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when fifteen little boys were taken into its care. The intention of the founders was to carry their principles into action and convince the public of the possibility of detaining and making happy for life all who might become their wards. Acting on the ascertained fact that the feeble-minded are commonly without any power of self-direction, they determined to admit young children to a school which should be conducted under the Board of Education, and since these children would inevitably be guided by someone, to make sure that they were guided entirely by those who could protect them from evil. . . . The outcome of the experiment has been surprisingly what was hoped for. The Society, which was incorporated under the Board of Trade, now owns about 120 acres of land. It has six residential houses, providing accommodation for children, adolescents, and adults of both sexes. There is a school-house with 180 school-places, two sets of farm buildings, cottages, a lauudry, and several large glass-houses. . . Some 285 children nave been admitted since the first house was opened : of these 233 are now in residence. Seventy-six of them are over the age of sixteen. More than twenty young men and about the same number of young women are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three. Some of them are very low-grade cases ; nevertheless there is only one of these grown-up children who is not usefully employed. The men and boys work on the land, in farm and garden; the young women in the house and laundry, where they are doing excellently well. The pecuniary success of the work on the land is remarkable. There has never been any loss; now there is, year by year, a very substantial profit!
The writer goes on to speak of the grief it has been to see children, brought up safely, persuaded to go away by unscrupulous parents. • The children never want to go; there are no runaways, though it would be impossible to prevent the young men from walking off if they chose to do so.' About fifteen trained cases have been lost, and while, had the law given assistance, they might have been happy for life in their contented retirement, they have become waifs and strays, to become, probably in every case, the parents of other waifs and strays. And the writer urges further that it does not seem reasonable that the workers for a society such as this, which is saving the rates out of all proportion to its outlay, should be constantly hampered for want of money.
Space does not allow of a detailed description of the varieties of these voluntary Homes. There are several Farm Colonies : self-contained villages which provide special instruction, and in which boys and girls learn to make boots or clothing, baskets, rugs, to do printing, carpentering, household and agricultural work, and to do it creditably and well. There are also small Homes for children of both sexes, from which drafts can be made to the larger settlements. The small Homes are conspicuously free from the institutional flavour. They are not isolated from the outer world. The writer visited one a few weeks ago, which is only divided by a low fence from a highroad along which traffic of all kinds passes. Of the twenty-five
boys it contains, many are allowed to walk in small parties to church and to the villages round, and can be trusted to behave well, without supervision. A band of Scouts has been formed, and, with their energetic Scout-master, the boys go all over the country. For boys who are debarred from free intercourse with their fellows, and whose sensitive minds are keenly alive to the fact that they are not like other boys, the value of this scouting is very great. The uniform, the successive portions of which they earn by good conduct; the drill, the learning and practice of Scout-law; the notions of honour and trustworthiness conveyed to minds hazy on such points; the long days in the country, cooking and fending for themselves—all tend to develop selfrespect and self-help. In summer they go into camp, and this is perhaps the happiest event of their lives. An older boy, who was about to be transferred to 'a colony,' spoke with pride of going to work on 'a farm,' with no suspicion of its exceptional character. In those Homes which are devoted to the care of mothers with first infants, unlike the workhouses, no difficulty is found in retaining the inmates. They are made happy and kept safe. The children, also, can be kept till their mental condition is ascertained, and though they may seem quite normal at ten, it is not for twice that number of years that a safe opinion can be formed.
Self-respect? Self-control? It has been found possible by training to instil these qualities, and to send the boys and girls who have acquired them, under proper safeguards, to earn their living in the world. In the neighbourhood of certain of the Homes the young men are employed as day-labourers by the farmers, and bring their wages back punctually. Young women become good servants under kind and patient mistresses, and have been awarded grants for years of faithful service.
It must be remembered, in contradistinction to the usual dictum of the responsibility of parents, that we want to persuade parents to entrust their feeble-minded children to systematic care. If the trained child can at best become self-controlled and self-respecting, and at least can be rendered docile and partly self-supporting, the same child left to the care of needy and injudicious relations will almost certainly become a danger to the community. To assure ourselves of this, we need only visit the special schools, in which the state of half-witted children, who come from and go back to their homes in the outer world, is often sad and shocking, and defies the efforts of the handicapped teachers. The difference between the daft, dirty, neglected children who are received at the Homes and the cheerful, controlled beings they become in the course of a few months, is nothing short of astonishing. They are more open to sug
gestion than normal children, less capable of collusion, and have a simple vanity and pleasure in their surroundings which makes them easy to manage. Homes for non-pauper feeble-minded are required as urgently as for paupers, but in order to persuade parents to take advantage of them the Homes themselves must be rendered attractive. Many poor parents are devotedly attached to their deficient children, and often do them as much harm by pampering and over-indulgence as by neglect. Such parents can be more easily persuaded to entrust them to a small Home than to the huge institution, and the children, in more homely and more accessible surroundings, are less liable to be cut off from the pleasures of family affection. It is well known that poor parents have a horror of asylums and, partly owing to the past reputation of these, partly to the knowledge that large numbers of imbeciles and idiots will still be housed in them, many will strain every nerve to prevent their little ones from entering them, while there is no difficulty in getting them to make use of the voluntary Homes, which are always full to overflowing. We wish to secure the power of detention, but, in order to make the public agree to any system of incarceration, it is important that the Homes should in no sense be, or have the appearance of being, prisons or asylums in the usual
An order has lately been issued by the Local Government Board which has some connexion with this point of compulsory detention, and which is more far-reaching than at first appears. Rescinding the order of 1897, which established the Homes under the Metropolitan Asylums Board, it facilitates the transfer of defective children to asylums. They are to be admitted at any age, under twenty-one, uncertified, on the recommendation of the medical advisers of Boards of Guardians. No revisory examination is compulsory at twenty-one, or any other time, and they may be kept in the asylum as long as the authorities choose. Any presumably weak-minded child, incapable of maintaining itself by work, may be sent to any asylum by any Board of Guardians. Boards will have every temptation to transfer the burden of weak-minded and often troublesome children to the care of an all-embracing institution. Their medical advisers are not mental experts, and are often so ill-paid that it is doubtful if the best skill would be available. On the other hand, the authorities of the great asylum, thoroughly imbued with the love of organisation, and utilising to the full the excellent manual powers of the feebleminded, are not, we submit, in the best position to discriminate as to the powers latent in young children. When these are massed with only slightly lower intellects, and live the routine life that is inevitable, the delicate brain in an
incredibly short time takes the wrong turn. Children coming under this order may have been improvable, almost to a normal type; but no safeguard exists that they will not be engulfed for the rest of their lives in these huge, unexplored aggregations of defective humanity : lost sight of-it being to the interest of no one to seek for them.
It is no secret that among medical men a strong opinion has arisen in favour of sterilisation. It is hardly necessary to discuss a course which does not at present come within the range of practical politics and which would certainly meet with considerable, perhaps insurmountable, opposition. At the same time, it is evident that a sufficiently wide scheme of care would obviate the need for such drastic methods, while it is difficult to help a misgiving that, if self-interest no longer entered into our calculations, one of the incentives for dealing generously with the mentally defective would be removed, and they might suffer from its loss.
We may sum up certain conclusions :
That no feeble-minded delinquents should in future be condemned to imprisonment as criminals.
That the time has come when it is imperative to legislate for detaining and making due provision for all such mental defectives as cannot be satisfactorily controlled by their friends.
That feeble-minded adults can be satisfactorily dealt with in large colonies.
That children should be placed on a different footing. That they should be classified and re-classified, the lower grades being kept together till such time as they can be sent to the adult colonies, but that the best class, the substratum, should be carefully collated, housed in moderate numbers, and given special treatment; and in proportion as they answer to training, should, as they grow older, be passed on to special colonies or adult Homes, where their lives can be spent among companions of the same sort of mental calibre as themselves.
That the Government should utilise more liberally and assist and encourage the formation of small associations.
It remains to be seen whether the Government will do more than appoint authorities, and whether the feeble-minded will be brought under the care of the Lunacy Commissioners or the Board of Education, or whether, in view of the large numbers it is proposed to add, a new Central Authority may not be constituted to deal with all classes of the mentally deficient.
The task which confronts the nation is a huge one, but it is far more likely to be successfully carried out if varied methods are adopted, than if the attempt is made to sweep the whole mass of feeble-minded humanity into one channel.
modelled workhouses will gather feeble-minded adults into their net in every district. The children will be better served by village groups, with houses, holding not more than twenty-five inmates each, built round their own school, and by a variety of small Homes, which will give power to draw for organisation and inspection upon the vast reserves of voluntary service which, if the State would only believe it, it still has at its call.
Our instincts of self-preservation warn us that we must check this canker that is poisoning the roots of our social life, but it may be borne in mind that the task will not be an increasing, but a diminishing one. The more thoroughly it is taken in hand, the smaller will be the numbers concerned in each succeeding generation. About 4000 of these children are born every year in England. Every birth that can be prevented is something subtracted from the great burden of incapacity which we are preparing as the heritage of those who come after us.
EVELYN MARCH PHILLIPPS.