Goals for Children and Youth as We Move from War to Peace

Public Welfare, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview

Goals for Children and Youth as We Move from War to Peace


The following statement was adopted March 17-18, 1944, by the Children's Bureau Commission on Children in Wartime and was originally published in June 1944.

After more than two years of war, the families and communities of our Nation are being drawn increasingly into total mobilization for the success of our cause. In the ranks of our fighting men are hundreds of thousands of fathers. Over five and a half million mothers of children under the age of 14 years are employed in war plants and service industries. Nearly three million boys and girls under the age of 18 years are employed, having left school, or carrying combined programs of school and work. As they reach 18, our boys are subject to induction into the armed forces.

For many families, incomes have risen as a result of war employment, though many families are now required to readjust to a much lower income level as the fathers enter military service. Through national, state, and local effort and private enterprise, homes have been provided for millions of war workers. Food distribution policies, including school lunch programs, have made possible for many children a higher level of nutrition than they have known before. Hospitals, schools, and recreation centers have been provided in many communities. There has been a great increase in the number of births. The 1942 maternal mortality rate again showed a substantial reduction. Infant mortality rates in general have decreased, although recent figures from some areas show increases. Medical, nursing, and hospital care has been made available during maternity and infancy for the families of men in the four lowest pay grades of our fighting forces, without cost to the families.

Yet, to an alarming degree, our children and youth are not receiving the care, protection, and educational opportunity that their own and the Nation's welfare and future require. Shortages of doctors, nurses, and health and hospital facilities are affecting the quantity and quality of health protection and medical care, especially in military and war production areas and in many rural areas in which shortages existed before the war. This constitutes a serious threat to the well-being of children and the future strength of the Nation. At least a million children are being taught by unqualified teachers replacing those with better preparation. On the other hand, qualified teachers are being curtailed. High school enrollment is down 14 percent. Children are working long hours at night at tasks beyond their strength, and often under conditions morally unsafe. Many thousands of children whose mothers are employed lack care or supervision during day or night hours.

Millions of youth, feeling the restlessness, excitement, and anxiety that war brings, lack both effective means of sharing in adult concerns and opportunities for wholesome fun and companionship. …

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