Administration of Public Welfare

By R. Clyde White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
STATE ORGANIZATION

State public welfare organization began to assume importance after 1863 when the first board of state charities was created in Massachusetts. Up to that time the state governments had established isolated institutions for certain classes of the population, but there had been no serious attempt to co-ordinate the services of these institutions. The groups needing public attention were the same then as today: insane, epileptic, feeble-minded, deaf and dumb, blind, tuberculous, criminal, delinquent, dependent and neglected children, invalid, aged, able-bodied unemployed, sick, and socially maladjusted. As knowledge of economic, social, and mental problems increased, the states widened the scope of their activities and brought together related services in a single administrative unit.

All of the numerous small problems of state organization can be considered in connection with a few major problems. Since all important public welfare services were brought together in a single state department in Illinois in 1917, there has been a drift toward reduction in the number of independent state agencies, but there remains considerable difference of opinion regarding the single department. Although much evidence from experience may be assembled regarding this question, the development of criteria upon which sound judgment can be based still waits upon more detailed, factual research than has yet been done. The type of public welfare authority raises another question, to which three answers have been given by various states. Some states have full-time administrative boards, others have policy-making boards, and still others have a single executive head. Among people of experience the administrative board is generally regarded as the least satisfactory of the answers to this question, but there is little agreement concerning the other two. The internal organization of a welfare department raises more limited questions which relate to specific objectives of

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