Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 10, 1995

Library Opens Archives Of Social Service Agency

By Christine Rowett

     He couldn't find full-time work. A struggling, single
Baltimore father of two boys, he was worried, he told a
caseworker, because he could not support his family on the $14 a
week he received in federal aid.

      The older son, 12, was having trouble in school and had
been caught hanging on the back of city buses. The younger boy,
8, was well adjusted. It was 1939. The father's case was referred
to the Family Welfare Association, which provided a housekeeper,
health care and a family analysis.

     Two years later, caseworkers determined the older child was
at risk of becoming a runaway. So they recommended that the
father (whose name has been withheld) place his son in a boarding
home outside the city. Though the father was hesitant to separate
his family, the boy was eager to live on a farm. On June 28,
1941, the son left Baltimore to join a family in the country.

     The single father's case and the story of how social workers
dealt with his struggles are among the archives recently donated
to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library's Special Collections by
Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland. 

     The nonprofit outreach agency has been through numerous name
changes and transitions in the past 146 years. But in many ways,
it has remained the same; struggling single-parent families,
child abuse, unemployment and addictions were real concerns in
the 1800s. In 1995, they still are.

     The history of Family and Children's Services is depicted in
distinct detail in the agency's meticulously kept archives,
including photographs, documents and records. An exhibited
portion of the collection will be unveiled at a fund-raiser for
Family and Children's Services Wednesday, April 12, at the George
Peabody Library at the Peabody Institute.

     Hopkins manuscript curator Joan Grattan was given the task
of reviewing the massive  files, and said what she found was a
history lesson on social services in Baltimore. 

     "Early on, there was an association with poverty and
immorality," said Grattan, who spent a year cataloging the
collection. "We are more open and not quite as judgmental today."

     The methods and language of helping have changed, Grattan
said, in very telling ways. Separating a child from his father
and brother, for example, might not be seen as the optimal
solution by today's standards.

     "I don't believe that all of their work was perfect, but
they tried to solve the problems of the period," Grattan said.
"Our motivations are the same today."

     Family and Children's Services executive director Stanley A.
Levi agreed that the records indicate recurring social problems.

     "The issues of the early 1900s are still with us," he said.
"It's a further endorsement of the fact that we have to stop
looking at quick fixes.

     "We know that things like abuse and violence are
generational," he added. "Once they start they are difficult to
stop without thorough intervention."

     Family and Children's Services oversees more than 20
outreach offices in the Baltimore area. A United Way agency, it
offers a range of services, including family counseling, adoption
services and elder care. 

     The agency is, in fact, the consolidation of several
agencies; the Association for the Improvement of the Condition of
the Poor, one of the first service organizations in the country,
was formed in 1849. Others that have merged to form the current
agency include the Society for the Protection of Children from
Cruelty and Immorality, the Shelter for Aged and Infirm Colored
Persons and the Charity Organization Society, which then-Hopkins
president Daniel Gilman helped establish in 1881.

     The Family Welfare Association--another merged organization-
-was at one time housed in Hopkins' original McCoy Hall on West
Monument Street. When that building was destroyed by a fire in
1919, the agency moved to the Old Fountain Hotel.

     "I got the sense of how serious these early charity workers
were about being able to relieve social problems," Grattan said.
"The work the agency has done all these years is impressive."

     After Wednesday's unveiling, the entire collection will be
available for viewing at the MSE Library. The Eisenhower
Library's Kurrelmeyer Curator of Special Collections, Cynthia
Requardt, said the collection, in its present form, may be useful
to researchers, historians and sociologists in a variety of

     "We're hoping social historians will make use of this," she
said. "Historians looking for this kind of collection have noted
these records are hard to find. Many records have not survived."

     Due to confidentiality issues, some restrictions and
qualifications for viewing the collection will apply. For more
information, contact Special Collections at 516-8348. For
information about the Family and Children's Services fund-raiser,
call Allison Walker at (410) 669-9000.

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