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W. B. WILSON, Secretary


Monograph prepared for the Children’s Bureau


Secretary,- N ew York State Probation Commission
Secretary, National Probation Association

Bureau Publication N o. 80

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


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Letter of transmittal_______________________________________________ ____ ______
W hat is probation?__________ _____ ._____ _____ ____ •___ .____________ ______ 7
The development of probation,___________ ________________________ ___,________
The meaning of the children's court,:_____’________§ _____________ ___ ______
The present status of the children's court and probation________________
Probation methods___________ ________.____________ _____________________ •______ 10-20
Investigation___________________________ __________________ _______________

$$$*&£ 8 n n

The psychiatric clinic and its relation to probation w o r k , , , , ______ _
The probation officer and the court hearing:I___:___ __________________
Selecting probationers and probation officers___ _______________ _______
Methods of supervision_________ ______________________ ____________________
The details of supervision_______________________________________________ 29-22
Reporting________________________ .,1 __________________________ _______
Home visits and work with the family_________
The probation officer and the school,____________ ._____ ;___u-_____
The problem of em ploym ent,,___________ _______ ________________
Cooperation with other agencies^-______________ 1_____________
Organization of the probation staff______________________________
R e c o r d s ,,,
«___ 1____________________ ;_________________ ___
Training and selection of probation officers_____________I ____________
State supervision of probation______ __________ „ ______________________
Probation for adults___________ ________________________________ ____
The results of the probation method_________ ______

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



n it e d

S tates D

e p a r t m e n t of



C h il d r e n ’s B


Washington, August SO, 1920.
S i r : I transmit herewith a monograph on probation in children’s
courts, prepared for the Children’s Bureau by Charles L. Chute,
secretary of the New York State Probation Commission and the
National Probation Association. This report is one o f a séries deal­
ing with problems of juvenile-court organization and administration.
A previous report o f a questionnaire study o f courts in the United
States hearing children’s cases pointed out the rapid growth o f the
juvenile-court movement in the 20 years that had elapsed since the
establishment of the first special juvenile court. However, only onesixth o f the courts having jurisdiction over children’s cases were
“ specially organized” for this work; among those reporting special
organization, great diversity in principles and methods existed. It is
hoped that the present report on probation—the keystone o f the chil­
dren s court and other reports that will follow will be o f assistance
in the development of higher standards and better equipment for the
specialized and delicate task of dealing with children in need of the
care and protection o f the State by reason of delinquency or parental
neglect, or other conditions requiring court adjudication.
Respectfully submitted.
J u l i a C. L a t h r o f ,



W .


il s o n ,

Secretary of Labor.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Probation, as it relates to children, may be defined as a system of
treatment for the delinquent child or, in the case of the neglected or
destitute child, for delinquent parents, by means o f which the child
and parents remain in their ordinary environment and to a great ex­
tent at liberty, but, throughout a probation period, subject to the
watchful care and personal influence o f an agent o f the court known
as the probation officer. From the narrower legalistic viewpoint pro­
bation is either a definite disposition which the court may make
in the child’s case in place of commitment, or it is an accompani­
ment or condition of an indefinitely suspended commitment. More
broadly considered, probation, as its Latin origin implies, is the
entire system o f proving or examining, investigating, and supervising
for a period a child brought to the court for treatment. It is a
definite follow-up system for court cases with a developing technique.
But it is much more. It is a mission to those in need, actuated by the
highest ideals o f human helpfulness and social service.
In dealing with probation as it is applied in the children’s courts
we must necessarily deal with the fundamental purposes and methods
o f the court itself. The probation service is not a separate feature or
branch of the court’s work merely, but is an integral and vital part
o f it; in fact, the children’s court operates through the work o f
its probation officers, and without it could hardly exist. Proba­
tion officers are the investigators and after-care agents; they assist in
making the diagnosis and they apply the remedy for the large
majority of children treated, for whom institutional care is not pre­
In the laws of every State in the United States save one,* and in
most civilized foreign countries, probation is now recognized as a
definite method or plan for treating delinquent, neglected, or destitute
children. The probation method did not originate in the juvenile
court. Long before social workers began to discuss the advisability
o f establishing a special court for children’s cases, various forms of
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the probation system were being started in the criminal courts. The
first probation law was enacted in Massachusetts in 1878, 21 years
before the first separate juvenile court came into being in Chicago.
However, the probation method developed first and principally in
dealing with children before the courts.
With the growth of humanitarian ideals and the development of
social service agencies, probation work began to be carried on in the
courts, though not at first under that name. The first organized work
was carried on by representatives of philanthropic societies. The
children’s aid societies, societies for the prevention of cruelty to chil­
dren, and similar organizations furnished agents for the courts. These
and individual volunteèrs developed the system of probation which
was finally recognized by law and by the provision of salaries for
probation officers. This probation work, under various names, and
the lessons it brought, were influential factors in the movement for
separate courts for children. When laws were enacted establishing
juvenile courts, probation became the comer stone o f their work and
probation officers were provided for as a matter o f course.
Let us consider at this point what the development o f probation
and the children’s court has meant to our entire judicial establish­
ment. ' Nô institution is grounded more firmly upon tradition and
precedent than our judicial system. Governed by laws and pro­
cedure inherited from the past, courts constantly tend to be out o f
touch with new findings and rapidly changing views as to the indi­
vidual and society. Revolutionary changes and developments have
occurred in very recent years both in the conception of the indi­
vidual as a responsible unit and in the thought of society’s responsi­
bility. To say that our system o f courts and correction has not
been profoundly affected by these changes would be untrue. How­
ever, many traditional ideas still govern and outgrown laws and
procedure o f the past greatly hamper enlightened administrators
who would take advantage of the newer and better thought.
The sympathy and the public interest which the child in trouble
always calls forth, together with the growing modern conception o f
the supreme importance o f child protection and education, have in
recent years forced a modification of the former method o f dealing
with all law violators by means of punishment supposed to fit the
crime. Society is at last beginning to see that there should be substi­
tuted for its system o f prosecution, trial, and punishment—ineffectual
either to prevent crime or to cure the criminal—the system of in­
vestigation, diagnosis, and treatment, such as has now been adopted,
in theory and at least partially in practice, in the children’s court.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



