an independent local agency, is under the gen­
eral supervision o f the State board of charities, to which it must
make such reports as are required. The report of the State board
of charities for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1931, showed
that 88 of Indiana’s 92 counties had complied with the law in the
appointment of a board of children’s guardians.22
Maine in 190523 passed a law giving the governor and council the
right to appoint an agent for the protection of children upon applica­
tion from the proper local authorities. These agents were paid by
the county in which they lived and did their work. In 191724
a mothers’ aid law was passed providing for administration by a
municipal board of children’s guardians, which might be the over­
seers o f the poor, ex officio, or a special board appointed for the
purpose. In 1919 25 the name of the municipal board of mothers’
aid was changed to the municipal board of children’s guardians, the
law authorizing the appointment of a county agent was repealed, and
all guardianship of minor public wards was transferred to the State.
A t the same time, the municipal boards of children’s guardians,
together with several other public agents, were given the responsi­
bilities formerly assigned to the county agent in the protection of
children. The municipal board of children’s guardians in Maine
has never assumed great importance, and in reality does little more
than to cooperate with the State department o f health and welfare
in the administration of mothers’ aid and the protection of children.
In 1921 a law passed in Arizona required the appointment o f a
county child-welfare board in each county, composed o f 4 persons
M Minnesota, Laws o f 1917, ch. 194, p. 281.
20 Indiana, Laws o f 1891, p. 365.
21 Indiana, Laws o f 1893, p. 2 8 2 ; Laws o f 1901, p. 369.
22 Forty-second Annual Report o f the Board o f State Charities for the Fiscal Year End­
ing Sept. 30, 1931, p. 271.
28 Maine, Laws o f 1905, ch. 123, p. 127.
™ Maine, Laws o f 1917, ch. 222, p. 253.
25 Maine, Laws o f 1919, ch. 191, sec. 1.
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and appointed by the superior court for terms of 4 years.26 It was
the duty of this board to investigate the conditions surrounding any
child within the county reported to it as being “ an orphan, neglected,
or abandoned ch ild” , and to report such investigations to the State
child-welfare board.27
Another type o f county board appeared in 1913, when Pennsyl­
vania passed an act creating a board of trustees of mothers’ assist­
ance fund in counties accepting the provisions of the act for the
administration o f aid to mothers with dependent children.28 New
York in 1915 29 provided for similar boards in its counties, calling
them child-welfare boards. The provision in Rhode Island enacted
m 1923 30 differed from that o f Pennsylvania and New York, in that
the local board of mothers’ aid served either a town or city rather
than a county. Louisiana, however, in 193031 more nearly followed
the example o f Pennsylvania and New York when a law was passed
authorizing the appointment o f parish 32 and city boards of trustees
of children’s aid funds in parishes adopting the law. In the first
three States these local boards have functioned throughout practically
the whole State, but in Louisiana the law has been inoperative largelybecause no funds have been available.
Each of these programs was planned to meet the needs o f the
dependent child only and provided a single type of care, such as in­
stitutional care in Connecticut, free foster homes in Michigan, and
care m their own homes in Pennsylvania.

Child-welfare programs

The need for a comprehensive public program for child care which
would provide for children suffering from any form of social, mental, or physical handicap, was emphasized by the White House
Conference on Child Health and Protection. The report of the
subcommittee as to the history and administration o f local public
units ot child care contained the following statement:
ineiudrp^oyisioTfo?: ° f
Care ^
protection is complete which does not
1. Children who are:
Neglected, abandoned, or abused.
Delinquent, truant, or wayward.
Born out o f wedlock.
Physically handicapped.
Mentally deficient or disturbed.
2. The following types o f service:
Service and relief to families.
Service and support for children outside their homes
Supervisory service to children in their own homes
Medical and psychiatric service, including hospital care if necessary.

pr r :» et s rwefflofck.»negiected ana abused cMiaren and
^ A rizoim , Laws o f 1921, ch. 53, p. 96.
28Pennsylvania3, i S o f * 1 ^ 8 ? ^ 80 p
&Ct W* S paSSe<L
“ New Yorli, Laws o f 1915, ch. 228, p. 690.
“ Rhode Island, Laws o f 1923, ch. 455.
«L ou is ia n a , Laws o f 1930, ch. 46, p. 107.
The Louisiana parish is sim ilar to the county in other States
Organization fo r the Care o f Handicapped Children, pp. 87 88.
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No State has as yet reached this standard for public services in
every county, although a few States have approached it through the
creation of county child-welfare agencies with broad general powers
in the interests of children. A private State-wide society, the New
York State Charities Aid Association, has led the way. Laws
passed in New York between the years 1875 and 1896 34 prohibited
care o f children in almshouses and authorized poor-relief officials
“ to provide for their care and support in families, orphan asylums,
or other appropriate institutions.” In the beginning it was the
tendency of these officials to use institutional care only for children
who needed to be separated from their own families. It was a
desire to assist the public officials in developing other types of care
that led to the development of county committees by the State
Charities Aid Association, beginning in 1907.
The first committees entered into a joint contract with the local
officials (the county board of supervisors and the county superin­
tendent of the poor) whereby it was agreed that the local committee
would be responsible for all children referred to the poor officials
for care and treatment, the expense of such care to be paid by the
board of supervisors and the administrative costs of the county com­
mittee to be shared with the county. Later the agreement between
the county committee and the county officials was informal, but
the practice of the counties has continued much the same as when
there were formal ^ntracts. On January 1, 1932, 31 counties, each
with one or more well-qualified workers, were still under the general
supervision of the State Charities Aid Association. In 20 of these,
however, the county was paying all salaries and expenses for the
workers, with the county committee of the association serving merely
in an advisory capacity. Through the activities o f these county
committees a real attempt has been made in New York State to
select the form of treatment best suited to the child’s needs.
In Dutchess County, N.Y., under a special act o f the legislature, a
board of child welfare was created which was given sole authority
with relation to the care, relief, and support of all classes of socially
handicapped children, including out-door relief to families in which
there were children under 16 years of age. An annual appropria­
tion has been made by the county to the board of child welfare, and
the particular need of a child, not the available services, determines
the social treatment. The annual report for the year ended October
31, 1930, showed that during that year 263 children had received
mothers’ aid, 249 children had been maintained in 22 private insti­
tutions and 6 State institutions, 167 children had been boarded in
private homes, and 311 children had been included in the families
given temporary relief.35 Dutchess County has provided a pattern
deserving attention. Too often social treatment is determined by
the services most easily available, but in this county every type of
service is available within a single organzation, the only limitations
being those imposed by the total appropriation.
Minnesota was the first State to create by statute a county childwelfare agency responsible for services to all children in need. The
84 New York, Laws o f 1875, ch. 175, p. 1 5 0 ; Laws o f 1876, ch. 266, p. 2 6 4 ; Laws o f
1878. ch. 404, p. 482 ; Laws o f 1879, ch. 240, p. 320 ; Laws o f 1884, ch. 438, p. 511.
86 Annual R eport o f the Dutchess County B oard o f Child W elfare fo r the Fiscal Year
ending Oct. 31, 1930, pp. 7, 15, 16. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
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Children s Code Commission, to which Minnesota is indebted for its
countv child-welfare legislation, was to some extent influenced by the
JNew York program. The commission desired a program that would
be broad enough to insure the protection of “ defective, illegitimate
dependent, neglected, and delinquent children.” 36 To this end county’
child-welfare boards were created to serve under the direction of the
otate board of control. To these child-welfare boards was delegated
the local responsibility for all types o f children for whom^adequate provision had not already been made. In the rural districts
this has meant practically any service in the interest of children ex­
cept mothers’ aid and poor relief, and even these may be included
at the request of the local authorities legally charged with their
administration. In the urban districts service has been somewhat
more limited and has been largely confined to the child born out of
wedlock, the feeble-minded, and the child placed in a foster home.
Only one county in the State has appropriated funds to be used
by the child-welfare board for children cared for in boarding homes.
In all other counties payments for boarding care are made from
the general revenue fund of the county and must be requisitioned
each month. In many of the rural counties the child-welfare boards
have been greatly hampered by their lack of funds and the corre­
sponding unwillingness of the local boards of county commissioners
to approve payments for care of children outside their own homes.
Under the Minnesota plan a skeleton has been provided on which
might be built a program almost as extensive as that of Dutchess
County, although its potentialities have not as yet been realized.
By January 1932, the statutes of six States37 had authorized the
counties to provide a county child-welfare board with broad respon­
sibilities for the care and protection of children. The scope of activ­
ities undertaken is more limited in some of these States than in
others. (See p. 36.) The creation of county child-welfare units
has made possible social services for children never before available.
Increasing emphasis has been placed on preventing the separation of
a child from his family through the provision of services in the home
or temporary local care away from the home when this is necessary.
Although designated as 4child-welfare ” agencies, these county
boards are often authorized to provide case-work services to all offi­
cials in the county who are caring for dependent, delinquent, or
handicapped persons, whether children or adults. In some counties
therefore, it has been found possible to provide a complete program
of social services to the county under the general administration
of a county child-welfare board. To give attention to the needs
of children is a basic principle in any program o f prevention, hence
the centering of public interest on the necessity of providing public
services to children in rural areas has been one of the most construc­
tive social-welfare measures in the history of social work during the
last quarter of a century.
General social-welfare programs

Every county is faced with social problems o f the aged, the physi­
cally handicapped, the sick poor, the offender, and the destitute
among its adult population, as well as with problems of child wel86 Minnesota, Laws o f 1917, ch. 194, sec 3
87 Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



fare. The county welfare agency or official created by statute in six
States38 has been designated as a “ public-welfare ” rather than a
“ child-welfare ” agency or official. The county programs in most
of these States differ little from those o f county child-welfare boards,
except that greater emphasis is placed upon the administration of
public relief. General or specific responsibility for services to chil­
dren has been given to all these agencies.
The administration of various forms of public relief has been made
one of the major responsibilities of the county superintendent or
commissioner of public welfare in Missouri, New York, and North
Carolina, and o f the county or city board o f public welfare in V ir­
ginia. In Nebraska and West Virginia administrative authority for
relief is not conferred by the statutes, but in some of the organized
counties the disbursement of poor-relief funds has been delegated by
the county commissioners to the social worker appointed by the
county public-welfare board and has been one of his major activities.
In addition to the States that have provided by statute for general
county welfare services, such programs have been developed in inter­
ested counties, notably in California, Georgia, Iowa, and New Mex­
ico, through the stimulation of a State agency. The centralization
of relief giving in the county and the provision of competent per­
sonnel to provide case-work services to persons in need have been
the major objectives of these programs. In New Mexico special
emphasis has been placed on child welfare.
Whether the county agency has been designated as a “ child-wel­
fare ” or a “ public-welfare ” agency, it has been found almost uni­
versally that when qualified case workers are employed by the county
gradually all persons needing care are referred to these workers.
** Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and W est Virginia.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The passage of legislation authorizing the organization of county
welfare agencies has not in itself meant the immediate establish­
ment of such agencies on a sound, stable basis. Every State that
has made real progress either with or without specific legislation
has had stimulation and guidance from a State department, usually
one of social welfare. Much variation is found, however, in the
extent to which State departments have provided personnel for this
purpose. A separate division of county organization having one or
more workers doing only this work has been created in a few States,
but in some of these this division has been discontinued after a few
years of service. At present only five States39 are known to have a
special staff to assist the counties in developing their social services.
In the remaining States that have developed a county welfare pro­
gram, county organization is undertaken by members of the State
staff who are engaged in supervisory activities or in case-work
Different methods are used by the State staff to create interest in
adequate social services in the counties. Talks given to organized
groups of citizens, conferences on special county problems, and
demonstrations of what can be accomplished in individual cases by
thorough case-work services are methods that are used universally.
In a few States, notably California, Iowa, and Virginia, considerable
use has been made of studies or surveys of the conditions and needs
o f the counties as a basis for an improved plan. In California and
Iowa such surveys have been made on the invitation of the county
board of supervisors. County surveys made in California have in­
cluded studies o f provisions for children, outdoor relief, and hos­
pital and jail facilities. In Iowa the surveys, made by a repre­
sentative from the extension department of the State university,
have been confined mainly to the administration o f poor relief.
The Virginia statute makes it the duty of the department of public
welfare to
collect and publish statistics regarding the dependent, defective, * and delin­
quent classes, both in and out of institutions, within the State, and such other
data as may be deemed of value in assisting the public authorities and other
social-welfare agencies of the State in improving the care of these classes and
in correcting conditions that contributed to their increase.*0

This section makes it possible for the division of county and city
organization to take the initiative in making surveys if conditions
indicate a necessity for such action. The report of a survey of five
counties made in 1931 included information with regard to public
indoor and outdoor relief, private relief, and the juvenile court.41
39 Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and Virginia.
40 Virginia, Ann. Code 1930 (M ichie), sec. i902-i.
41 Unpublished study o f Charles City, New Kent, James City, W arwick, and York Coun­
ties, made in July 1931.
182235°— 33------ 3
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Financial assistance from the State has been an important factor
in the development of school and health services in rural areas. The
need for State aid in thè social-service field, however, has received
little recognition. Even when the need for more adequate social
service has been demonstrated, county officials have been slow in
adopting a program because of the additional financial burden. In
the few States in which State funds have been made available, the
results of outside aid have been surprising, although this is probably
partly the influence of State approval as evidenced by State aid as
well as because o f the aid itself. By 1927 only 14 o f the 67 Alabama
counties had accepted the provisions of a law passed in 1923 whereby
counties were permitted to establish county boards of child welfare.
Then the 1927 legislature appropriated $850,000 for an attendance
fund to be distributed annually to the counties on the basis of aggre­
gate daily attendance in schools. As school attendance showed a
marked improvement in counties with superintendents of child wel­
fare, it was decided to place a premium on their employment. A c­
cordingly those counties providing joint attendance and welfare serv­
ice were eligible to receive an additional $2,000 of the attendance
fund for this purpose.42 As a result, within the next 2 years 42
additional counties provided such service.
North Carolina had a somewhat similar experience. A law passed
in 1931 permitted the State as part of its centralized administration
o f education to assume a portion of the salary and travel expenses of
a county superintendent of welfare since he also served as chief
attendance officer of the county.43 The State equalization board
accordingly adopted a scheme of allotment based on population; in
counties of 32,000 or more the allotment amounted to $800 to $1,200
for salaries and $150 to $200 for travel expenses. For counties with a
population of less than 32,000 the amount of aid possible ranged
from $400 for salary and $100 for travel expenses in counties of less
than 12,000 to $600 for salary and $100 for travel expenses in counties
o f 22,000 to 32,000.44 The real effect of the measure was not felt until
after July 1, 1932, but by October 1932 nine additional counties had
made provision for the employment of full-time county superin­
tendents of welfare.45 The fact that a county received a grant from
the State made its officials more willing to appropriate an amount at
least equal to the amount received.
The New Mexico Bureau o f Child Welfare has been able to use
State funds to stimulate county organization and thereby extend its
own services throughout the State. A provision has been included in
the appropriation bill for the bureau whereby a portion o f the funds
may be used in payment for local services. Arrangements in the
several counties have differed in accordance with the individual sit­
uation. In one county the State bureau united with the city schools
and the State department o f civilian rehabilitation in supporting a
social worker, paying $700 of the total budget of $2,344.96. In an­
other county the bureau joined with 12 private organizations, the
«A n n u a l Report o f the [Alabam a] State Child W elfare Department, 1927-28, pp. 11,
12, 13. Montgomery, Ala., 1929.
48 North Carolina, Laws o f 1931, eh. 430, sec. 6, p. 732.
44 Biennial Report o f the North Carolina State Board o f Charities and Public W elfare,
July 1, 1930, to June 30, 1932, pp. 49, 50.
« P u b lic W elfare Progress, vol. 13, no. 4 (October 1932). Raleigh, N.C.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




juvenile court, and the county in a county welfare project. Each
agency contributed to the budget of $6,520, the bureau’s contribu­
t o 11 amounting to $500. A similar plan was used in Santa Fe
where by combining the resources of service clubs, Red Cross, city,
comity, court, churches, fraternal organizations, a woman’s club,
and private individuals a budget of $6,000 was raised. Only $100
o f this came from the State bureau. In a district made up o f three
counties the budget o f $3,300 was met from the court funds o f each
county with an additional $700 from the State bureau. New Mexico
iiâs demonstrated what can be accomplished through leadership and
a combination o f resources in communities where it would have been
quite impossible for any single agency to support a full-time qualified worker.
West Virginia is the only State in which legislation has been
passed expressly authorizing State aid in support o f the local wel­
fare program. The law provides that the salary of the secretary
may be shared by State and county, with not more than half paid
by the State board of public welfare. Unfortunately, appropriations
have been too limited to make possible any extensive utilization of
this provision. In its report for the biennium ended July 1, 1928,
the State board of children’s guardians 46 reported payments to 3
counties $25 a month on the salary of the worker in each of 2
counties and $50 a month in another.47 In more recent reports no
mention is made of such payments.
Gradually other States have realized that some provision for State
aid must be made if there is to be any appreciable increase in the
number of counties employing full-time social workers of qualified
standing. The biennial reports of the Minnesota Children’s Bureau
for 1928 and 1930 48 recommend a State appropriation that could be
used to assist counties to the extent of $500 annually for one social
worker and $250 for each additional one. The 1932 report49 recom­
mends State aid to the extent o f one third the cost when a county
employs paid service for its child-welfare board.
The use o f Federal aid as a direct stimulus toward further develop­
ment of county social-welfare programs has not yet been tried,
although this has proven an effective means of increasing the county
health organizations throughout the country. The report of the
White House Conference on Child Health and Protection clearly sup­
ports the principle of Federal aid in the following recommendations:
Both Federal and State grants-in-aid accepted in the field of education and
health should be extended to the field o f public welfare, in order to make
possible the development o f effective local units of service.50

The report further states that:
The testimony is overwhelming that Federal assistance has either been the
mam factor in starting State activities when none had existed before, or has
greatly accelerated work which was being ineffectively performed.51

( State Prison Printing Department, Stillwater, 1932).
50 Organization fo r the Care o f Handicapped Childre
51 Ibid., p. 280.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis







Three types o f service have been accepted as constituting an organ­
ized county welfare program: (1) Employment by the county ot
one or more qualified case workers; (2) services o f a case worker
employed by a group of counties having small populations; (3) local
volunteer services under the supervision of a State case worker.
Practically every State with statutory provision for a county plan tor
welfare service has made paid services possible when the employment
of a social worker is approved by the fiscal body of the county.
Employment of paid worker by county


In 8 States, 4 with specific legislation and 4 without legislation,
only counties employing a paid worker are recognized as having an
organized program, whereas in 7 States54 counties with volunteer
services only have been considered as organized. In North Carolina,
counties of more than 32,000 population according to the 1920 census
must employ a full-time superintendent of public welfare, but those
with a smaller population are only required to have an ex-officio
superintendent of welfare to give part-time service with the assistance
of a lay board.
... . . ,. . , .
In most States the financial resources of the individual counties
rather than their need for social services has been the controlling
factor in the development of a county program. Few counties with
low property valuations and small populations are employing a
county social worker unless through the efforts of a State agency
some plan of cooperation has been developed between private agencies
and public officials whereby part of the salary of the case worker may
be paid from private funds.
Employment of paid worker by district

The district plan has been accepted in some States, m the hope
that a social worker might be provided for a group o f counties each
o f which would be unable to finance a program independently. I he
plan is one of considerable merit and is growing m favor, lhree of
the four States 55 that have enacted legislation specifically authoriz­
ing the creation of county welfare agencies within the last 5 years
have provided for the union of two or more counties m the employ­
ment of a social worker. The Nebraska law is particularly interest­
ing in that it permits only counties o f less than 15,000 population
to ioin in a district plan, thereby indicating that m the opinion of
the legislature a county of more than 15,000 should be able to support
its own worker.
, ,,
,- ,
New Mexico, however, is the only State that has used the district
plan to any extent. In this State the judicial district has been ac­
cepted as a unit of administration. Since 1926 three district organi­
zations have been established—the sixth, ninth, and fifth judicial

S 3 'KtfSSStK S » PrPr!ai,

p f iS S iji

in d ic t e d that ’several county boards expected to employ a worker as soon as funds were
aVM & abam a, Missouri, New York, and V irgin ia; California, Georgia, Iowa, and New
M «K e n tu ck y , Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, W est Virginia, and W isconsin.
“ Kentucky (1 928), W isconsin (1 929), Nebraska (1 931), Texas (1 931).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



districts containing 3, 4, and 3 counties, respectively. Two of these
have ceased to function, but the fifth judicial district organization has
remained active. Three counties—Eddy, Lea, and Chaves— com­
pose this district. Their combined population is 41,535.56 Organ­
ization was stimulated by the offer of the State bureau of child
welfare to give $600 toward financing the unit, provided the court
would appropriate an additional $1,200 and also pay traveling and
office expenses. The offer was accepted, and a worker appointed
by the district judge from several candidates nominated by the State
department. The expense has been budgeted among the three coun­
ties with Chaves paying 53 percent, Eddy 27 percent, and Lea 20
percent. Although an honest attempt was made to budget services
in accordance with the amount paid by each county, this has been
found impossible.67
An interesting experiment, tried by the Pennsylvania Department
of Welfare in an effort to supply professional services to county
mothers’ aid boards unable to finance a full-time worker, might well
be tried out with county welfare boards under the same circumstances.
An itinerant worker under the direction of the State supervisor o f
mothers’ aid has been made available to counties willing to meet
her salary and expenses for a short period o f time, usually 1 to 3
months in a year.58 Such a plan is similar to the district plan used
in New Mexico, but differs from it in that counties not adjacent to
each other may use the same social worker, and in that the service is
usually concentrated into a short period o f time, with none the rest of
the year.
Use of volunteer worker

The use of board members for the performance of social service
has never been considered a satisfactory substitute for the full-time
professional worker but has been accepted in several States as a
valuable resource when no other type of service was available. In
general, experience has shown that the value of volunteer workers is
largely dependent upon the extent to which their services are ac­
companied by expert assistance and guidance from the State. The
county welfare board consists o f a selected group of persons in whom
can be centered information as to the social resources of the State
and to whom the members of the community can go for advice.
With supervision from the State department such a board can be
used successfully for certain case-work problems in the community.
In a county where no one has felt any responsibility for social
welfare a county welfare board can be a real leavening influence.
In Minnesota and Wisconsin extensive use has been made of the
volunteer services of the county board; Texas is starting its program
on a volunteer basis. Each of these States has had an active, inter­
ested State department with a staff to make frequent visits to the
counties and to advise them by correspondence. In 1932 Minnesota
had one State case worker to each 13 counties, and Wisconsin had
58 Eddy 15,842, Lea 6,144, Chaves 19,549.
. 57 For the past year court funds have not been available, and at the present time, June
1933, the salary o f the worker is met from State funds w ith each o f the three counties
paying its own adm inistrative expenses.
Biennial Report o f the Secretary o f W elfare, Commonwealth o f Pennsylvania.
1929-30, pp. 38, 39. Harrisburg, 1930.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




one to each 17 counties. The number of counties per State worker
is much greater in Texas, as the State staff has not been increased
with the appointment of child-welfare boards in the counties. These
case workers attend board meetings, do difficult case work, and make
suggestions to the board members as to the next steps for cases under
care. It is these supervisory case workers who keep the boards alive
and active in most counties. In fact, the explanation for the limited
activity o f the county welfare boards in certain States doubtless lies
in the absence of this State case-work supervision. Only two county
welfare boards without secretaries were reported as active m West
Virginia in September 1932. The State child-welfare commission
o f South Dakota, in its biennial report for the period ended June 30,
1932, listed 65 county welfare boards for the State’s 71 counties. -No
report of the activities of individual boards was given, but m a State
survey of handicapped children the boards in only 21 counties were
named as being especially active in following up cases of children
referred to them. The secretary of the commission, however, con­
siders the boards active in 37 counties.
It is clear that each of the States recognizing volunteer work
as acceptable for a county agency intended that it should simply
precede the ultimate employment of a full-time social worker, this
has been the case in some counties in which the boards have led the
campaign for a full-time worker. In other counties where the board
or individual members of the board have done an especially good
piece of work, it is possible that their work may have delayed the
employment o f a paid worker, as the county officials have been quite
well satisfied with what they have. Another real difficulty that has
arisen out of the volunteer plan has been that when funds tor the
employment o f a worker are available there is a tendency on the
part of counties to employ on a full or part-time basis a former board
member who has done an especially good piece of work. Often­
times this has been done as a reward for services already rendered,
but rarely has it proved successful. No matter how interested a
board member has been, unless he has social-work training he is not
qualified to do the necessary case work and supply the necessary
leadership in developing approved social practices.

In spite o f the general recognition that a full-time paid executive
o f professional grade is essential in the administration of a firstrate county agency, relatively few counties have accepted the prin­
ciple in practice. As counties have felt the need for effective social
work the number o f county social workers has slowly but steadily
increased, although the quality of the workers has varied from per­
sons with no training or experience in social work to those of excel­
lent professional standing. Less than one fifth of the 1,537 coun­
ties in the 16 States with a county plan for social service were emplovino- one or more full-time workers in January 1932. Ihese 16
States differed widely, however, in the extent to which their counties
had adopted paid service. Only Alabama, California, and .New
York had county social workers in two thirds or more of their coun­
ties, Alabama leading with only three counties without a worker.
In North Carolina full-time workers were available in halt the coun-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




ties, and in Iowa and Minnesota one fourth to one seventh of the
counties had such service. A few counties in Georgia, Missouri, New
Mexico, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia have county
social workers, but in Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas, and Wisconsin
the county program has been established so recently that few if any
counties have succeeded in obtaining full-time paid service.

In the average rural community the name il social worker 55 has
little meaning. It does not mean that the person has completed a
course of training which makes him eligible to membership in the
American Association of Social Workers. Any kindly person will­
ing to help his fellows is considered qualified to undertake the social
services needed by the community. As a result, one of the most
difficult problems undertaken by State departments in furthering
i^^^P***®*^ of county social work has been to convince county
officials and the local public of the necessity of employing qualified
case workers. In several States safeguards to assure the appoint­
ment of qualified county workers have been provided in the statutes.
The methods outlined in the law have been of four types:
1. Certification of workers according to qualifications set by the
State department.
2. Statutory definition of qualifications for appointees.
3. Requirement of approval of appointments by the State de­
partment of welfare.
4. Appointment from an eligible list submitted by the State
department of welfare.
Alabama is the only State that has provided for certification of
workers, and its experience through several years has proved that
the plan accomplishes the desired result provided the State sets high
standards. Persons receiving certificates must have fulfilled the
following requirements: (1) Graduation from a recognized college
or university; (2) 3 years] teaching experience, or 3 years’ experience
with some recognized social agency; (3) definite training for social
work. ^ Recause of the local scarcity of applicants having training
al service, provisional certificates have been issued to persons
without previous social-work training, upon completion of a short
course in social work. This course lays particular emphasis on rural
case work family welfare, community organization, and social leg­
islation. A permanent certificate is not granted until the worker
has m addition to this preliminary short course attended some school
of social work for 2 summers out of 3. The result has been that
with but few exceptions county superintendents o f child welfare in
Alabama are college graduates, and each has had a minimum of
6 months training m social work.
Qualification8 of county workers are fixed by statute in Wisconsin
and Nebraska. The Wisconsin law leaves no chance for misunderstandmg as it provides that executive agents of the county children’s
board shall have the qualifications specified for probation officers
employed by counties having a population of less than 150,000”
this means
training equivalent to that represented by graduation from an institution of
recognized standing, including specialized courses in social science 5 years’
experience of such character as to demonstrate knowledge and ability to carry
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




on this type of social service investigational w ork ; familiarity with the require­
ments, methods, and practices of various occupations and employment; knowl­
edge of modern criminology, deliberate and discerning judgment; resourceful­
ness ; tact; initiative; reliability; firmness; good physical condition.59

The Nebraska law is much less definite. Its only stipulation is that
workers must be “ qualified by training and experience.” 60
The laws of Kentucky, West Virginia, and North Carolina provide
that appointments of county workers must be approved by the State
department. In West Virginia an additional requirement is made
that the county welfare secretary be “ properly qualified ” with re­
gard to education, training, and experience. Little progress has been
made in county organization in Kentucky, and qualifications for
workers have not been established. The requirements for appointees
formulated by the North Carolina Board of Charities and Public
Welfare in 1922 were very general in character. In addition to de­
sirable personal qualifications and an age limitation of 45 years for
applicants having no special training in social work, the requirements
set were that applicants for positions should have:
1. At least high-school education and preferably some college
2. Shown some desire to do social work by having been actively
interested in Red Cross work, church, charity, educational,
or civic work, and so forth.
3. Been willing to take the training provided each summer at the
University of North Carolina by the school of public wel­
fare of the university and the State board of charities and
public welfare.
Virginia is the only State that has undertaken to control appoint­
ment through requiring selection from a list of eligible persons pro­
posed by the State department. The Virginia State Department o f
Public Welfare has found it all but impossible to keep an active list
of eligible candidates available, and, therefore, when a county worker
must be found the Virginia department, like the State departments of
several other States, endeavors to find the worker who will best fit
the needs of the particular county and proposes this worker to the
county board of public welfare. Sometimes the county group sug­
gests persons for the eligible list, but the major burden is placed on
the State.
In practically every State without statutory provisions to insure
qualified workers, the State department has given advisory service
to counties seeking workers. In New Mexico the bureau of child
welfare is usually able to insist that the countv worker meet certain
qualifications, since it may pay a portion of the worker’s salary.
Standard qualifications as set by the bureau for such workers are
(1) a college education, (2) special training in a school of social work
or in a university that provides instruction and field experience in
social case work, and (3) at least 4 years’ experience in a recognized
social-service agency of high standards. The extension division of
the University of Iowa, under whose guidance the “ Iowa plan ” has
developed, has likewise succeeded in maintaining high qualifications.
s# Letter received from director o f the juvenile department o f the State Board o f Con­
trol o f W isconsin. Feb. 15. 1932.
®° Nebraska, Laws o f 1931, ch. 121.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




In 22 of the 27 Iowa counties organized in 1980 the social workers
employed were eligible for membership in the American Association
o f Social Workers. The Georgia Department of Public Welfare has
constantly sought to improve standards of training and experience
for county social workers, although selection has been left to the
local communities. In California the standards of Alameda County
have been recommended to county officials who have consulted the
State department before a secretary is chosen. These call for: (1)
Training: Some degree o f social training from a recognized author­
ity, such training to include a working knowledge of the principles
and methods of relief as endorsed by modern relief organizations.
A knowledge of California laws regarding State and county aid is
also desirable. (2) Experience: Practical experience in relief or­
ganization or similar social service. (3) Fitness: Ability to give to
and obtain from other workers a friendly cooperation and to keep the
agency in touch with the general public; should have a thoroughly
sympathetic interest in the work.
Conditions affecting employment

As has been noted previously, few counties having a small popula­
tion and low property valuation will employ a county worker unless
financial assistance is received from the State. The fact that a
number of counties with populations of less than 20,000 have or­
ganized their resources so that alone or in combination with other
similar counties a paid worker has been employed indicates that
size alone is not the deciding factor. A high level of social under­
standing in the county and the leadership of local persons with
appreciation of what can be accomplished by case-work services
may lead to the appointment of a paid worker even in a small county.
Public provisions for persons in need are vitally affected by the
extent to which private organizations have succeeded in rendering
the necessary services to the community or to the county. Many
instances are found of counties with adequate financial resources
and large populations which nevertheless are not employing a county
social worker. Most of these counties include a sizable city in
which public and private welfare services are available. The needs
of the rural or semirural areas in these counties may be met by
organized private social-work programs or there may be a complete
lack of service in these areas.
Some idea of the probability of employment of full-time county
social workers in counties belonging in different population groups
is to be found in table 1. The nine States included in this table were
those in which the employment of county social workers had de­
veloped the furthest. O f the counties in these States having 30,000
or more population 85 percent were employing paid workers, as
compared with 42 percent of the counties of 20,000 but less than
30.000 population, and 9 percent of the counties having less than
20.000 population.
182235°— 33------4
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



T a b l e 1.— Counties of specified population in 9 States employing county Mcial

workers for child-welfare or general social-welfare activities in January 1932



‘ 67

Counties with less
than 20,000 popu­

Counties with popu­
lation of 20,000 but
less than 30,000

Counties with popu­
lation of 30,000 or

ing case

ing case

ing 1 or
more case

No case




No case




No case


11 of these counties has since secured a worker .
13 of these counties are part of a district organization,
j 2 of these counties have since secured a worker.
•Excluding 5 counties in New York City.
•5 more counties secured workers after July l, 1932.
•2 more counties secured workers after July 1,1932.
i 1 more county secured a worker after July 1,1932.

In comparing the achievements in these nine States a number of
situations must be taken into consideration. In Alabama, Iowa, New
Y o rk 61 and Virginia practically all the persons counted as “ county
social workers ” had received some special training in social work m
addition to a good general educational background. In the remain­
ing States some of the county workers, although employed for full
time were not social workers. North Carolina and Virginia present
special problems. In North Carolina' counties of less than 32,000
population are authorized by the law to avail themselves of parttime services of the county superintendent of schools. This provi­
sion may have had some influence on the limited employment of a
full-time worker in counties having small populations. In Virginia
a city of 10,000 or more population may by vote decide to become
independent of the county in which it is located, which means that
Virginia counties do not include cities as do many counties in other
States. For example, the city of Richmond is independent of Hen­
rico County, which almost surrounds it. Private social agencies
from Richmond have served the county, which, doubtless, is the
reason why a public county program has never been established.
Standards in services

County social-work programs have developed largely through the
initiative of individuals or local groups. Many of them have been
frankly experimental in character or have been carried out under
serious financial limitations which have prevented the employment
of sufficent staff to provide the services really needed, gradually,
through the accumulative experiences of State departments working
on county welfare problems, a body of general information as to
desirable practices, procedures, and standards is evolving. Progress
#i pvptv omintv In New York, except those with special legislation, must have a fulltim e^countv° superintendent o f public welfare elected by popular vote
This group of
p ersons^s notUincluded in table 1, which gives inform ation as to county social workers
employed for services to children.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



in the formulation of standards has been handicapped by the lack
o f carefully controlled demonstrations which would provide authori­
tative information regarding such problems as the extent of need
for services in rural and semirural areas, the relative values of gen­
eralized and specialized services under specified conditions, and min­
imum and desirable budgets for county welfare agencies.
The desirable proportion o f social workers to a given population
is still largely a matter of conjecture. Dr. C. E. A. Winslow, pro­
fessor ^o f public health at the Yale School of Medicine, in his
appraisal of the work o f the Cattaraugus County, N.Y., Health
Demonstration, makes the following statement:
It seems probable that a ratio of at least one case worker to 10,000 people
might be fixed as a minimum; and one dreams of a staff of, say, seven such case
workers in Cattaraugas County (population, 72,398), providing a decentralized
service correlated closely with the nursing service in each local district. * * *
The fundamental conclusion from the Cattaraugus experience is that a rural
county needs approximately the same amount and kind of health and social
service that is required in an urban area. This conclusion would seem fairly
obvious, but it is one which is consistently ignored, particularly as a minimum
program is frequently all that an economically handicapped rural county can
support. Essential human needs are not, however, necessarily related to finan­
cial resources. The pangs o f hunger are not allayed by assuring the victim
that he has eaten all he can pay for.“

In reality a single social worker rarely serves a population as small
as 10,000. A single social worker served an average population of
30,000 in 138 counties in 6 States63 during 1931, varying from 1 gen­
eralized worker to 20,000 for 1 Iowa counties to 1 children’s worker
to 36,000 in 33 New York counties.
Only to a very limited extent have standards been set as to the
maximum case load a single social worker should be expected to carry
in a rural area. The Pennsylvania Children’s Aid Society has set
40 cases as the maximum for each o f its county workers. In its study
o f county welfare work in Alabama the Child Welfare League of
America fixed the number at 60 cases, provided full time was devoted
to case work.
In the social-welfare field county programs, except in counties
including a large city, have usually been launched when the services
of a single case worker have been assured. It is conceivable that in
some localities greater initial effort to set up a more complete pro­
gram might prove to be more effective in the end. In the field o f
public health a different situation exists. A full-time county health
service means the employment o f a staff composed o f a medical health
officer, 1 or more nurses, 1 or more sanitary inspectors, and 1 or more
office assistants.
A well-organized and comprehensive program cannot be provided
without adequate funds. Budgets o f county welfare agencies are
usually sadly limited. In Alabama the usual budget o f the county
child-welfare board is only $2,500, which cares for the salary of the
worker, traveling expenses, and a small amount for miscellaneous
expenses. In one Minnesota county the budget includes some
funds for child care. Few of the other Minnesota counties have
adopted a budget, but when they have it has been restricted to sal64barrylnS H ealth to the Country, In Survey Graphic, vol. 65, no. 11 (Mar. 1, 1931).
“ Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





aries, travel and office expenses. No agreement has been reached
as to what constitutes a fair per capita expenditure for the support
o f a county welfare program. In 12 Minnesota counties the county
welfare boards were employing one or more full-time workers in
1930, and their per capita expenditures Varied from 5 cents to 16
cents, with the average at 9^ cents. The Dutchess County (N.Y.)
program, on the other hand, which provided for all public aid,
including mothers’ aid as well as services to children, cost each person
in the county $1.45 in 1930. In an Alabama county with a popula­
tion of 25,000 and a budget of $2,500, the cost would be only 10 cents
per capita for services alone.
The cost of a county welfare program must vary with the extent
o f the work and the size of the county, but according to the report
o f the subcommittee on the local public unit of the White House
Conference on Child Health and Protection,64 the budget of even
a small county should be sufficient to provide clerical service, at
least one social case worker, traveling and office expenses, and funds
for care of children. An automobile for each field worker has come
to be considered a necessity also. A suggested minimum budget for
a county with a population of from 15,000 to 20,000 starting a
program is given below:
Service expenditures-----------------------------------------------$3, 700
Salary of social worker---------------------------------------------------Salary of clerical worker_________________________________
Travel expenses__________________________________________
Office expenses------------------------------------------------------------------


Many counties are spending public funds for the care of children
in subsidies to private agencies, in refunds to the State for care in
State institutions or in supervised foster homes, for maintenance in
county institutions, or for boarding care. The importance of placing
administration of such funds in a county agency providing services
to children is evident, as without adequate social services such ex­
penditures may be excessive and may be used for types of care that do
not meet the needs of the children. An average of 15 to 20 children
per 10,000 population are being maintained in institutions or boarding
homes; for large cities the rate is higher. In many localities the
entire expenditures for such care must come from public funds.640
It is of interest to compare this suggested county budget and actual
per capita expenditures for social-welfare services with those for
public-health services in counties of the same type. The United
States Public Health Service 65 proposed for one State two budgets
for county health units in counties with limited resources which are
adapted to the needs of rural counties of different sizes. These
budgets provide for the smaller counties $7,000 per year and for the
larger $9,000 per year. In 1929 the cost o f operating 443 full-time
county health units in 31 States averaged 32 cents per capita.66
« Organization for the Care o f Handicapped Children, pp. 88, 105.
County expenditures fo r dependent children in 1930 in 13 Ohio counties o f less
than 20,000 averaged $3,500 per 10,000 population, providing for an average o f 19
children to this same unit o f population.
85 Health Departments o f States and Provinces o f the United States and Canada, p. 52.
U.S. Public Health Bulletin No. 184 (revised). W ashington, 1932.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Development of State-wide county welfare programs has fol­
lowed two different plans. In several States a publicly supported
county welfare agency has been created through specific legislation
to perform certain functions for which the county is responsible.
In a few other States, through the efforts of the State agency, some
form of county organization has been achieved by the union of sev­
eral social-welfare groups, either public or private, into a single
organization, jointly supported. Certain general similarities exist
in a number o f these States; 16 have a- plan for the development of
a county welfare program which is in accordance with the following
general principles:
1. Receive support from local public funds for at least part of
the cost of administration.
2. Have coordinated two or more types o f service on a county­
wide basis for persons living within the county.
3. Are controlled by a local board, which may be administrative
or advisory or may have an executive officer who is under
the general supervision o f a State agency.
4. Include on the advisory or administrative board some public
official or persons appointed by local or State public
No uniform plan has been followed in the type of organization
developed or in the functions delegated to the local administrative
unit, although certain likenesses appear in some States. Instead, each
State has developed a plan suited to its particular local situation.

In 12 States mandatory or permissive legislation has been enacted
authorizing counties to create county welfare agencies to perform
certain specified duties.67 The laws of North Carolina and South
Dakota clearly make it mandatory that county welfare boards be
appointed, and in North Carolina and New York it is also manda­
tory for counties to have a county superintendent or a county com­
missioner of public welfare. In Virginia and West Virginia the
statutes might be interpreted as mandatory, but since appointments
in the counties of these two States are dependent upon the submis/^*T^ a^jama’ Code 1923, secs. 143—152. Kentucky, Carroll’s Stat., Ann. 1930, secs. 331
(1 -1 6 ) to 331 (1 -1 9 ). Minnesota, M ason’ s Stat. 1927, sees. 4457-4459, sec. 4460 as
amended by Laws o f 1931, ch. 242. Missouri, Rev. Stat. 1929. secs. 14182-14197.
Nebraska, Laws o f 1931, ch. 121. New York, Cahill’s Consolidate*! Laws o f 1930. Public
W elfare Law, secs. 1 -1 6 7 ; secs. 40, 57, 86, 154, as amended by Laws o f 1931, chs. 196,
88, 481, 1 9 7 ; sec. 165-a, as added by Laws o f 1931, ch. 3 5 6 ; and sec. 126, as amended
by Laws o f 1932, ch. 482. North Carolina, Ann. Code 1931 (M ichie), secs. 5014—5018
South Dakota, Comp. Laws o f 1929, secs. 10004-A to 10004-C. Texas, Laws o f 1931,
ch. 194, secs. 4 and 5. Virginia, Ann. Code 1930 (M ichie), secs. 1902-1 to 1902-0.
West Virginia, Code 1931, ch. 49, art. 6, secs. 1 - 8 ; Law s o f 1931, ch. 2. Wisconsin.
Stat. 1931, secs. 48.29 to 48.3L

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



sion o f a list of eligibles from the State department a permissive
element has crept in, with the State department making the decision
as to whether or not a county is ready for an organized program.
Permissive laws which make it the responsibility o f the county to
decide whether a county welfare board shall be appointed are in force
in six States.68 In Missouri, where the acceptance of a county wel­
fare plan means the employment o f a county superintendent rather
than the appointment of a board, the law is also permissive. In
New York State every county public-welfare district is required to
have a county commissioner o f public welfare, but the extent of his
administrative power rests with the county board o f supervisors. In
four States (Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Texas) all counties
are included in the provisions o f the act whether or not they include
a large city. In each o f the other four States special provisions have
been made for the organization o f certain counties, which have been
exempted from following the general plan for the State.
Alabama has made an exception o f the three counties containing
the cities o f Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery. The law pro­
vides that in counties with a population of more than 75,000 the
juvenile court, which in these counties is a special court, may appoint
an advisory board made up o f persons known to be interested in the
welfare o f children and may provide a paid staff o f probation
officers.69 The duties o f the juvenile-court advisory board are not
as extensive as those o f the county welfare boards provided in other
counties, as they are concerned only with problems of children re­
ferred to the court. Probation officers appointed by the court, like
county superintendents o f welfare appointed in other counties, must
be selected from candidates who have been certified by the State
child-welfare department.70 However, if any of these three counties
should decide that the provisions of the county welfare law were
more acceptable to them than the alternative plan, nothing would
prevent any or all o f them from adopting the uniform act. Under
such conditions the advisory board of the juvenile court would be
superseded by a county welfare board.
The Wisconsin law is applicable only to counties of less than 250,000 population, which means that Milwaukee County is excluded.71
A previous law had provided that counties of more than 250,000
should have a manager o f county institutions, directed by a board o f
five trustees appointed for overlapping 4-year terms. Three mem­
bers of this board are appointed by the county board of supervisors,
one is elected from the membership o f the county board, and the
fifth is appointed by the governor. The organizations under the care
o f the manager and board of trustees include county hospital, county
poor farm, almshouse, department o f outdoor relief, home for de­
pendent children, hospital for the insane, asylum for the chronic
insane, tuberculosis hospital, and school of agriculture and domestic
The Missouri statutes make special provisions for the organization
o f cities o f different classes as well as for counties. Counties includ88 Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and W isconsin.
89 Alabama, Session Laws o f 1923, no. 295, sec. 1 5 ; (Code 1923, secs. 3550, 3551).
w Alabama, Code 1923, sec. 3536 as amended by Laws o f 1931, no. 315, sec. 7, p. 361.
71 W isconsin, Stat. 1931, sec. 48.29.
*• W isconsin, Stat. 1931, sec. 46.21.
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P R O G R A M S IN' 1 6



ing cities of the first class (Kansas City and St. Louis) are required
to provide a nonpartisan, nonsectarian social-welfare board com­
posed of 6 members, 3 of whom are appointed by the county court
and 3 by the mayor and common council. The provisions for the
remaining counties are permissive and may apply only to a particular
city or to the county. In counties of less than 50,000 population the
county court (the fiscal body of the county) may appoint an official
known as a superintendent of public welfare, who is made responsi­
ble for all social-welfare activities of the county. The law also pro­
vides that cities of the second and third class may create a socialwelfare board at the option o f the mayor and common council, which
may serve the city only or the entire county.73
In New York centralization has been achieved by means of the
public-welfare law of 1929, which was to a considerable extent the
culmination of the efforts of the State Charities Aid Association to
centralize county care for children. This law to some extent put
into documentary form the procedures developed by the State Char­
ities Aid Association in its county societies. It provided for the
mandatory centralization of administration of all relief except home
relief (outdoor relief) and medical care in the home. This trans­
ferred to the county public-welfare district all responsibility for
children needing public support, including destitute children, neg­
lected or abandoned children, delinquent children, defective and
physically handicapped children, and children born out of wedlock.
A permissive clause in the’ law made it possible for a county to
include home relief in its centralization as far as the towns were
concerned, and the cities also if they voted to be so included. It is
also permissive with the county to decide whether costs o f care shall
be centralized or shall be charged back to the towns. A county,
however, may assume certain costs without assuming the whole cost,
even though administration may be entirely centralized. In certain
specified town and city public-welfare districts exceptions were made
which in some instances removed the conflicts between special laws
previously passed for these districts and the public-welfare law, and
in others removed the district from the provisions of the act.
Experience seems to indicate that a permissive law provides a
better basis for sound development than does a mandatory law.
Under the former it is possible to prepare counties for organization
so that when this is accomplished an agency is ready to function
effectively. I f a mandatory provision is accepted literally by coun­
ties, it is all but impossible for a State department with a small
supervisory staff to furnish the direction that individual counties
need in the initiation of a welfare program best suited to the local
needs. However, it makes little difference whether legislation is
permissive or mandatory, or, in fact, whether there is specific legis­
lation, provided there is an active State department stimulating and
educating the counties to the advantages of a local body for the
development o f a local social-welfare program.

In nine States an unpaid board or committee has been created by
the statutes as the administrative authority responsible for all or part
„ 7* St. Joseph and Springfield are classified as second-class cities. Cities o f between
3,000 ana 30,000 population may by election become cities o f the third class.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





o f the publicly supported social-welfare work of the county.74 The
law o f North Carolina also provides for a county welfare board, but
its duties, except for administration of mothers’ aid and services
provided to the State department, are advisory rather than
Membership of boards

The size of the county welfare board is not particularly important
provided the members are a representative group carefully chosen for
their interest in and knowledge of the problems to be considered.
However, at a conference of State representatives called by the Child
Welfare League of America in 1928 it was decided that a membership
of five was the preferable number for such a board. The different
States have provided for boards of 3 to 12 members, as follow s:
North Carolina _

Number o f
board members


South Dakota
West Virginia

Number of
board members





Considerable variation also exists among the States as to length o f
term for board members. Two States (Minnesota and Texas) have
an indefinite term whereby members serve “ during the pleasure ” o f
the appointing agent. Minnesota, in practice,, however, makes its
appointments on an annual basis; Tex^s has as yet set no precedent
for its provision, for county organization in this State is still very
new. In Wisconsin county board members are appointed annually.
Three States (Alabama, South Dakota, and West Virginia) have a
2-year term; three (Kentucky, Nebraska, and North Carolina) have
a 3-year term; and Virginia has a 4-year term. All the States with
terms of more than 1 year have made provision for overlapping o f
terms so that there will be a continuing group with knowledge of the
board’s work. Such a provision has distinct advantages, for constant
and complete changes in a policy-making body such as a county board
would be a decided handicap. Nevertheless, the fact that a State
does not have a plan for extended and overlapping terms need not
mean complete turnover in board personnel. An analysis of the con­
tinuity o f service of Minnesota board members made in 1929 showed
that of TO counties only 15 had had continual change in membership
during a period of from 5 to 10 years operation.
Relatively short overlapping terms with State supervision to stimu­
late activity appears to be the soundest policy. This offers an oppor­
tunity for the removal of inactive members without great difficulty
through changes in appointment, and need not effect the stabiltiy o f
the group, since satisfactory members may be reappointed. It is
essential, however, that the State agents who maintain direct contact
with the county keep the appointing agent well informed of the rela­
tive merits o f existing board members, so that reappointment may not
become a habit irrespective of the desirability for continuation o f
service of individual board members.
w Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West V ir­
ginia, and Wisconsin.
75 Five in counties containing a first- or second-class city.
7* Seven in counties containing a first-class city.
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It is generally agreed that the board should be representative of
geneial county interests as well as of the various communities in the
county if it is to be aware of county conditions and cognizant of the
local attitude toward county problems. The importance of having
both men and women on the board has been recognized in the laws of
7 of the 10 States with provisions for a county welfare board,77 and
in 2 (North Carolina and Virginia) of the other States women
have been appointed consistently throughout the State. The first
appointments in Texas have also included both men and women. It
is not infrequent for county welfare boards to have more women
serving than the minimum required by law. The legal requirements,
however, usually place the men in the majority, although South
Dakota is the only State in which the law does not require the ap­
pointment of more than one woman.
Method o f appointment.—The methods of appointment for board
members, outlined in the statutes, differ quite widely in the 10 States
with legal provision for a county board, but they can be classified
under three general plans:
1. Appointment by a State agency.

2. Appointment by one or more officials or local official bodies.
3. Joint appointment by State and local authorities.
In three States (Minnesota, North Carolina, and South Dakota)
all the appointive members are named by the State agency. In
Minnesota this means the majority on the board (3 out o f 5 or 5 out
o f 7 ); in North Carolina the whole board ( 3 ) ; and in South Dakota
the minority (2 out of 5). Experience has shown that it depends
largely on the methods employed in the selection of the board
whether appointments by a State department are more satisfactory
than by a local agency. It is probable that the framers of the Minne­
sota law felt that since the county child-welfare boards were to carry
on the State’s program in the counties, it was essential that the State
select a majority of the board members. In North Carolina the
board has no duties other than advisory, except to assist the State
department and to approve applications for mothers’ aid, for which
the State also is partly responsible. The duties of the South Dakota
county welfare boards are also closely related to the work of the
State child-welfare commission, which has the right to appoint 2
o f the 5 members of the county child-welfare board. In each of these
three States, doubtless, it was also felt that appointment by a State
group would avoid local political difficulty.
Three States leave the appointment o f county boards to a local
agency. Appointment of the county welfare board in Alabama is
by the judge of the juvenile court, in Nebraska by the county com­
missioners acting with the judge of the juvenile court, and in Texas
by the commissioners’ court. Only Alabama has functioned under
this plan for a sufficient length of time to permit of any judgment
as to its advantages or disadvantages. In its annual report for
1927-28 the State child-welfare department described the local ap­
pointment of child-welfare boards as a distinct effort to place the
community on its own responsibility for developing resources to meet
its needs and for promoting self-government.78 Satisfactory boards
"Alabam a. Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska. South Dakota, W est Virginia, and W isconsin.
Annual Report o f [Alabam a] State Child W elfare Department, 1927—28, o 9
M ont­
gomery, 1928.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





have resulted under Alabama’s plan, but some credit for this should
go to the State department, which through its agents watches the
local situation closely and advises with the judge.
Four States appoint their county boards through joint action
o f State and local agencies. The Kentucky system is somewhat
cumbersome; the county judge and county superintendent of schools
must submit a list o f 9 names, or 15 if the county be one contain­
ing a city of the first or second class, to the State children’s bureau.
From this list the State bureau selects 3 or 5 persons whose appoint­
ment is recommended to the local judge and superintendent o f
schools. It is then the duty of these two local officials to make the
formal appointment. Both Virginia and West Virginia provide
for appointments by local officials (the circuit court in Virginia and
the county fiscal body in West Virginia) from a list of eligibles sub­
mitted by the State department. It was found that in practice this
sometimes meant the State department really selected the entire
board for the list presented to the court was often limited to the
number to be appointed, although local people were usually con­
sulted in the preparation of the list and their wishes considered in
the selection. Wisconsin has an ingenious plan whereby two mem­
bers are appointed by the State department, one by a local official
(the juvenile-court judge), and these, together with the chairman
of the county board of supervisors, who is designated as the fourth
member, elect the fifth member at their first meeting in the calendar
year. The Wisconsin plan has only been in operation since August
.30, 1929, and those familiar with its operation are not ready to
suggest any radical change. In practice the State department has
pursued the policy of consultation with local groups before making
its appointments, and the local appointing agents have usually
reciprocated by consulting with the State department before action
is taken. The State department has also made an effort to guide
judiciously the election of the fifth member, as it often happens that
the four members have little knowledge of potential members in
an unrepresented section of the county. When appointments are
dependent upon three sources real danger exists that they may be
so delayed as to interfere with the welfare program in a county.
However, a study of 10 Wisconsin counties showed that with the
exception of one county there had been no serious delay in appoint­
Each plan has proved to have advantages and disadvantages.
Under the State appointment system, unless the State agency has
a real understanding of the local situation, persons may easily be
selected who, from the standpoint o f their own communities, are
totally unfitted for the responsibilities involved in such a position.
On the other hand, the State department that selects its appointees
carefully is often without the prejudices which may influence a
local appointing agent. The State department also may be more
inclined to weigh the local situation and search out individuals who
will fill the particular need in a county than is a local official to
whom the appointment of county board members is a very minor
detail as compared with his other duties. Casual inquiry may suffice
when the local appointing agent suddenly realizes that it is neces­
sary to act if the county welfare board is to function. The danger
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





of political influence depends upon the attitude of the appointing
agent, whether local or State.
In a State in which local feeling is strong and local independence
zealously guarded, it would probably be a great mistake to attempt
State appointment o f even a minority of county board members, for
it is doubtful whether such appointments would ever be cordially
accepted. Even in States where counties have accepted certain con­
trol, a county sometimes rebels and the welfare board may cease
to function as a result.
It has not been possible to arrive at a definite conclusion as to
whether a county feels more local pride in a board o f its own selec­
tion than in one with the prestige of State selection back of it. Con­
fidence and respect for the local board apparently do not depend
upon the appointing agency but rather upon the membership and
the subsequent activity of the board. Appointment by joint action
is an attempt to satisfy both State and local interests, but it is
uncertain whether or not this is actually accomplished. In prin­
ciple, the general idea would seem to have merit, but until it can be
given adequate trial in practice its acceptance cannot be urged.
Ex-officio members.—Five States have provided for certain exofficio representation on the county welfare board. O f these, four
States (Minnesota, Alabama, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) have
a representative from the local body responsible for the county ex­
penditures. Wisconsin and West Virginia have designated that this
member be the chairman of the body, but in Minnesota and Ala­
bama the commissioners select the member to serve on the county
welfare board. The reason for including a representative from the
group holding the purse strings seems self-evident. Theoretically
at least, it should be advantageous to have one member to carry back
to this group an interpretation of the purpose, accomplishments,
and future plans of the county welfare board. But actually the
man who can satisfactorily manage the business affairs of a county
may not necessarily be interested in its welfare program, nor can
he always take back an unprejudiced interpretation of its activities.
It he has obtained his official position through election by the
people, he may hesitate to declare himself in any controversial mat­
ter for fear o f injuring his political strength. In States where the
chairman automatically becomes a member of the county welfare
board, even less chance may exist of obtaining a person with a
sincere interest in social welfare than when certain selection is per­
mitted. On the other hand, when selection is left to the fiscal board
itself there is sometimes the tendency to pass the honor or responsi­
bility along. This oftentimes means frequent changes in the mem­
bership, with insufficient time for a member to gain a real knowledge
of the work before he is supplanted by someone else. An enlight­
ened, genuinely interested representative from the group in charge
of county expenditures is without doubt a real asset, and legislation
needs to be sufficiently flexible to make it possible to secure this.
In three States (Minnesota, South Dakota, and Alabama) the
county superintendent of schools has been made a member o f the
welfare board. In general the basis for such a provision appears
to be relatively sound, for it seems fair to assume that the super­
intendent o f schools has a wider knowledge of conditions affecting
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




children in the rural districts than any other single individual.
However, the official duties of a county superintendent of schools
are arduous, and he may have neither time nor inclination to as­
sume additional ones. In Minnesota, and in South Dakota since
1931, there has been an added drawback in that the office is elective,
and the superintendent is often overconscious of the political effect
of his activities. In Alabama, where the superintendent of schools
is chosen by the county board of education, an elected body, the
political influence is felt to a certain degree although not so directly.
The judge having juvenile jurisdiction has been made an exofficio member o f the county welfare board in three States (Alabama,
West Virginia, and South Dakota). Alabama has even designated
the judge as chairman of the board. In view of the fact that
seven States (Alabama, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, V ir­
ginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) either have given to the board
certain duties with relation to the juvenile court or have allowed
it to cooperate with the court by providing probation service when
requested so to do, it is of interest that in only three States has it
been deemed wise to make the judge a member of the board, although
in some of these States it is the practice of certain individual judges
to attend the county board meetings.
No uniformity is found in the five States with relation to the num­
ber of ex-officio members as compared with other members o f the
county welfare board. In Alabama 4 of 7 members are ex-officio;
Minnesota provides for 2 ex-officio members whether the board is
composed of 5 or 7 members; in South Dakota, as in Alabama, the
ex-officio members are in the majority and include 3 of the 5 mem­
bers; West Virginia has 2 ex-officio members on a board that varies
from 6 to 12 members; and Wisconsin has only 1 ex-officio member
on its board of 5. Limited ex-officio representation is undoubtedly
of real value, but experience has shown that a board attempting to
carry on an active administrative program is often seriously handi­
capped when overloaded with ex-officio members.
Functions of county boards

The activities of county welfare boards vary in different States
and in individual counties. In general the functions of these boards
are of three types: (1) To provide social planning for the county,
including advisory services and assistance to local public officials and
social agencies; (2) to further in every way possible the provision of
funds for the care of children and for the employment o f qualified
social-case workers; and (3) to serve on case committees or to do
case work under the supervision of a State agency when funds are
not available for the employment of a case worker.
A board composed of representative citizens can have great weight
with the fiscal authorities at the time yearly appropriations are being
made. The board or a committee of the board and not the worker
should present the financial needs of the county agency, although the
worker may be called upon to supply the members with exact infor­
mation as to those needs. I f public funds are not available in
sufficiently large amounts to support the agency adequately, the
appeal for private funds to supplement the regular appropriation
should come from the board.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





It has proved helpful for county welfare boards to keep other non­
official groups in the county acquainted with the work and the plans
for progressive development. I f the membership is representative,
it will naturally follow that the members of the board are likewise
members of other organizations in the county—social, civic, and
religious. By interpreting to these organizations the work of the
board, a body o f public opinion may be built up which can be of
great help. The members of a county welfare board can often be o f
real assistance in the passage of desirable social legislation within
the State. Their contact with other organizations can be equally
helpful in this as well as in other promotional work, and should not
be overlooked.
The county board, with the help of the State department, usually
plans the county program which the worker is to direct. Only
through regular meetings can the board keep in close touch with
the work of its executive so as to interpret this to the several com­
munities of which its members are a part. It has been found that
it is neither necessary nor always advisable that the executive be the
only one chosen to speak to groups over the county about the work
being done. Board members who are in close contact with all that
is happening within the organization often have a real grasp o f the
situation throughout the county and are well able to explain the
agency to the community. The board working with its executive
should determine the policies of the agency regarding intake, divi­
sion of work with other agencies, and other matters affecting its
In some counties the whole board or, when that is impracticable, a
committee of the board acts as a case committee for the worker.
Through this service boards have an opportunity to consider the
problems of individual cases in the county and to assist with plans
for social treatment. A knowledge of the work so gained can often
be put to good purpose later when definite policies o f social treatment
must be determined and there is a need for educational interpreta­
tion. Often the board can be of great help by giving volunteer serv­
ice in certain selected cases. This is particularly true in a large
county where transportation is an item. By using the board members
for certain designated pieces o f work the time of the executive may
be conserved for other services. In addition, such procedure helps to
keep the work vital to the individual members of the board and
thereby aids them in their understanding of the problems involved
in the county program. The board that permits its executive to do
all the case work sometimes may find that it has lost all power of
independent action when for some reason or another the worker is
The program of the county welfare board in counties where no
paid service is available requires careful planning by the State de­
partment and the local county group. A board o f lay persons, no
matter how interested they are, needs guidance in determining just
what their work is to be. Such a board cannot be expected to care
for all the needs of the county, and it is important, therefore, that a
careful selection be made so that the board may understand just what
its responsibility is. In some States the records of certain counties
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





indicated that the lack of an understood program was largely the
explanation for the board’s disinterest and ultimate failure. Pos­
sibly the explanation why the Minnesota child-welfare boards have
remained active over so long a period lies in the fact that much of
their work has been assigned to them by the children’s bureau of
the State board o f control.
When it is necessary for the county welfare board to accept re­
sponsibility for case work it is usually more satisfactory to limit it
to a few particular types of cases, as supervision is much more easily
provided under such conditions than if a generalized program is
adopted. However, even though limitations are set up, the State
worker must assist the local board so as to prevent it from becoming
too heavily loaded with case-work problems. A volunteer board
given careful supervision may do a fairly creditable piece of work
with a few cases, but when the load becomes large they rarely know
how to select the essentials from the nonessentials, and in conse­
quence practically all work is poorly done.
An accurate account should be kept of all cases that the board
is unable to handle, either because of its already heavy case load
or because the cases do not fall into the classification of types ac­
cepted. It has been found that this record can be of real value when
the time comes to request a full-time worker or there is a movement
to create additional social-service resources.

Three States (Missouri, New York, and North Carolina) have
made provision for the appointment or election of a county official
in whom responsibility has been centered for the administration
of certain specified social-welfare activities. In North Carolina
the statutes have also provided for an advisory committee for this
official, and in New York the local committee of a State-wide private
agency frequently acts in an advisory capacity insofar as work with
dependent children is concerned. Experience has shown that such
advisory service has been effective and further that assistance or
supervision from a State department charged with the responsibility
for developing welfare services throughout the State is desirable.
Missouri.— The first combined city and county board o f public
welfare was established in 1913 in Buchanan County, Mo., where
the city of St. Joseph is located. In 1917 the Missouri Children’s
Code Commission recommended a general extension o f the plan
throughout the State. However, when legislation was finally passed
in 1921 the provision for a county board of public welfare had been
eliminated and, instead, the county court of any county in the State
with a population of less than 50,000 was authorized to appoint a
county superintendent of public welfare. Although the original bill
set up certain qualifications for these superintendents, the legislature
rejected these entirely. As a result counties that have accepted
the provisions of the statute have frequently been handicapped by
the employment o f unqualified superintendents. Had provision
been made for an advisory committee in each county it might have
resulted in higher standards for appointments throughout the State
and in better standards of service within the individual counties.
The purpose of the Missouri provision was to furnish in the county
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P R O G R A M S IN' 1 6



government one department responsible for all social work done
by the county. It was intended that close cooperation should exist
between the county superintendent of public welfare and the State
board of charities and corrections. I f this cooperation had de­
veloped the lack o f advisory service in the counties might not have
been so unfortunate, but instead the relationship between the State
department and the county superintendents of welfare has grown
more and more remote until it had become practically nopp^ltent
by 1932.
New York.—Like Missouri, New York has pr^d^ed "ior. a>^$gle
official in each county to direct the public-welfM'eCwork^,'2rtM,elat^g
to the general relief problems of both adults «fia
the public-welfare law passed in 1929 proyis^ff' was^ lp^de for a
county commissioner of public welfare.Ji^each county^public-wel­
fare district. This official is selectivity popiri^w ote and is, there­
fore, an independent official with no local boara either to direct or
to supervise his work. In many counties, however, the agent of the
State charities aid committee assists the commissioner in cases in­
volving children, thereby establishing an advisory relationship
between the commissioner and the county committee.
North Carolina.—In North Carolina the plan is a cross between the
Missouri plan and that of States with a county welfare board. A
county board o f charities and public welfare, appointed by the State
board of charities and public welfare, is required for each county.
Likewise, there is a provision whereby each county is supplied with a
county superintendent of public welfare. In all counties of more
than 32,000 by the 1920 census, this superintendent must be a full­
time employee, selected jointly by the county board o f education and
the county commissioners for a 2-year term. In counties o f less than
32,000 the employment of a full-time superintendent is permissive,
but in those not employing one the county superintendent of pub­
lic instruction becomes ex officio county superintendent o f public
Under a ruling o f the State board o f charities and public welfare,
the county board o f public welfare must approve the applicants for
positions as superintendent o f public welfare. The board also serves
in an advisory capacity for the county superintendent, who in turn
acts as secretary to the board.

In California, Georgia, Iowa, and New Mexico plans for county
organization have been developed by a State agency without specific
legal authorization, although in three of these existing legal pro­
visions have been interpreted so as to make possible county pro­
grams.79 In each of these States the major purpose in county or79 North Dakota and Pennsylvania likewise have legal provisions that can be interpreted
as authority fo r developing county welfare services. The children’s bureau o f the State
board o f adm inistration o f North Dakota is authorized “ to cooperate with the board o f
county commissioners in the selection o f child-welfare workers and boards ” (Supp to
Comp. Laws, 1925, sec. 283b6-k), but as yet no county has been successfully organized
The Pennsylvania law gives the department o f welfare the power “ to prom ote the or­
ganization o f county councils o f social agencies, and county welfare boards, the purpose
o f which shall be to coordinate the social-welfare activities o f the counties ” (Law s o f
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ganization was to further the employment of qualified case workers
for services to families needing relief and care. The county welfare
programs in California and Iowa were especially concerned with
services to families needing relief as well as with safeguarding the
distribution of public funds. In Georgia and in New Mexico admin­
istration o f relief held a minor place until the last two years. The
development of services for children and the coordination of all
public and private welfare activities in the county have been of
major interest in these States.
California.— The California poor-relief law 80 makes it the duty
o f the board o f supervisors of every county to have a committee,
a person, or a society to make investigations o f applications for relief
and to keep records. Accordingly, the department of social welfare,
in an effort to have a certain amount of uniformity throughout the
counties, has drawn up a model ordinance which counties have been
urged to adopt. As an alternative, a resolution was prepared, but
the ordinance has usually been recommended as preferable. A l­
though this model has been varied to fit local situations, on the whole
the same general plan has been followed. This plan calls for a
board o f welfare consisting of seven members and a secretary, with
such other assistants as may be necessary. The board of supervisors,
the fiscal body of the county, is given authority to appoint the mem­
bers of the welfare board. Two of the supervisors are appointed
annually to serve as members of this board. The term of the other
five members is 4 years, but a provision for overlapping terms gives
continuity to the department. The county welfare board appoints
its secretary and necessary assistants, but the salaries for these work­
ers are subject to the confirmation of the board of supervisors. A l­
though the reason for organization in California has been to im­
prove the administration of public aid, other services have fre­
quently been coordinated with this in the county welfare depart­
ment, such as probation, child-placing, administration of county
institutions, inspection o f boarding homes, and local administration
o f aid to the three groups for whom State aid is provided, the needy
blind, the needy aged, and dependent children.
Georgia.—The legal authority for county organization in Georgia
is not quite so clear as that in California. The act creating the
board of public welfare in 1919 81 gave to the board certain educa­
tional responsibilities throughout the State and further provided fo r
the appointment of a local committee of visitors in each county or
city. The board realized that such local committees could supple­
ment its work, which included visits and inspections of jails, alms­
houses, and private institutions and agencies. In addition, in its
work as the official investigator and advisory agent of the State the
board had become interested in the administration of relief, in the
probation work of the juvenile court, and in school attendance, all
of which pointed to the need for a professional social worker. Stim­
ulated by this local need together with its own need for local
service the board undertook the development of a plan for county
80 California, Stat. 1901, p. 636, sec. 5, as amended by Laws o f 1917, p. 445 (Gen. Laws
o f 1931, act 5814, sec. 5 ).
81 Georgia, Laws o f 1919, p. 222, sec. 9.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



The type of program established in individual counties under the
Georgia plan has been dependent upon the local situation. Ow ing
to the strong local feeling in Georgia, the part of the State depart­
ment has been to assist and advise but never to control in the organ­
ization of a county social-welfare program. A n effort has been made
to educate the local people and to stimulate them to solve their own

In 1931 the law relating to the board of public welfare was re­
pealed, and a board of control of eleemosynary institutions was cre­
ated instead. However, the public-welfare department became a
division of the new board and has continued its work. With the
repeal o f the board o f public welfare law the slight legal authority
for county organization also disappeared, but the program has con­
tinued nevertheless. Selection of workers has been left to the local
community, but the department of public welfare has been greatly
interested in improving the standards of training and experience
and in 1930 reported a growing recognition in the counties o f the
need for trained, skilled workers, and their unwillingness to employ
untrained local people.
Iowa.— County welfare organization in Iowa has been accom­
plished without legal authority. However, unlike any other State,
stimulation has come from an educational institution, the extension
division of the State university, rather than from a State department
o f welfare. About 1912 the University of Iowa became interested in
the methods then in use for administration of poor relief and came to
the conclusion that it was an educational function to demonstrate to
counties a program for more constructive administration of these
funds. ^The poor-relief statute had provided for overseers of the
p o o r82 in the counties, hence this was used as a wedge in persuading
counties to employ qualified workers who might serve as overseers.
The “ Iowa plan ” further proposed a combination o f public and
private relief with family-welfare service, on the basis o f county
The uniform general plan for organized counties includes a board
o f directors with representation as follows:
1. A ll or part o f the county board of supervisors are members
o f the board. Fourteen counties out o f 25 in 1931 had from
1 to 5 members of the board o f county supervisors on the
county welfare board.
2. A few ex-officio members, representing such organizations as
the county medical society, board o f education, farm bu­
reau, chamber o f commerce, women’s clubs, or civic clubs,
are included.
3. A group of 8 to 10 contributors elected from their own group
completes the board. The term of office varies, but it is
usually 3 years. In a few counties board members are
elected for 2 years, and several others have a 1-year term.
The size of the board is decided locally, but a group o f 15
to 20 members has proved to be the most effective.83
88 Iowa, Comp. Code 1919, sec. 8289.
88 The Iowa Plan fo r County Organization o f Social Work, pp. 5, 6. University o f Iowa
Extension Bulletin No. 260, Jan. 15, 1981. Published by the University, Iow a City, Iowa.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




In counties accepting the Iowa plan, the board of directors em­
ploys a full-time social worker to serve as executive secretary of the
Social Welfare League, the usual name of the private relief organi­
zation in a county. The county board of supervisors then appoints
this same person overseer of the poor, thus making her responsible
for the administration of relief collected from private sources as
well as that from public funds.
The division of funds for financing the organization varies from
county to county, but in the main the most desirable has been 50 per­
cent from the county and 50 percent from the private organization,
raised through contributions. The public department has tended to
assume a larger and larger share of the executive’s expense. In
eight counties the entire cost is borne by the counties, but even in
these the necessity for the interest of a private group has been
There is no direct relationship between the county organizations
set up under this plan and the bureau of children in the State board
of control, although mutual cooperation has developed to a limited
extent. The Iowa Child Welfare Commission in 1924 recommended
legislation permitting any county in the State to create a county
welfare board under the general supervision of the State board, of
control.84 Under this bill in counties already organized the existing
machinery could have been utilized, the directors serving as the
county welfare board. Although the measure failed to pass the legis­
lature, the principles embodied in it are still recognized as sound.
The demonstration made by the extension service of the value of
an organized county welfare program should lead eventually to a
State-wide program developed in coordination with State welfare
New M exico—In New Mexico broad responsibilities have been
granted to the board of public welfare. Likewise, the activities of
the bureau o f child welfare, which is under the board, have been
neither limited nor clearly defined in the laws. The bureau has
assumed, therefore, that it might carry on any activities in the field
of child welfare that were not actually prohibited. The wide expanse
of territory in the State made decentralization of services seem a
necessity. Hence the bureau has stimulated the development of local
welfare organizations which could serve as extensions of the bureau
itself. Organization has varied with the local situation, and has
sometimes extended to districts composed of several counties rather
than been confined to a single county. Schools, courts, and social
agencies have all cooperated with the bureau of child welfare in its
program of organization over the State. In one community 21
different groups participated in the county organization. New
Mexico, like Georgia, has not followed a uniform plan, but has
adapted its program to the local situation.

Although the laws of several States differentiate between the
duties of the county welfare board and the executive agent, it has
seemed inadvisable to separate them, since practically all States with
84 Report o f Iowa State Child W elfare Commission, p. 95.
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Des Moines, 1924.

P R O G R A M S IN ' 1 6



specific legislation have in practice combined the two. In a few
States the duties of the county welfare agency are not outlined in the
law but are prescribed by a supervisory body. For example, in
South Dakota and Minnesota, a State department has been largely
responsible for the character of the county program, whereas in
Texas the commissioners’ court of the county in cooperation with the
State department defines the duties of the local child-welfare board.
In States without specific legislation it is somewhat difficult to deter­
mine the scope o f activity of county welfare organizations, as there
has been less uniformity throughout the individual counties than in
States with specific legislation.
The activities of county welfare agencies in the 16 States with
coordinated county programs may be divided into two general

1. Special services for which no nrevious provision has been
made in the county, such as the discovery and investigation
of conditions affecting children and the establishment o f
special services for dependent, neglected, and physically and
mentally handicapped children.
2. Services, previously the responsibility of other county officials
or agencies, which have been transferred to the county
welfare agency either (a) by mandate, which makes these
duties automatically the responsibility of the new county
agency whenever it is set up, as in Missouri and North
Carolina; or (b) by a permissive provision, which allows
transfer of activities to the county welfare agency on request
of other county officials, as in Nebraska and Wisconsin.
It has proved advisable to have legislation prescribing duties for
county welfare agencies flexible enough to permit broad interpreta­
tion by the individual county and yet definite enough so that no
question exists as to certain primary functions. Authority merely
to cooperate and advise with county officials offers little on which a
welfare board can develop a real county program. The welfare
agency should provide an opportunity for the coordination of all
publicly supported social services. In the rural county where private
social work is practically nonexistent, the county welfare agency has
a broad field of service and should be set up so that it can supply
the welfare needs of all persons requiring aid.

In eight States85 the statutes specifically provide that the county
welfare agency shall have general responsibility for the welfare of
defective, dependent, neglected, and delinquent children. In the
four remaining States services for children are less clearly defined.
In North Carolina it is the duty of the county superintendent o f
welfare to oversee dependent, and delinquent children, “ especially
those on parole or probation ” and dependent children placed in the
county by the State board of charities and public welfare. An addi­
tional provision authorizes the county superintendent to investigate
the “ causes of distress ” , under the direction of the State board, and
to make such other investigations in the interest of social welfare as
85 Alabama,
W isconsin.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Minnesota, Missouri, New York,


Dakota, Texas,





the State board may direct. A section of the Nebraska law authoriz­
ing the superintendent to perform such duties as shall be necessary
to promote the public welfare of the county would seem to make pos­
sible a general family-welfare program. The superintendent of
welfare in a Virginia county is responsible for the investigation of
“ causes of distress ” and such other investigations as the State
board may direct. In West Virginia the county welfare board is to
advise and assist the State board of children^ guardians66 in its
work in the county and to make such visitations and reports as the
State board o f guardians may request.
Protective work for children is likewise expected of the county
organizations in the four States without specific legal authority for
county programs, although there is considerable variation in the
emphasis on this work from State to State and county to county.
In New Mexico and New York the emphasis is probably stronger
than in the other States.

The statutes o f nine States87 permit the county welfare executive
to serve as probation officer when appointed by the court. Such a
provision makes it possible for a county with a small population and
a small number of court cases to have qualified services when other­
wise only part-time, untrained persons, or volunteers only, would
be available. Adequate investigations and supervision can be car­
ried on only by a person well grounded in the principles of case­
work treatment and acquainted with the resources of the community.
Not only the probationer himself must be helped to use the resources
available to him—educational, vocational, recreational—but his fam­
ily, too, may need assistance so that they can supplement the work
ox the probation officer.
Thorough investigations are essential to the judge in making his
decisions about a case. The county worker often knows many of
the families appearing before the court. Thus she is able promptly
to present to the court pertinent information regarding the family.
Even in a county employing more than one social worker it has
sometimes proved an advantage to have probation service as a part
o f the general welfare work of the county. Much duplication in
travel can be avoided under such a plan, and the unfortunate stigma
caused from having an officer from the court visit the family is
eliminated. Instead, the worker simply represents the county wel­
fare department.
In the States without legal provisions for county development less
tendency has existed to coordinate probation work with other county
welfare activities. A few county social workers in Iowa and Georgia
have at the request of the court accepted responsibility for supervi­
sion of selected children on probation, and in some California coun­
ties probation has been made a part o f the work of the county
welfare department. In New Mexico the juvenile court may be one
of the agencies included in the county organization and is accord­
ingly entitled to services.
88 Now the division o f children o f the department o f public welfare.
87 Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, West
Virginia, and W isconsin.
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P R O G R A M S IN ’ 1 6



School attendance

Alabama and North Carolina are the only States in which school
attendance is one of the major duties of the county agency. In Ala­
bama county workers have been expected to give a large part of their
time to school attendance because 60 percent of the support for the
county welfare program has come through the county board of
education. In a recent study in six Alabama counties the percentage
of cases referred as school-attendance problems in the total number
of active cases ranged from 10 percent in one county to 54 percent
in another, with an average of 33 percent.88 Doubtless many of these
cases would have eventually come to the attention of the county
superintendent of child welfare had they not come through the
school-attendance channel, but the opportunity for constructive work
would probably have been considerably lessened if the difficulties had
been allowed to run on until they became serious. On the other
hand, attendance problems may demand such a large proportion of
the worker’s time that other equally important problems will be
In North Carolina school attendance is possibly not as heavily
emphasized as in Alabama, but it constitutes one of the important
functions of the county agency. In the less populous counties, where
the superintendent o f schools acts as superintendent of welfare, it is
almost inevitable that school attendance should be accentuated in
the county program. It is possible, too, that additional emphasis
will be laid upon this function as counties take advantage of a pro­
vision passed by the 1931 legislature, whereby school equalization
funds were made available to counties employing full-time county
superintendents of welfare. (See p. 12.) In four other States 89
legal provision has been made authorizing the executive of the county
welfare agency to assist in enforcing compulsory school attendance
under certain conditions.
Two types o f activities are involved in any effective schoolattendance program: (1) Koutine clerical work and (2) case-work
services. A county welfare agency with a general program of social
work can be of real assistance in the case-work problems uncovered
in the enforcement of school attendance, which often include de­
pendency and neglect, feeble-mindedness, and delinquency, but it
may lose its social-welfare value if it becomes too much involved in
the other aspect of the proo-ram. The experiences o f North Caro­
lina and Alabama have shown the advantage of including school
attendance in the duties of a county welfare agency, for through it
an entering wedge into the social difficulties of a family has often
been provided. In these two States the danger that attendance work
may crowd out other types of social work has also been apparent.
In none of the four States without specific legal authority has any
general effort been made to include school attendance in the county
welfare program, although in a few localities in New Mexico the
schools have united with other local agencies in the financial support
o f the program and have accordingly received case-work services.
** Unpublished report o f study made by the Child W elfare League o f America in 1930
*» Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis






Six States90 have empowered the executives of their county wel­
fare boards to act as parole agent for persons in the county paroled
from State institutions. Alabama, Kentucky, and Wisconsin limit
this function to juvenile parolees. No evidence has been found that
much use has been made of this provision, although a few cases may
have been handled in most of the six States. Undoubtedly more
satisfactory parole can be carried on by the close-at-hand service of a
qualified county welfare worker than by the occasional visits o f a
parole agent. However, it is essential that the local worker have
the benefit of the institution’s knowledge of the individual and that
the State parole agent assist in planning and in giving general
supervision during the period of parole. This is particularly neces­
sary if the county worker must care for persons paroled from insti­
tutions for the insane, as is possible in North Carolina and Virginia.
In Minnesota the county welfare agencies are sometimes expected
to give supervision to persons on parole from the State institution
for the feeble-minded, and they are often asked to supervise feeble­
minded wards of the State board o f control who have had no institu­
tional experience.
Other services to children

In Alabama and West Virginia one of the duties of the county
welfare agency is to cooperate with the State labor inspectors. A la­
bama limits this provision to child labor, but West Virginia appar­
ently expects the worker when requested to give aid in cases o f both
adults and children.
Alabama and North Carolina expect the county worker to aid in
the promotion of wholesome recreation. By this provision it is
apparent that these two States have recognized the relationship
between wholesome recreation and a reduction of social problems.
However, although it may be admitted that many social difficulties
grow out of unwholesome recreation or a lack of any recreational
opportunities, it should also be recognized that few county social
workers have any training for recreational work. Experience has
shown that with the multiplicity of other duties the social worker
has little time for more than a general interest in this specialized
Counties in Wisconsin have been specifically authorized to make
appropriations to the county welfare agency for the purchase of
clothing, payment of medical services, expense of boarding, and other
special aid for children. A few Wisconsin counties have made
appropriations, but in no county has the amount been sufficient for
more than incidental items of expense.
In New York State it has long been the practice to provide sup­
port from public funds for dependent, neglected, delinquent, and
all other types of handicapped children, but not until the passage
o f the public-welfare law in 1929 was it mandatory that this responsi­
bility be assumed by the county or public-welfare district.
Isolated instances can also be found in other States where counties
have permitted the county welfare agency to administer certain funds
for the support of children, but as a general rule each child’s case
»»Alabam a, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, and W isconsin,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




must be accepted by the fiscal authority of the county or town if
public aid is to be administered.

Home relief


Administration of relief is the duty of the county welfare workers
m Missoun, New York North Carolina, and Virginia; in North
Carolina final responsibility for relief is still vested in the county
mmissioners ; and m New York the services of the county welfare
elceD U n œ , X e d ^ adminj f tration of relief to nonresident poor
N h
6Pand Wisconsin)
6 C0Unt/ the
In three
(Minnesota, Nebraska,
may upon
assume this responsibility but is seldom asked to do so. PA s T w a s
that sHmulafd
th* need f?r a-n imProved « l i e f administration
that stimulated county, organization in California and Iowa, it is
s h o be
^ closely
t Æ
th? r / to
ï U
° r^anizedservice.
counties in these States
oor re îe administration has shown great improvement in
counties having a qualified county welfare executive responsible
for its administration. Not only has the cost of relief been reduced
knn°wfh careful investigations,- which have uncovered hitherto unthe need^a n d° ntV> U
grants have been made more adequate to
the need, and other constructive services have been given to clients
leading toward rehabilitation and permanent economic independence.
Mothers’ aid

u n d e S h ? S t ill8 n r ', t Cw d' r lfar® and a &mily-welfare measure,
and eight States (Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska North
c a Z T ;i,y d l T nr ’ V eStV rginia’ and Wisconsin) have

^ xi t
1 eidain duties connected with its administration
among the legal responsibilities of the county welfare agency. In
Kentucky, Missouri and V irginia the county welfare executive has
been designated as the administrator of aid to mothers, and in North

m p n ih ffh 11h C° U? t;^ b° ard o f Pub.lic welfare is required to recom­
mend to the board o f county commissioners the amount to be allowed
to a mother and her children.
In the remaining States it is the duty of the county welfare a^encv
to make investigations of, and to give supervision to, the families, on
request of the agency authorized to administer aid. In none o f
these States has there been uniform county acceptance o f this assist­
ance from the county welfare agency. In some counties the nudge
or other person responsible for administration has realized that the
county superintendent o f public welfare is much better equipped to
make the necessary social study of a family and its needs than any
W i - i n the county and bas been glad to be relieved of the respon­
sibility for everything except the actual granting o f aid. In other
counties the administering agent has asked for help only on selected
cases, and in still others the county social worker may never be called
upon to assist. The tendency to call upon the county welfare agency
for investigations and supervision of mothers’ aid families is much
greater in counties with a paid executive than in counties with a vol­
unteer board. Possibly as the county executive becomes a more per­
manent element in county organization administrative duties for
mothers’ aid will be gradually transferred to this worker.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Mothers’ aid in California is administered by the agencies author­
ized by the county commissioners to administer relief, usually the
county welfare organizations. In Iowa the county social worker
may be called upon to assist in administering mothers’ aid, which is
the responsibility o f the juvenile court. The mothers’ aid law passed
in New Mexico in 1931 gave administrative powers to the State
bureau o f child welfare; hence it is assumed that whenever an
appropriation is available the bureau will call on the county organi­
zations to assist in administration.
Other services

A number o f scattered duties are also included in the several States
with county welfare programs. Usually a local reason exists for
these inclusions, and yet they are suggestive o f the uses to which a
county agency may be put. Cooperation with the State board o f
health is one of the duties of the Alabama county superintendent o f
welfare. In both Missouri and New York the superintendent of wel­
fare is required to assist in making investigations for blind relief, and
in Minnesota the county welfare boards may be called upon to assist
in work for the blind. The county welfare worker in Missouri,
North Carolina, and Virginia is authorized to assist with the prob­
lems of employment, and when deputized a Missouri county super­
intendent of welfare can perform the duties of factory inspector in
the county. The commissioner of public welfare in New York is
authorized to give old-age relief to persons meeting the qualifications
of the law. A provision in the Nebraska law gives the county wel­
fare worker the right to investigate “ all cases of divorce and legal
separation in which rights o f children are affected when so requested
by the judge.” General cooperation with juvenile courts, public and
private agencies, and other social-service agencies is usual.

It is obvious that the county cannot provide all the social services
required for children or other individuals. That the State should
provide institutional care for certain groups and special types of
case-work services has been generally accepted. With the growth of
understanding of the needs o f the individual, and the development of
local services, the need for close coordination between the activities
of the State and of county welfare agencies is assuming increasing
importance. The subcommittee on Local Public Units on Child Care
and Protection of the White House Conference was especially con­
cerned with this problem and came to the following conclusions in
regard to State and county programs for children:
In recent years the county has been advocated as the most practicable
administrative area for general child care. A county unit should be
with case-work service and with facilities for case-work treatment o f handi­
capped children. The question as to whether temporary or permanent care
is required should be determined primarily in the local unit. Case-work re­
sponsibility should rest administratively with the county for a11 se. ^
^ anJ
child unless, after adequate case-work treatment, it has been decided that for
given reasons he requires specialized care that only the State can provide.
Children who need only temporary care should not be accepted tor btate
care There is danger that a local unit will take the easy course of turning
children over to the State because the State will support them, rather than
because the State alone can render the best service to these particular children.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

d,ecisi®n that a child is to
5 - n f l ri,a Ky, ° theL tyP^•i ?
by the State itself before the child
c,hlld to the
represented at the0fha


be turned over to the State for free home
?are’ therefore’ should be subject to review
is accepted; when a court is contemplating
State for W cause, the State should be

There should be a clear-cut division of responsibilities between the State and
the county and a decision as to what service is to be rendered by each and
whether the local worker in rendering service is acting as an agent o f the State
“ i ® oc,al
There also should be a clear agreement between the
county and the State as to which is responsible for the support in each type
of case, the allocation of costs never, of course, determining the form of treat­
ment accorded to any child.“

In many States with county welfare programs the county agency
is specincalty authorized to assist the State in its services to State
wards and to other persons in need. Through provision of county
social services to persons paroled from institutions for delinquents
and the insane, the State and county are able to provide continuing
services through a period of readjustment to community life. Two
interesting examples of coordination of State and county services
are the program for dependent children in Alabam a, and the care
of feeble-minded persons in Minnesota.
The work o f the children’s aid division of the State child-welfare
department of Alabama has changed decidedly as counties have
established county child-welfare boards. The State department has
continually encouraged the counties to care for their own dependent
children, especially when the dependency seems likely to be of a
temporary nature. It is the plan o f the State department that when
its program of child care has been fully developed most of the work
tor dependent, neglected, early delinquent, and otherwise handi­
capped children will be done in the county where the children belong
and only in exceptional cases will it be necessary to transfer the
responsibility for plans to the State department. This program in
Alabama follows very closely the recommendations made by the
White House Conference committee.
In Minnesota the State and county are cooperating in the care of
teeble-imnded persons committed to the guardianship o f the State
board o f control. Until 1917 the only provision for the care o f the
feeble-minded was the State school for the feeble-minded to which
admission was voluntary. The law enacted in 1917 made possible
compulsory commitment to the care and custody o f the State board
of control o f any person so mentally defective as to be a menace to
himself and the community. This provision has resulted in the com­
mitment o f many persons needing special care and assistance for
whom institutional care is not necessary or is not available. By
making use o f the county child-welfare boards Minnesota was able
to give creditable supervision under a single State supervisor to
more than 600 persons outside the institution during the biennium
ended June 30, 1932.92 More and more the responsibility for general
supervision o f feeble-minded persons outside the institutions is laid
upon the county child-welfare boards, but the State has accepted
as its own responsibility the extrainstitutional supervision of feeble­
minded persons residing in districts in which they do not have
“ Organization fo r the Care o f Handicapped Children, p. 91 and 92.
JuneS30,e i98 2, p6^

Stillw ater
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


B oard ° f Contro1 o f Minnesota, period ended





Experience has shown that the appointment of a county welfare
board or official means little unless it is followed by a program of
friendly supervision and counsel by the State department. In coun­
ties using either the volunteer services of board members or an inex­
perienced paid worker such supervision to be effective must be close
enough to give real direction to the local welfare program. The
State supervisor is responsible for furnishing stimulation, education,
leadership, and guidance, and for setting the standards by which
the local agency can measure its program. In counties with full­
time professional workers the need for supervision is considerably
less, but, nevertheless, the State department should be in a position
to serve these counties in an advisory capacity.
The first year of the county agency’s existence is frequently the
most important, for this is the time when the purpose of the agency
must be defined and it must establish its place in the community.
During this formative period it has proved worth while for the
State department to maintain a closer relationship to the county
agency than is necessary later. The agency must be assisted in
planning its future program; proper relationships between the
agency and the public and private social agencies in the community
must be built up; a satisfactory record system must be initiated;
and the board must be helped to understand its responsibility in the
welfare program of the community. The future of a county pro­
gram of social work depends largely upon its success at the begin­
ning. Therefore, it is essential that the beginning be made under
the most favorable circumstances that can be created.
The number of visits of State supervisors and the length of the
visits will depend, of course, entirely on the situation within the
county. For the first year, at least, bimonthly and preferably
monthly visits should probably be made, even if a qualified worker
is employed. After that time quarterly or even semiannual visits
will probably suffice for the county with a qualified worker, but more
frequent visits to the county without full-time professional service
will need to be made. Minnesota and Wisconsin have felt that bi­
monthly visits were not too often. Visits should be of sufficient
length to allow the State agent time to attend a board meeting, to
study the quality of the case work, to confer with board members
and cooperating agencies, and to follow the progress of social wel­
fare throughout the county. The more infrequent the visits the
longer the State agent will need to remain in the county to under­
stand the situation thoroughly.
Satisfactory supervision from the State department cannot be ac­
complished unless the supervisory staff is composed of persons of
high professional qualifications who can command the confidence
and respect of the local citizens and officials with whom they are
associated. Unless a supervisor is in whole-hearted sympathy with
county welfare organization she cannot be expected to stimulate
interest and enthusiasm in others.
To a competent supervisor each county represents a case-work
problem with assets and liabilities that need to be studied with the
same sort of skill and intensity as those o f families. Just as a case
study o f a family may reveal existing resources, so a case study
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

P R O G R A M S IN ' 1 6



o f a community may often result in the development o f new social
resources or the broadening of existing agencies to meet a newly
discovered need.
Kecord keeping has been accepted as one of the first principles of
case-work treatment. Likewise, the necessity for having a careful
record of all supervisory contacts within a county has been demon­
strated. Satisfactory records will show in detail the steps taken in
the course of supervision, so that a new supervisor taking over the
work will have a picture of the county’s progress, together with the
methods that have been used to accomplish the present result. A
county social history may be just as illuminating as a family social
An interesting type of county record was found in the county
division of the Pennsylvania Children’s Aid Society in Philedelphia.
Chronological entries had been made after each visit to the county,
and at the close of each year a careful summary had been made show­
ing to what extent the county had accomplished the goals set for it
during the year. A brief account of the personalities involved in
the county welfare work was included, with a statement of their
attitude toward the agency program. Goals were set toward which
the agency should strive for the next year. A financial statement
was made, as well as a record of the total visits and the total number
of days spent by the supervisor in the county. A similar procedure
in a State department would enable it to evaluate the work of the
county agency and its own contact with it, as is not possible when
only scattered chronological entries of visits have been made. It
may also offer an opportunity for the supervisors to record the pic­
ture of the county welfare program as a whole, which is difficult when
only brief reports of visits are entered in the record.
Minnesota has developed a county face sheet on which certain
general information can be entered, such as area, population, names
of county officials, date of court terms, names o f county welfare
board members with the date of appointment, and dates of visits of
supervisor. The form of any face sheet would necessarily differ with
each State, yet the plan could well be put into general operation.
Although the term “ supervision
to a certain extent, implies
control, in practically no State has the State department attempted
to control the work of a county organization. Instead, supervision
has usually been interpreted in its broadest sense as advisory and
consultant service, guidance, and assistance. It is to the interest of
the State public-welfare authority that services in the local com­
munities be maintained according to high standards and that addi­
tional resources be developed where they are needed. It is essential,
therefore, that the work in each county be thoroughly understood,
so that the constructive experiences of one county welfare agency can
be passed on to other counties and the mistakes of one county will
not be repeated in another.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

It is generally recognized that social problems exist in rural and
small urban communities as well as in large cities, and that there
is equal need in these communities for early discovery of persons
needing care and skillful treatment that will provide for immediate
needs and prevent the development of more serious difficulties ana
problems. Such services must be immediately available, and this is
possible only through local employment of qualified social workers.
Local responsibility for certain public services for the dependent,
the delinquent, and the handicapped is provided for in the statutes,
but the division o f such responsibility among a number of public
officials or agencies has prevented the employment of qualified work­
ers in most of the less populous areas o f the country. County wel­
fare programs having as their objective the coordination ana
development o f social services in the county and the employment of
one or more qualified county social workers have been developed
in a number of States to meet these needs.
The county has been generally accepted as a more practical local
administrative unit than the individual town or township. Counties
throughout the United States vary widely in area and population,
however, and in many counties the population is too small, and
financial resources are too limited, to make them effective govern­
mental units. In a few States this situation has been recognized, and
provision has been made in the county welfare program whereby a
group of counties may combine their resources and employ a district
social worker.
The organization of county welfare services has been accomplished
in most States that have developed such programs through the
enactment of legislation, either mandatory or permissive, which
authorizes counties to establish county social-welfare agencies.
These agencies have been given special new responsibilities for the
protection and care of children, and they are authorized to provide
social services to public officials charged with the care o f dependent,
delinquent, or handicapped persons. In a few States without such
legislation a State department has carried on an educational pro­
gram, the purpose of which has been to improve administration
o f local social services or to develop local services for persons for
whom the State has some responsibility. The real accomplishments
that have been made in these States have demonstrated the fact that
the stimulation and assistance of the State are the vital factors in the
development of county social services.
By the beginning of 1932 about one third of the States had
developed a county welfare program, although much variation
existed in the extent to which such programs had been accepted by
individual counties. In only four States (Alabama, California,
North Carolina, and New York) had county social workers been
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



employed in a m ajority o f the counties. In the remaining States with
a county welfare program counties were either wholly unorganized or
social services were being carried on by a board o f lay members.

No attempt has been made in this report to set out any one State
program as an example o f a perfect plan adapted to all States and
to all types of local communities. Yet the study o f these State
programs shows that certain of the provisions have been of para­
mount importance in the development of sound local social services
throughout the State. Important among these is the quite generally
accepted use of a board composed o f representative citizens, in­
cluding, often, some public officials, as the administrative body re­
sponsible for the activities o f the county agency. By including
representatives from all parts o f the county and various social
groups, this board may take a dominant part in planning the welfare
activities of the county. The use of a board is also o f great value
m preventing political interference with the work of the agency.
Some provision for State participation in local organization is to
be found in all the effective county welfare programs. The services
rendered by the State to the county are of three types: (1) Grants
in aid to assist the counties in providing for a qualified staff;
(2) establishment o f standards of education^ training^ and experience for county social workers and assistance to counties in obtain­
ing eligible persons; (3) assistance to local groups in making plans
and m stimulating interest in county organization and consultation and
case-work services to assist the county agency when it is established.
The need for State financial assistance to assist the county in pro­
viding satisfactory education and health services has been generally
accepted, but only a few States have realized the need for State
funds to assist in providing social services. Alm ost every State
has areas economically unable to support an adequate social-work
program. O ften these areas have the greatest need for social serv­
ices, and i f these are to be provided it w ill probably mean a com­
bination of resources including those of the county, the State, and
even the Nation.
The necessity for insuring qualified personnel for county social
work has been recognized in practically all States, but relatively few
have set up a satisfactory system to bring this about. Since the
character of any social-welfare program is largely dependent upon
the quality of the social workers employed to administer it, it is
important that the standards set by the State be high enough to as­
sure the appointment of qualified persons. A few States have done
this, and the character o f their work shows the effects o f such
A t almost every point in the development o f county social-welfare
programs the need for State leadership is apparent; first, in demon­
strating to the county the fact that its social problems are worthy
o f attention; second, in assisting the county in perfecting an organ­
ization that will be effective in meeting these problems; third, in
guiding the organization so that its progress from year to year w ill
be in the right direction; and fourth, in providing such supervision
as may be necessary to assure to every child and his fam ily through­
out the entire State a high standard o f service. The States that
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




have accomplished most in county organization have recognized
these needs and have met them through the employment of a State
staff of high professional standing.
Much of the work that has been done on the organization of pub­
lic social services on a county basis has been experimental in charac­
ter. Programs in most rural counties have been limited by having
inadequate funds. Owing to heavy case loads services have been
rendered on the basis of expediency rather than on a planned basis.
Few guides are available to a county starting on a new program.
For example, what should be a desirable budget for a county of a
certain size and character of population? How large a case load
should the social worker be expected to carry? I f several social
workers are to be employed should the work be organized on a
generalized or a specialized basis? What should be the proportion
of social workers to the population? Studies and demonstrations
that will show actual activities under specified conditions are much
needed in the field of county social-welfare organization.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis