Edmond J. Butler, “Standards of Child Placing and Supervision,” 1919


Placing-Out—The term “placing-out” has acquired, during the last fifteen or twenty years, a distinctive meaning which should be generally known, especially to charity workers, in order that the confusion which has resulted from its improper use may be avoided. It does not mean boarding-out, indenturing, baby-farming, the securing of employment or the mere transfering of the custody of a child from one person to another or to an institution without regard to the object of each transfer. It means placing a placeable child in a free family home for the purpose of making it a member of the family with whom it is placed. . . .


As a general proposition, any normal healthy child is a placeable child, but aside from this subjective qualification there are many conditions which would render placing-out undesirable.

The age of placeable children may be briefly stated as follows: Boys to and including the age of fourteen; girls to and including the age of ten. The placing of girls over ten years of age, particularly when there are other children in the family, does not give promise of good results. The most flagrant exploitation of child labor and neglect of scholastic training occurs in the cases of girls between the ages of ten and fifteen. The experience of placing-out agencies will show that the most successful results occur in the cases of children placed at or below the age of five years. No child should be placed who is suffering from any physical or mental defect. All such children should receive the attention necessary to bring them up to normal standards before placement. . . .


In view of the fact that the vast majority of the families of our country consist of persons having a limited amount of wealth, an ordinary education, and little or no distinction of a social character, it would be unwise, if not futile, to set up standards for foster parents of so high a character as to limit our possibilities for success. . . .

We should aim to secure for foster parents, persons who desire a child for the child’s sake. They should have an income, with a reasonable prospect of its continuance, sufficient to ensure proper care and support of the child. They should not be advanced in years, as otherwise the child might lack the continuous care necessary to enable it to reach manhood under their training and supervision. They should be persons of good physical and mental health, industrious and thrifty, should possess at least average education and intelligence, and should enjoy the respect and endorsement of their pastors and neighbors as law-abiding and respectable citizens of their communities. They should be of the same religion as that of the child to be placed with them, and should be vouched for by their pastors as persons who are practical in the performance of their religious duties and as persons who will provide religious training for the child assigned to them. . . .


Within a month after a child has been placed it should be visited by an agent of the placing-out society with a view to learning whether the home fits the child and whether the child fits the home and is a welcome member of it. Thereafter the child should be regularly visited by the agent, not less than twice each year and as much oftener as the necessities of the case demand. No person or society should engage in doing placing-out work unless prepared to follow this initial feature by providing adequate supervision continued for the period necessary to ensure good results. To place out without such supervision is a crime and should be treated accordingly. . . .


Source: Edmond J. Butler, “Standards of Child Placing and Supervision,” in Standards of Child Welfare: A Report of the Children's Bureau Conferences, U.S. Children's Bureau Conference Series No. 1, Bureau Publication No. 60 (Washington D.C: Government Printing Office, 1919), 353-357.

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