In this court the question o f guilt or innocence as to a particular
act pr acts is wholly subordinated, as it should be, to an examina­
tion of the character and condition o f the child referred for attention.
Its underlying conception and dominant practice is to ascertain
the individual and social causes o f the delinquency and to remove
or counteract them. It is not interested in punishment as such. Its
purpose is to understand in order that it may be able to cure and
prevent. The children’s court works entirely through the individual
study and treatment o f each child. Properly conceived, its work is
analogous and, in fact, closely. related to that of the physician. In
its study of the individual child before a diagnosis is reached, it
employs the psychiatric clinic, the psychologist, and the trained social
investigator, usually known as the probation officer. In its treatment
it utilizes all the helpful and preventive agencies o f the community
under skilled direction of the probation staff.
The work of the children’s court is thus seen to be scientific. While
most courts are still largely influenced by the prevailing theological
Conception o f crime or antisocial conduct as determined by character
and free will, and hence calling for fitting punishment, the chil­
dren’s court has become a pioneer laboratory in applying the prin­
ciples of modern scientific criminology based on the study and treat­
ment o f the individual delinquent rather than on punitive law.
The recent questionnaire study óf courts in the United States hear­
ing children’s cases, made by the Children’s Bureau o f the U. S. De­
partment of Labor,1 has shown conclusively that effective children’s
courts, with paid probation staffs, are by no means universally estab­
lished. Only 321 “ specially organized children’s courts' were found
to be in existence in the entire country. Most large cities have such
courts, but a majority of our smaller cities have neither children’s
courts nor effective probation service. In very few rural areas in the
country are these child-saving agencies developed.
In spite of these rather startling facts, it is still true that in the
21 years since the first court was established in this country the
extension and development o f the children’s court and probation
has been remarkably rapid. In spite of inertia and reactionary oppo­
sition involving many legal attacks upon the soundness o f the
principles involved, all of which have been met, rapid development
has occurred. Nearly every year new laws have been passed pro1
Children’s Bureau, U. S. Department of L a b o r: Courts in the United States Hearing
Children’s Cases, by Evelina Belden.
Dependent, Defective, and D elinquent, Classes
Scries No. 8, Bureau Publication No. 65. W ashington, 1920.

32679°— 21— —2
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viding for children’s courts, and probation and better standards
have been adopted.
A ll but two States in the Union now have laws providing for
juvenile or children’s courts, these States being Maine and Wyoming.
Every State, however, with the single exception o f Wyoming, now
has laws providing for the appointment o f probation officers for deal­
ing with children in the courts. Although in many States children’s
courts are found only in one or two o f the largest cities, State-wide
systems intended to reach every child are in existence in a majority.
The development in the last few years has been notable, especially in
certain Southern States. Within the past five years the States of Mis­
sissippi, West Virginia, and New Mexico have provided for juvenile
courts and probation for the first time, and the States o f Georgia and
North Carolina have extended their systems to the entire State. The
North Carolina law of 19192 is especially notable, providing for a
special juvenile court and judge and a paid probation officer in every
Broadening the work of the children’s court to include juris­
diction over negligent and nonsupporting parents, increasing the age
limit for hearing children’s cases in the first instance (usually from
16 to 18), and combining the work for children with that of the
so-called domestic relations court, creating a family court having
jurisdiction over all actions affecting the family relation—these have
resulted from recent laws in a number of States.
In recent years many cities ha ve secured .better trained and larger
probation staffs. The work o f the probation officer has largely been
taken out of the volunteer, unpaid, or partly paid class, and more
adequate salaries are now provided, though there is still much to be
accomplished in this direction,

In a large majority o f children’s courts the probation officer per­
forms a double function. He is an investigator and a ease supervisor.
In the first capacity he assists in the diagnosis and disposition of the
child. His part is to make a social investigation o f every case as­
signed to him by the court, or, where the best system prevails, of
every case as soon as possible after the complaint is received.
The duties and powers assigned to the probation staff vary in deal­
ing with the children before court disposition. In some courts proba­
tion officers to a large extent control the intake o f the court.
Children’s cases—and included with these in the best equipped chil2 Acts of 1919, ch. 97.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



dren’s courts are cases against parents or guardians in behalf o f the
child— are brought before the courts either through arrest by a police
officer or by the more approved, and in the most- successful courts more
generally used, method of the filing of a petition in the court and the
issuance o f a summons to the parents and child. Where the complaint
is made to the court, probation officers frequently'decide through in­
terviews or investigation whether the case is sufficiently serious to
come before the court. When a petition is filed the probation depart­
ment often has power to determine whether the child shall be taken
to the detention home or remain with its parents pending investiga­
tion. In the best organized courts the probation staff is given an op­
portunity in every case to make á thorough social investigation in the
first instance, regardless o f what the method o f starting the action
may be and whether or not the child is taken into custody before hear­
ing. In this matter it should make no difference whether a boy is
arrested by a police officer for committing a burglary, or is taken to
the detention home by a police officer upon complaint o f the parents
as incorrigible, or whether the child is brought before the court by
the method o f filing a petition in the court upon complaint duly pre­
sented and vouched for by a citizen.
Opinions vary somewhat in regard to this matter and practices
differ greatly, but it is generally conceded that the method still used
in some children’s courts of first arraigning children for trial and
then making the investigation is u putting the cart before the horse.”
Some courts, adhering still to a criminal procedure in part, determine
the question o f guilt or innocence upon strict rules of evidence before
receiving the probation officer’s previously prepared report and
recommendations. However, even this does not seem to be necessary,
for the true purpose of the court is not to punish for a given offense;
it is to ascertain all the important underlying facts involved in the
case o f a child or family displaying certain antisocial symptoms and
to decide upon a course o f treatment which will remove the causes and
best help and protect both the child and society. The court’s function
is parental. The court should proceed as does a wise parent and
should have before it all the information that can be secured before
any decision is reached.
IV hen a probation officer receives a case for investigation he has
a very difficult and responsible task to perform. The petition or com­
plaint tells him little. Take a concrete case: A mother has come
to the complaint department, directed Jdiither by a policeman or
social worker; she has made affidavit that her boy o f 16 is incor­
rigible. She has stated that the boy’s father is dead; that there are
several other children; that the boy stays out nights, will not work,
and is beyond her control. The petition is received and the case is
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referred to the probation officer to make an investigation. The offi­
cer goes to the home, sees the mother, and obtains her full story.
He notes conditions in the home and neighborhood. He sees the
boy alone. He learns the condition of the other children. By dis­
creetly interviewing present neighbors and neighbors at former ad­
dresses, hunting up relatives who are available, and seeing others
who know the family, he learns the general reputation, past history;,
and something o f the antecedents o f the family. The officer may
then visit the employer and previous employers, the school which the
boy last attended, the church, and any settlement or other socialservice agency which knows the family. The names of any such
agencies are secured by registering the case, as. soon as the petition is
filed, with the confidential social-service exchange o f the city.
Many unsuspected facts are revealed by the field investigation;
many times,' in fact, conclusions are reached whieh are entirely dif­
ferent from those that would have been reached through merely see­
ing the entire family in court. Such facts as these are discovered:
Bad housing, immoral neighborhood, antagonism and quarrelsome­
ness between members of the family*, lack of discipline, or too much
o f it, and so on. The probation officer has many things to decide.
His written report usually determines whether the judge will give
the boy a chance to make good in his own home under probation or
whether he will do as the mother may suggest—send the boy away
for a long time to the State industrial' or reform school.
In such cases as the above, which are common, it is often not so
much a question o f facts—these are mostly admitted though not
always easy to balance; the main questions which both the proba­
tion officer and the judge must decide relate to the attitude and latent
capacities o f the individuals involved, combined with environmental
conditions. Much will depend upon the attitude of the mother.
Much will also depend upon the real character of the boy. The pro­
bation officer in this work must have judgment, psychological insight,
and, above all, common sense based on experience. In the absence
o f psychiatric and medical examination of the boy, which ought to
be made at the start in every case but which now is possible in most
courts only where serious defect is suspected, the probation officer
should ascertain, if possible, whether there are the symptoms of men­
tal and physical disorder. I f these are suspected he should arrange
for an examination in the clinic available to the court.
Having obtained all these facts, which vary in the infinite range
o f human complexities, the probation officer must prepare a full
written report. This must state all important facts, not overem­
phasizing any. It must state facts and not opinions, though opin­
ions will undoubtedly color it. It is impossible for any court, even
if it- were desirable, to get away from the opinions and recommenda
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tions o f the probation officer. The essential thing is that these be
founded on careful study of the case, fairness, accuracy, and good
Some children’s courts minimize the preliminary investigation on
the ground that i f in doubt the court will use probation, giving time
for continued and more careful. subsequent study o f the case. E x­
perience seems to show that this theory frequently leads to placing
cases on probation which, are bound to fail, and also that it may lead
to other wrong disposition by the court. The study o f this matter
in many courts also shows that the same thorough all-around investi­
gation is not made by probation officers after they receive a case on
probation as is made before. This is perhaps due to the need of all
o f us to be held to account, and to the fact that it is human nature to
do a piece o f work more thoroughly when the results o f that work
will, be reviewed and will count in making a Responsible decision.
Perhaps this ought not to be the case, but in practice it is so..
In most courts the officers shift from investigation to supervision,
following their cases through. The question whether certain officers
should be employed to devote their time entirely to investigation,
with a special staff o f supervising, probation officers for the after-care
work, is being discussed to-day. It has been tried out in a few courts
and there is much to be said for the plan. The work o f investigation
differs from the supervision o f children on probation in certain
respects; though the two are similar, they involve different empha­
sis and systems o f work. In the investigation the important thing is
to find out facts; in the supervision it is to give constructive help.
There is a peculiar investigating knack. It consists o f the ability
to grasp facts quickly, possession o f a great deal o f tact and diplo:
macy, unusual memory, ability to get around quickly and to “ get in.”
It also requires a sympathetic approach. In any case the investi­
gator, like the supervisor, should be a real social worker, actuated by
genuine sympathy and a spirit of service.
Besides the advantages of specialization it wouid seem that some
economy of time might be effected by providing for an investigating
staff and a supervising staff, and that the neglect of either branch o f
the work would be avoided more successfully. The problem also o f
the necessary presence,in court of the investigator when his case is
heard would be more easily solved if certain probation officers did
nothing but investigate. The principal objection is,that a new officer
not so familiar with the facts as the officer who made the investiga­
tion, must take up the case after probation has begun. However,
with a full written report given to the supervisor at the start, supple­
mented by an interview with the investigator, there is little loss here.
The supervisor in any case should see all persons interested in the
child after probation has been ordered, approaching them in a some
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what different manner and for quite a different purpose than does the
investigator. It is to be hoped that more of the larger children s
courts will try the plan o f separate officers for investigating and
supervising, working in close cooperation.


As an adjunct to the work of the children’s court, developed more
recently than the probation staff but now considered indispensable,
is the court clinic, where physical, psychiatric, and psychological
examinations are made by expert physicians and psychologists. The
remarkable developments of the last decade in the study o f psycho­
pathology and abnormal psychology, especially in their relation to
antisocial behavior, have profoundly affected the work o f the modern
court. Not only is the clinic operated in connection with the juvenile
court of inestimable value as a research laboratory, but it is o f practi­
cal, everyday importance in the diagnosis and treatment of the cases
brought before the court.
It is generally admitted that under ideal conditions expert exami­
nation o f every child, mentally and physically, should be made peri­
odically. The place for these examinations would seem to be in the
school, but the schools have not equipped themselves generally for
thoroughgoing work of this kind. With the exceptional children
brought before the court a more thorough study is demanded by ex­
perts skilled in dealing with the abnormal and difficult-child, and a
clinic in connection with the court is required. It would be well if
eierv child coming before the court for treatment cbuld pass through
the clinic, but in few courts as yet are the facilities adequate for this.
The judge or the probation officer, frequently the latter, is called upon
to select cases presenting symptoms of abnormality requiring special
examination. It is often impossible in connection with the proba­
tion officer’s investigation to examine all. the children who present
these symptoms, but this is the time when it should be done rather
than after the child has been placed on probation. A clinical ex­
amination is often essential to a correct diagnosis and decision.
While recent studies have seemed to disprove the theory that a very
large percentage of the children dealt with by our courts are feeble­
minded or even seriously psychopathic, yet, according to recent esti­
mates, many of them are definitely abnormal.3 Among these chil­
dren are some of the most difficult with whom the court has to deal.
Besides the definitely defective are many subnormal or border-line

Healy, W illiam , M. D. : The Individual Delinquent.

1915. Chs. IV and V III.
Groszmann, Maximilian P. E . : The Exceptional Child.

P. 193- et seq.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Little, Brówñ & Ccx, Boston,
e ’ Vo-iv
Charles Scribner s Sons, 1J17.



children, neurotic, retarded, or with mental conflicts and complexes,
often the result of evil environment and mistreatment by those who
should have been their guardians and protectors. Here the advice of
a trained psychiatrist and psychologist is of immense value both to
the court in determining what to do with the child and to the proba­
tion officer when probation is tried. Probation can do much for
these children when applied with full knowledge and skill, saving
many from permanent institutional life. The probation officer’s
knowledge is practical; he needs the scientific advice of the expert,
not only at the start hut throughout the treatment of some o f his
difficult cases. O f course, the more the probation officer can himself
learn about psychology and the symptoms of mental abnormality the
more valuable he becomes.
Psychological examinations greatly assist the probation officer in
understanding children and in dealing with them most effectively.
Though a majority are inherently normal, they are abnormal in con­
duct at least. They are “ unbalanced,” suffer from emotional in­
stability, mental repression, extreme diffidence or exaggerated ego,
have feelings o f imaginary superiority or social isolation. These
personality defects are often responsible for imperfect life adjust­
ments. There is need for united effort to search out and develop ap­
propriately the basic instincts and deep emotional undercurrents
which have so much to do in shaping personality, determining char­
acter, and controlling conduct. Every child must be studied and
understood. The probation officer must do this, securing all the
assistance he can from available experts.

It is not always practicable or possible for the probation officer
who makes the investigation to be present in court when the case is
being tried, although it is advisable that he should be there. Some­
times another officer must represent him, but in any case his complete
written report o f the investigation should be in the hands o f the
judge at the time of the hearing. The probation officer should be
present, not as a witness but as an adviser and consulting expert, to
give information and suggestions when requested to do so, supple­
menting his written report.
In several large courts the chief or an assistant probation officer
hears cases in the first instance, rendering decisions—to be approved
afterwards by the judge—in uncontested cases, and placing children
on probation. In this they are more than probation officers, acting
rather as referees of the court and performing judicial duties. In
several courts the judge appoints a woman probation officer to hear
all girl cases/ The method appears to have worked well where it has
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been tried, but is open to criticism if the officer is not carefully se­
lected and if this sifting o f cases is not under close supervision by the

What is the best way to help this child?” is the question demand­
ing an answer from the children’s court judge many times daily,...
It requires the highest wisdom and finest judgment to decide aright.
The child himself and his relation to his home and environment must
be considered. In the well-equipped courts, unless the child is found
to be definitely feeble-minded, probation is used in the first instance
in a large majority of cases. I f there is only a fair chance that the
child can remain in his home and successful results be secured by
probation, that chance is taken. I f it turns out that the child must
be removed from an unfit home the court seeks to have him placed
in another family home. Some courts have well-equipped placingout bureaus, all placing out and subsequent supervision being per­
formed by probation officers. More often placing-out societies are
used. In such cases the children may remain under the probation
officer’s supervision or the court may commit them to the placing-out
society or bureau, which assumes the entire supervision. Almost
always the institution either for dependent or delinquent children is
properly considered a last resort.
When the judge pronounces probation and the child and his
parents leave the court room the probation officer to be assigned to
the case arranges, if possible, for an immediate interview with child
and parents in a private room. A t this time a card is given the child
and the requirements explained.
The assignment o f probation officers is most commonly on a district
plan. Some courts assign every child in a district to one officer,
others divide on the basis o f sex, some on nationality, and a few on
religion. It is agreed that girls, in general, should be placed under
women officers, and the older boys, at least, under men. Aside from
this, the only practical division in most courts is on district lines.
There is undoubtedly some advantage in having probation officers
o f the same race or nationality and also o f the same religion as the
child, but in most courts it is not a practical arrangement.

After the investigation, diagnosis, and adjudication by the court,
when the child is placed on probation and the conditions have been
explained, the real work of probation begins. Probation officers
have developed various systems for dealing with their charges, but
the vital thing is the personal relationship‘ and not the applying o f
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any system o f rales or technique. The relationship created by the
decision o f the court is largely a psychological one. Certain rales
are usually laid down by the court, supplemented by others developed
by the probation officer, but rales alone are o f little value. It is,
o f course, requisite that the probation officer should see his young
charge frequently. There can be no personal relationship without
contact. Hence, most probation officers require regular reports or
visits by the child to the probation officer, and all officers visit the
children as often as possible in their homes, schools, or places o f
employment. But probation is not chiefly a system of discipline
or surveillance or coercion. It is a spiritual thing. It is based
on mutual understanding and mutual trust; on friendship, liking,
and gratitude on the part o f the child; and on an earnest desire to
help on the part o f the probation officer.
The probation officer must have the spirit of the artist, working
with human clay. He must have what religious workers know as
a “ passion for souls.” He must be human; he must work with liis
heart as well as with his head. He must be religious in its broadest
and best sense. He must have faith in humanity, especially in boys
and girls. He must love and understand children. He must be a
child himself at heart, not a “ grown-up ” wrho has forgotten how it
feels to be a child. He must be an expert in child life and child
The probation officer must avoid a sentimental attitude; soft-heart­
edness breeds contempt. He must appeal to the sense o f justice and
fairness, found in almost every child, by being just and fair him­
self. He must at times be severe without being hard; uncompro­
mising without stubbornness. He must show sympathetic interest
in all that concerns and interests the probationer. This is the surest
road to the child’s confidence, without which the probation officer can
do nothing.
A practical worker with boys o f many years’ experience sums up
the basic work o f the probation officer in these words:
Be sure you don’t talk at the boys, or even to the boys. Talk with the boys.
Think their thoughts. Get down (if it is getting down, and I ’m not sure it is) —
get down to their intellectual perspective. Touch them just where they are
in their own words and ideas. Never use your own forms of speech if you can
help it. Talk slang. B e a boy. Be one of them. Then you have the leverage
under them, and you can lift them gently and unafraid just as high as they
can go— and no higher. You will probably be surprised .how far they will
go, ljowever.
This is where high art comes in, this knack of getting the boy with you. He
may si ip away from you many times, and he will always be unable to go as
high as you would like. * * *
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' Patience is tlie mother of virtue. “ Rome was not built in a day.” Neither
is character, in a boy or in any of us. How interesting it must be to be a
master builder, to plan and erect a great building, or a railroad system, or a
manufacturing or commercial enterprise, or a. great city. But to build a great
or greater man from a slouch and a liar is more interesting, more heartening,
and more worthy.4

With such equipment and spirit the good probation officer begins
his difficult task with the child delinquent. Parents, teachers, re­
spectable people, doubtless if often seems to the child the whole world,
has given him up as “ bad.” He may have had but little chance and
small encouragement to be different; he may have had apparently
every chance a child could have, yet something somewhere lias been
wrong in his environment or education which the probation officer
must now try to remedy. This is often a complicated process. It
requires imagination and ingenuity; machine methods will not do.
The officer must stimulate and develop all that is good in the child’s
make-up, and must counteract bad habits and harmful interests by
putting good ones in their stead. He must say “ do, do,” rather than
“ don’t, don’t.” It goes without saying that he can not work alone,
but will accomplish most of what he does accomplish through the
help of others and by cooperation.
Space forbids the quoting of an entire probation record from the
many successful records in the possession of the writer, but herewith
follow brief summaries of records showing specific methods used by
successful probation officers to secure the results they seek with de­
linquent children:
Case o f a boy of 15 twice brought before the children’s court for
stealing. The probation officer found the boy in a good home, except
that there was a decided lack of discipline. The boy had been
allowed to stay out late at night, and entirely unknown to his par­
ents had *been associating with bad companions. The probation
officer found this out and told the father everything. Strict disci­
pline followed. The boy was required to attend a special school
until he could secure his working papers. Then the probation officer
secured steady employment for him, and he was kept entirely away
from bad associates.
Another boy of 15 was placed on probation, having been caught
forging an order for goods. He had never been in trouble before.
He had no parents and was living with a married sister. Supervi­
sion at this home was entirely lacking. He was the victim o f bad
associates and an evil neighborhood. The probation officer took
him out of this bad environment and arranged for him to live with
another sister in a distant part o f the city. Here he had a very
Fairfield, Frederick P. : Shall We Train a Boy by Fear or Kindness? pp. 23—24.
Suffolk School for Boys, Rmnsford Island, Boston, Mass.
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good home. The boy was induced to work steadily and to save part
o f his earnings. He showed great improvement at the time o f his
discharge from probation.
A woman probation officer reports the following special services
for girl probationers:
Secured medical attention.
Induced probationer to take regular baths.
Secured suitable employment and saw that the girl was regular
in her work in spite of an indifferent mother.
Other special services reported by probation officers as frequently
rendered are as follow s:
Finding new living quarters for the family.
Taking children to places o f amusement and libraries.
Sending children to the country.
Teaching mothers how to care for their children.
Helping probationers and their parents to save money.
Placing children in trade schools for special training.
Removing insanitary home conditions by securing the coopera­
tion o f the boards of health.

While emphasizing personal service and individual work with
each probationer as indispensable, the importance of a system of
supervision which will insure adequate and effective contacts with
each child on the probation officer’s list must not be overlooked. The
probation officer must distribute his time among his cases, be they few
or many, to the best possible advantage. The National Probation
Association in its standards has recommended that an average o f 50
probationers is the maximum that any probation officer ought to be
required to supervise.5 Even this is probably too large for the best
results, and yet a great majority of the probation officers of the coun­
try have more, sometimes several times more, than this number to
care for.
When officers have an excessive number o f probationers there is all
the more reason why they should adopt methods which will insure
regular contact with all their charges. None o f the cases must be neglectecl entirely; some supervision must be maintained over all of
them. To this end, requiring children on probation to come regularly
to the probation officer at a stated time- and place for a “ report”
or interview is in most courts considered a necessity. Many courts
require weekly reporting of a majority o f the children on probation
c The Social Work of the Courts. ' Annual report and proceedings of the tenth annual
conference of the National Probation Association, 1918. Albany, 1919,
P. 95.
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for delinquency, except toward the close of the probation period when
less frequent reports are often allowed. - As the method is disciplin­
ary in nature it is less often used for children classed as “ dependent ”
or “ neglected.” In the latter class a parent is sometimes required to
report. Girls and very young boys are in many courts not required,
to report but are visited more frequently. Experience shows that in.
general reporting is the only way to insure seeing the probationers,
with any degree of regularity or frequency. Visits to the home alone
do not insure this result, the child frequently not being there. Re­
porting followed by the home visit brings the officer into contact with
both the child and the home and forms a complete system o f super­
vision which has proved most effective.
Mistakes are very commonly made in connection with the report­
ing o f children on probation, which, unless carefully guarded against,
may nullify the vffiole value of it. In the first place, children should
be kept away from the court, room or court building as much as pos­
sible. The greatest success in reporting has been secured by district­
ing the city and using school buildings, settlement houses, or private
offices as reporting centers. In the second place, children on probation
should not be congregated. It is possible, by strictly limiting the
number o f children to be received at any one hour and by the proper
arrangement and supervision of the reporting rooms, to avoid all
harmful mingling. Perfunctory reporting, which consists of asking
a fewr stereotyped questions and marking a card, is valueless. This
can and should be avoided. The writer has observed reporting when
it was a living, vital thing, the probation officer obtaining informa' tion on the child’s conduct, habits, use of time, etc.— afterwards
checking up this information; giving a personal word o f encourage­
ment or warning to each child; and, above all, cementing the bonds
of friendship and mutual confidence by his kindly, heart-to-heart
The question o f bringing the child before the judge at stated
¡times during the probation period or only for final discharge at
i the end of the term is a much mooted one. A t one extreme is the
j court where the judge is in reality a probation officer, receiving
! regular and frequent reports from the child. At the other extreme
are the many large courts where the entire supervision, fixing of
|the probation term, and the final discharge are all in the hands of
¡the probation staff. • It would seem that the best method lies beItween these two extremes. Doubtless it is best that the judge should
not lose all contact with the child placed on probation, even when
the child is doing well. On the other hand, bringing the child into
the court room, except where a reprimand seems needed or for a
change o f order, should be avoided. In some courts, the judges
maintain close supervision over the work o f the probation officers,
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reviewing their cases with them regularly but not seeing the child
i f he is doing wellj not even ,at the termination of probation.
This is largely a matter o f the preference o f the various judges.
Whether one plan or the other is used, the child doing well on pro­
bation should not be subjected to the court atmosphere and surround­
ings. I f the judge meets the child at the close o f probation it should
be for a friendly talk, riot to awe the child but to encourage and
back up the helpful influence and thè constructive work wrought
by the probation officer.
There is a disciplinary side to the probation plan which can not
be lost sight of. The greatest value o f reporting is the discipline
involved in it. It is something other than the ordinary duties o f
life which the child must perform regularly, whether he likes it
or not. I f the probation officer is successful and the child is taking
his experience in the right spirit he will like it. In the words o f
one experienced probation officer : “ The child who resents report­
ing is the very one who needs it most.” It gives the probation
officer a chance to teach obedience and punctuality. Home dis­
cipline is often so entirely lacking, habits o f rebellion to all authority,
willfulness, and selfishness so strongly established, that the proba­
tion officer may need all the power he can command to counteract
them, including bringing the child several times before the court for
An example of this method and its success is contained in the
following probation report made to the judge upon recommending
the discharge o f a boy from probation :
S. L. has been on probation for eight months. A t first the boy did not re­
spond to the advice of his probation officer, which, I believe, was due to lack
o f cooperation on the part of his parents, hut after a severe reprimand and
threatening that I would bring him back into court, the boy responded and
has conformed to the conditions laid down by me. H is school report has
improved greatly, until now his principal reports that to date this term the boy
has been present in school every day. His conduct is B-plus. His parents now
report that the boy is obedient, attends school regularly, and retires early.

Home visits and work with the family.
That every probationer’s home should be visited frequently goes
without saying. After all, the unit of society and the unit for proba­
tion service is the family. Very frequently, ip courts having juris­
diction over adults as well as children, it is difficult to decide whether
the child or the parent should actually be placed on probation. So
far as the work of the officer is concerned this makes little difference.
Practically speaking, the parent is always on probation. As the
parent is frequently at fault, although often the victim o f ignorance,
poverty, and unjust industrial conditions, the probation officer must
frequently do his most important work in endeavoring to aid and
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educate the parents to their responsibilities toward their children.
Parents sometimes need to be taught to understand their own chil­
dren. Not only neglect but overindulgence is commonly met with.
The officer should become acquainted in many cases with every mem­
ber of the family. He should not confine his assistance to the pro­
bationer. but should aid the entire family in every way possible.
Broken afid defective homes constitute a distinct and oft-recurring
problem. In the Seattle juvenile court for the years 1918 and 1919,
45 per cent o f all delinquent and neglected children came from homes
in which the parents were not living together due to death, divorce,
separation,'or desertion.0 In a study of 131 delinquent girls in the
juvenile detention home in Chicago in the autumn of 1917, the parents
were found not living together in 69 cases.7'- The probation officer’s
work in these homes is difficult, but much can be done. Sometimes
he can reconstruct the home, bringing separated parents together
and causing deserters to return. More often he must find other
means o f supplying the need. Sometimes he secures a pension or
relief for a widow, enabling her to take better care o f the children.
A “ big brother” or “ big sister” may be enlisted for friendly visit­
ing and more intensive supervision than the officer can himself give,
or he may interest a church, settlement, boys’ or girls’ club, or other
agency in the family. To obtain information, cooperation, and as­
sistance, the successful probation officer must visit every person and
agency with which the child comes in direct qontact, whenever they
can help him. Cooperation is the keynote o f success in probation

The cooperation of the probation officer with school teachers and
officials should be a real working together. Many children now
passing through the courts could appropriately be dealt with by the
public schools if the latter were equipped with sufficient attendance
officers or visitors, having approximately the training which good
probation officers now have. However, this seems nowhere to be the
case. The schools are generally underequipped for handling the
normal child, and, though excellent work -is done in many cities
with truants and delinquents by means o f ungraded, truant, and
parental schools, most of the school authorities have been only too
glad to leave the handling o f delinquents outside o f the special
school to the court. As a large number of the children dealt with
in children’s courts have already left school, any general turning over
e The Seattle Juvenile Court Report for the Year 1919. Seattle, 1920.
7 Purcell-Guild, June: “ Study of one-hundred and thirty-one delinquent girls held at.
the juvenile detention home in Chicago, 1917,” in Journal of the American Institute of
Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. X , No. 3 (November, 1 9 1 9 ), p. 462.
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o f the parental function o f the juvenile court to the school system
will have to await the time when the schools will oversee the educa­
tion and training of every child at least up to the age of 18 years.
In any case, whether probation work with school children is to be
more largely carried on by the schools or is to remain, as now, in
the juvenile court, a closer coordination of the two services should be
worked out. There is usually good cooperation. Probation officers,
as a rule, receive during the school term weekly reports from school­
teachers on the attendance and conduct of their charges. They visit
the teachers and exchange information. They consult with attend­
ance officers. In many rural districts the probation officer and at­
tendance officer are one. This would seem to be a very desirable
combination, provided that too much work is not given to one officer.
As dissatisfaction with school is often the cause and accompani­
ment of delinquency,, to secure awakened interest the probation
officer often recommends a change, o f school, a better environment,
or a different teacher. Often it is clear that a special class or d if­
ferent kind of education altogether is needed, usually more indus­
trial and less from books. Unfortunately this can not always be
secured. In these matters close cooperation and frequent consulta­
tions between probation officers and school-teachers is needed.
The special activities now being developed in so many commu­
nities in connection with the schools, such as the night school, the
social center furnishing evening recreation, and Americanization
classes are very useful to the probation officer. All of them are
used in certain cases.

With the employed boys and girls and those beyond compulsory
school age who can not be induced to attend school or whose men­
tality and circumstances do not justify it, the probation officer
has ah important task in vocational guidance. In but few commu­
nities are there agencies developed to aid every child at that critical
period when he or she first seeks a job. In still fewer communities
is there available any system of scholarships or allowances to poor
parents to prevent children from leaving school because of poverty
alone. The probation officer who thoroughly understands his child,
its home and environment, is in the best possible position to advise
and help in these matters. He must go about it constructively. La­
bor injurious to the child, physically or morally, can be avoided only
by helping to something better. In this the probation officer must
have the cooperation o f employers.
In some large courts, especially the New York City children's court,
a special bureau of vocational placement has been established with.
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a probation officer in charge. This officer helps boys and girls to get
suitable positions, advises with them about their future, seeks to have
them leave unsuitable work and secure places with vocational value.
He keeps a list of positions and employers with whom he keeps in
close touch, especially with those whose interest is not wholly com­
mercial. There are employers, and they are not uncommon, who will
employ delinquent boys knowing all about them, not only giving them
a chance but seeking to place them under good supervision, helping
them all they can. Such employers are frequently consulted by the
probation officer and are of great assistance to him in his constructive
work. Ordinarily probation officers are very- careful about visiting
employers who may not know of the child’s delinquency, as a very
different attitude is frequently encountered.

Every agency that can help the child is used, depending upon the
individual needs of the child and his home environment. Every­
where the probleip of recreation and the use of spare time is of the
greatest importance. Undoubtedly injurious recreation and loafing—
often caused by the lack of any recreational facilities—are great fac­
tors in delinquency. According to a careful study made in 1908 the
establishment of municipal playgrounds in certain districts in Chi­
cago reduced the number of delinquents brought into the juvenile
court from those districts, with reference to delinquency in Chicago
as a whole, 29 per cent, though in the same period delinquency in the
wdiole city had increased.8
The probation officer seeks, to get his charges. interested in all
agencies furnishing wholesome recreation, including playgrounds,
settlement houses, boys’ clubs under proper supervision, and, o f late
years, especially the Boy Scouts. He follows the plan of overcoming
evil with good so far as possible.
Probation officers use the churches, often insisting on attendance
at church and Sunday school because of the moral discipline in­
volved. With these, as with other cooperating agencies, the wise
probation officer finds the maximum of good results from securing
the child’s interest and voluntary attendance.
The probation officer secures direct and effective cooperation from
private agencies working in the children’s court. Relief societies,
protective societies, and agencies, such as the wbig brother move­
ment ” and the “ big sisters,” which furnish volunteer probation offi­
cers are all utilized. These agencies are called upon for all sorts of
special services, such as furnishing relief to destitute families and
s Burns, Allen T . : “ Spare time and delinquency,” in Proceedings of the National Con­
ference of Social W ork, 1919, p. 16.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Chicago, 1920.



assistance in securing recreation and fresli-air excursions. By acting
as friendly visitors they make the work of the probation officer more
It almost goes without saying that cooperation is had from the
police, public relief agencies, and civic and other organizations. As
the work o f the probation officer touches almost every side o f the
child’s life, even to catalogue all the cooperating agencies is impos­
sible. A ll this indicates that to secure effective results the probation
officer must be a very weli-informed and cooperative person.

One of the most important problems in the large court is the or­
ganization and supervision o f the probation staff. Principles of effi­
ciency and business management must be applied. In addition to the
judge or board o f judges—the final authority—there must be a com­
petent chief executive officer, usually known as the chief probation
officer. He must have assistants qr deputies assigned to spécial duties1
or divisions o f the court. The work must be divided as evenly as
possible among the various officers. To avoid unnecessary travel
and overlapping the city or County must be districted. Each proba­
tion officer thus becomes familiar with his district, learns the co­
operating agencies available, and becomes acquainted with its spe­
cial problems.
There must be a system o f reports and supervision o f each officer’s
work, both as to quantity and quality. Daily and monthly reports by
each probation officer to the chief are commonly used. With a large
staff, time books for registering hours of work and the time spent by
the probation officer in the field are also found desirable.
The periodic review of case records^ in a large staff usually per­
formed by an assistant chief probation officer assigned to this spe­
cial duty, is most important. Suggestions or criticisms o f the offi­
cer’s work, with frequent conferences between the officer and the
supervisors, help to promote uniform standards.
General conferences o f all the probation officers of a given court,
held monthly in a number o f cities, are o f great educational value
to the staff ; they also promote cooperation. General conferences o f
all probation officers in a city, and State conferences o f probation
officers do much to advance standards.

As in all case work, good probation records, are indispensable.
There is a great variety in record systems, many o f which are de­
fective and inadequate. The essentials for every child dealt with
are a record blank containing the previous history and all data se
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cured in the investigation, and a chronological record of all develop­
ments, information secured, and work done by the probation officer
during the probation period. Folders for filing all data and index
cards for ready reference are important. Some courts of late have
adopted the family unit for filing records, which seems in many ways
desirable. A great fault in many courts is that of requiring proba­
tion officers to spend too much time in clerical or office work instead
o f allowing them sufficient clerks* and stenographers. Full and com­
plete case records not only insure thorough work and promote con­
tinuity o f treatment, but are most valuable for research purposes.
An eminent British departmental committee reporting in favor
o f the establishment of the probation system in that country several
years ago, said: “ The value o f probation must necessarily depend
upon the efficiency o f the probation officer. It is a system in which
rules are comparatively unimportant and personality is everything.
Probation is what the officer makes it.” As has already been pointed
out, the personality, intelligence, tact, and character of the probation
officer, rather than any rules o f procedure, constitute the essence of
the probation service. As in teaching, institutional work, settle­
ments or boys’ clubs, personal influence and personal work are para­
mount. More than in almost any other work is this true in probation.
There is no apparatus to take its place. Without the personal in­
fluence and personal service of the probation officer applied to each
individual child, probation becomes nothing but a system o f brief
surveillance and temporary and ineffectual discipline. Such being
the case, the selection and training o f probation officers is all
Probation officers, with but few exceptions, are now publicly em­
ployed and paid. With rare exceptions the societies which at one
time selected workers with more or less care and furnished them for
social work in the courts no longer do so. Dependence upon a corps
o f volunteers—a system with theoretical advantages—has proved
to be almost a complete failure, even when the volunteers’ work is
under the supervision o f a paid officer. Like most volunteer work,
it can not be standardized and effectively supervised or depended
upon. The volunteer is not there when he is most needed, nor can
the regular performance of his duties be required. Volunteers, “ big
brothers,” “ big sisters,” as well as representatives o f all sorts of
cooperating agencies, all render valuable service. Their work, how­
ever, in connection with children on probation should supplement
the services o f the paid officer and should be controlled, coordinated,
and under the supervision at all times of the court probation staff.
Probationary supervision is so essential a part o f the work of the
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children’s court that it should not he turned over to the control of
other agencies. It is so important to have it carried on efficiently,
adhering to uniform standards, that it should not be intrusted to
volunteer workers.
How shall paid workers with the high qualifications demanded be
secured and appointed? In the first place, adequate salaries must
be paid. The time has passed for expecting satisfactory service for
a pittance. The probation officer must be in the work for the love o f
it and not alone for the salary ; but having found the right sort o f
officer he must be paid, if not what he is worth, at least a living wage.
A t this writing salaries are being encouragingly increased. From
$1,500 to $2,000 per annum is frequently paid at the start, with regu­
lar increases; responsible supervising officers receive larger compensa­
A great many States fix the salaries o f their probation officers by
law. This is not to be recommended, as it results in a lack of elas­
ticity, and amending ¡the law to secure changes is a slow process.
In other States salaries are fixed by local boards having control o f
public appropriations. This means, lack o f uniformity and fre­
quently the practice of false economy. It would be well if the judges
could be trusted with the power, within certain limits, o f fixing sal­
aries and determining the number o f probation officers required,
their action in these matters, as well as their appointments and dis­
missals o f probation officers, to be subject to the approval of a State
agency supervising probation work.
The finding and selection o f good probation officers is a difficult
task. The greatest danger, as in all public work, is in local political
interference. Two methods to avoid this have so far been worked
out, both o f which are in practical operation. First is the placing
o f probation officers under competitive civil service. Second is the
more or less complete control of appointments by a State supervising
agency. No method is. infallible, but either o f the above is better
than subjecting appointments to unrestricted local political in­
The best example of the successful operation o f a State-wide civil
service system for the* appointment of probation officers is in New
T ork State. The methods used have been increasingly successful in
bringing out good material and preventing unfit appointments. In
this State, however, the obvious dangers and inadequacies o f the
civil service method have been mitigated to a great extent by the
work of the State probation commission, which cooperates with the
civil service commissions in a large percentage o f the examinations
In "Vermont, Rhode Island, and Utah the State has complete con­
trol through a State agency of the appointment of probation officers.
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In Vermont and Rhode Island a State probation officer serving under
a State board of charities, and in Utah under a State juvenile court
commission appoints all probation officers. In North Carolina the
1919 juvenile-court act makes the county superintendent o f public
welfare in each county the chief probation officer of the court and
requires the State board o f charities and public welfare to approve
all appointments and removals of probation officers. In Texas, by
an interesting statute enacted in 1913, probation officers in juvenile
courts must be appointed by the judges from lists of three furnished
by a nominating committee consisting o f the county superintendent
o f public instruction and two school principals of the district. In
Massachusetts for a number of years the State commission on. proba­
tion has conducted unofficial examinations' for probation officers.
Lists o f eligibles resulting therefrom are submitted to judges who
request them, with information and suggestions concerning the candi­
All the above methods are attempts to standardize appointments
and avoid political interference. Their purpose is also to assist the
judges in finding the right material. This is all-important: E x­
perience in New York State has shown that whenever adequate sala­
ries were offered and the opportunities for the work made known
through the advertising of examinations,-good probation officers, or
at least the u makings ” of good officers, could always be found.
Little. organized effort has as yet been made to train probation
officers adequately. Most of the special schools of social work, many
of them conducted as departments o f universities, have courses pre­
paring in, a general way for probation work. Special training courses
for probation officers in the service have been inaugurated in several
cities. There should be more of these, and in time the taking of such
a preparatory course as well as a period of practical field experience
under the supervision of a trained officer should be required of every
probation officer before entering upon his work.
Reference has been made to the part played by State supervising
agencies in controlling or helping to secure fit appointments o f pro­
bation officers. The many other advantages o f State supervision are
well recognized. The State probation commissions in Massachusetts
and New York have undoubtedly been large factors in the remarkable
extension and development of probation work throughout those
States. These commissions, having the sole duty o f promoting the
efficient organization of the courts for social service, have done much
to secure legislation, appropriations, and public support for children’s
courts, domestic relations courts, and probation work generally.
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Their work has been even more important in developing better stand­
ards and greater uniformity o f methods. Probation work is always
largely dependent upon local support and interest. There are always
backward courts and communities which need State aid to bring them
up to standard. The aid rendered by these commissions is not finan«
cial but educational. It is found that, in general the great need and
unquestioned economy o f dealing in a kindly and effective fashion
with delinquent and neglected children before the courts are recog­
nized when the matter is put squarely before a community.
Besides this work o f promoting probation, the State supervising
agency keeps in touch with the probation work all over the State by
means of investigations and reports. It develops better stand­
ards in the work by such methods as making written recommenda­
tions to the judges, publishing reports .and literature, holding con­
ferences, and prescribing ,systems o f case recordsr and blanks to be
used by the probation officers. This work is as much a State func­
tion as the inspection and maintenance o f public institutions for the
dependent classes. Data, compiled in b o th ‘Massachusetts and New
York clearly show that a .large reduction in the population of the
prisons and other State correctional institutions has resulted from
the extension o f probation work.
Effective State supervision of probation and court work generally
has not advanced far in this country. In addition to the two -.States-*Massachusetts and New York—having independent probation com­
missions, three States—Rhode Island, Vermont, and Utah— have
State control of the appointment and work o f probation officers. In
1919 Alabama established a child-welfare department having among
its duties advising with and receiving reports from probation officers
and judges of all juvenile courts. The same year Oregon established
a State child-welfare commission, one of whose duties is to approve
all appointments of probation officers in the Portland Court of D o­
mestic Relations, which has exclusive jurisdiction o f children’s cases.
Connecticut supervises probation work through its prison associa­
tion, a semiofficial bodj^. In addition, nine States require probation
officers to report to some State department, usually a State board of
charties and correction.
Developments throughout the country seem to indicate that the
day o f the juvenile court as an agency concerned with children only
is passing; not that the methods used in the best courts for dealing
with delinquent and neglected children are going to be greatly
changed, but that these methods are going to be applied increasto adults, and that the family is to be treated as a unit. Chil
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dren’s courts will become family courts. The best children’s court
laws have always given the courts jurisdiction over parents and other
adults contributing to the delinquency and neglect of the child.
Many children’s courts are that only in name, as they deal withpractically as many adults as children. Where such jurisdiction is
given to the court, the parents can' be dealt with directly, through
placing them on probation, instead of indirectly through the child.
By making the responsible adult subject to direct action by the court
the protection of the child from parental neglect and adult mis­
conduct is greatly promoted. *
The next logical'step, one which has been taken in Cincinnati and
more recently in other Ohio cities, as well as in Portland, Oreg.,-is
the combination of the domestic relations and the juvenile court into
one family court. One probation staff handles all cases. The family
is dealt with as a unit and much duplication of effort resulting from
separate courts handling family problems is avoided. There should
be no relaxation of the standards developed for probation work with
children, but to n large extent these methods and standards should
be applied to adult cases also. In'fact the recent remarkable prog­
ress in the study of mental development and the degree o f respon­
sibility in relation to crime have shown that a chronological age
limit is arbitrary and absurd in dealing with delinquents. The
truth contained in the old saying that men are but children of a
larger growth should never be forgotten. With discrimination and
the right selection of cases, every method and principle developed
in the children’s court, including those of probation, can be applied
to adult offenders.
While not enough investigations extending over sufficiently long
periods have been made to admit o f stating statistically the results
of placing children on probation, all the data at hand seem to indi­
cate clearly that the method is very successful when administered
properly. I f a child going wrong, or in danger of doing so, can be
reclaimed by this system of home supervision backed by the power
o f the court and the personality of the probation officer, there is no
question of its advantages and its economies. Stigma is always at­
tached to commitment to reformatory institutions, or even, though in
lesser degree, to institutions for dependents. The readjustment of
the child from life in an institution to normal social life is always
difficult and the results are precarious. Probation is a system of
training, of building up good habits in normal home surroundings.
I f it succeeded in accomplishing its ends in only a minority of the
cases, it would well pay. Such statistics as we have, however, show
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that it succeeds in a large majority of cases. In all o f New York
State during the year ended June 30, 1919, 7,647 children finished
probation periods. O f these, 6,215, or 81.3 per cent, finished their
terms o f probation and were reported as successful cases by their
probation officers; 417 finished probation but were classed by their
probation officers as “ not improved ” ; 882 failed on probation and
were committed to institutions; and only 52 in the entire number
escaped or were lost from supervision during the year. The results
in the remaining 81 .cases were unknown.9 . Statistics from other
States show similar results. It is extremely doubtful whether any
correctional institution can show so large a percentage of successes
as can the probation system, though the cost of probation treatment
has been found in New York State to be approximately one-eight­
eenth of the cost of institutional care.
The probation plan o f treatment is most valuable as a sifting
process, giving an opportunity to study the child in his normal home
surroundings over a considerable period of time. In this way, as
through no brief investigation pr clinical examination alone, the
child can be understood and adjusted to an occupation and sur­
roundings in which he can live his life successfully and happily,
We have discussed the broad principles and technical methods
o f the probation plan as extensively developed in the children’s courts
O/f this country. Whatever may be the future of this work, its
principles will remain and will continue to be applied do the de­
linquent and neglected child. They are based upon the eternal
principles o f human helpfulness and understanding and consider­
ation for the weaker members o f »society. When there cease to be
children o f defective heredity and retarded natural development,
and when, above all, there cease to be broken and imperfect homes
which do not fulfill their greatest function in the protection and
education o f the children given to them, then, and not until then,
shall we be able to do away with probation work, for probation
work is, in the last analysis, but the partial supplying o f the parental
function where that is lacking or incompetent.
The probation officer, besides his primary duty o f helping to save
the children in his charge, has another duty to perform. He should
be a factor in developing the still more important and many-sided
movements to 'prevent delinquency and child neglect. He should
realize, in the words of Ferri, the founder of criminal sociology, that
“ in the society of the future the necessity for penal justice Will be
a New York
Albany. 1920.


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reduced to the extent that social justice grows intensively and ex­
tensively.” 10 He is engaged in securing first-hand social data of the
greatest value showing the causes of the diseases which he treats.
The benefits of his experience should be utilized more fu lly ; more
research should be done in connection with his work and more public­
ity given it, using the valuable records which have accumulated in the
best children’s courts, without, of course, using publicity in such a way
as afterwards to become a hindrance to any child. Valuable case
studies could be made and information given out to the public Rnd
to agencies such as the schools, the churches, and social and civic
societies which are working for social betterment in many d if­
ferent fields. Thus may probation work contribute a greater share
toward the elimination o f delinquency and human waste.
10 Hoag, E. B . : Notes on Crime and Delinquency, p. 7.
Berkeley, 1917.

University of California,



Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis