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This narrowed my proposed topic to the beginning processes of case work, but at the same time widened it enormously in demanding for its treatment an experience of all the various types of such work. As the executive head, in those days, of a large family agency, I had little time for study, so the task was set aside for nearly nine years.
More than six years ago, however, after I had become a member of the staff of the Russell Sage Foundation, it was again taken up.
Meanwhile, the wider usefulness of social evidence, social diagnosis, and social treatment, both in their own special field and in the other professions, even when these latter dealt with people who were neither dependent nor delinquent, had begun to dawn upon me. It was evident that social case work could supplement the work of justice, of healing, and of teaching. Groups of workers in some of our American cities, moreover, were doing notable things in the regular social agencies; they were developing quietly a diagnostic skill in dealing with the difficulties of human beings which should be given ample opportunity, especially in its formative period, to grow to the full stature of social technique, untrammeled by long established professional traditions, whether of courts, hospitals, or schools.
I turned to this task in the winter of 1910-11 for the second time, therefore, with a quite different outlook from that of earlier days and with the determination to push my inquiries as far beyond the limits of my own personal experience as possible. Mr. Francis H. McLean, who was my colleague in the Foundation at the time of this second beginning and who has rendered invaluable assistance throughout the undertaking, had already invited a group of social case workers (most of them but not all connected with charity organization societies) to prepare short papers describing informally their methods and experiences in taking the steps which, in their work, preceded the development of a plan of treatment. This group was added to later, and some of their papers on such subjects, for instance, as present neighborhood sources of information, relations with employers in the study of a work record, methods of conducting a first interview, etc.—were privately printed and given a limited circulation among their fellow workers in charity organization. This was done partly for
the purpose of getting the benefit of criticisms. The papers were too experimental for publication. They contained passages of great value, however, of which free use has been made, with credit given, in Part II of this book.
The next step was to engage two case workers of experienceone in family and one in medical-social work-to study original case records for a year. Their case reading was done in five different cities. No attempt was made to arrive at an average of the case work in these cities. On the contrary, our aim was to bring to light the best social work practice that could be found, provided it was actually in use and not altogether exceptional in character. In addition these case readers held many interviews with case workers, all of which were carefully reported. As my own experience had been so largely in the charity organization field, especial pains was taken to center most of this case reading and interviewing in the child-helping and the medicalsocial agencies. A large part of the illustrative material used so freely in Part II is drawn from the much larger stock of case notes and of reports of interviews prepared by these two case readers, though use has also been made of notes from my own case reading and of the field memoranda of my colleagues in the Charity Organization Department of the Foundation.
As this Department had been interested from the time of its organization in the teaching of case work in the various schools for social workers, it began to edit a group of original records, most of them current cases, to be used in the class room. These were printed in full with all their sins upon their heads (bad work is almost as instructive as good) and were used in class conferences by a small, accredited group of teachers of case work. Criticisms and comments based upon certain of these records were also gathered from a number of specialists. As noted elsewhere, the experiment of printing the records of cases could not be a public one, because their subjects were real people whose confidences had to be respected. Even when all names had been changed, there were few things more identifiable, we found, than a full social case record. The experiment, limited though it had to be, has brought to light many valuable suggestions which are used in these pages. For the most part the subject of social diagnosis defies statistical
treatment, though as a means of getting started and to arrive at a rough quantitative measure of the relative frequency with which the various outside sources of information and co-operation were consulted, a brief statistical study was made. Fifty-six social agencies engaged in a number of different forms of social case work in three cities were persuaded to let us list the outside sources consulted by each in fifty cases. The results of this study are given in Part II and in one of the Appendices.
One of the minor methods of study adopted was to correspond with or interview social case workers who had changed from one type of case work to another-from work with families to child protection, from settlement work to probation or medical-social service in order to learn the changes of method and the shiftings of emphasis made necessary by their change of task.
The foregoing methods supplied the data for Part II; and the sifting of these data and the interpretation of what was significant in them have been the work of such portions of several years as could be spared for the task. The errors that were found have been frankly commented upon in this book. Since methods in case work are rapidly improving, these may now belong to the past in the particular places in which we found them. Nevertheless there is always a chance that they are surviving somewhere else.
For the variations in the processes leading to diagnosis, still another method of gathering data was tried. How could these variations, many of them made necessary by the different types of social disability, be indicated comprehensively enough and compactly enough to be of daily service for reference? The plan was hit upon of gathering in from many specialists suggestions for a series of type questionnaires-not to consist of questions to be asked the case worker's client, not schedules to be filled out, but lists of suggestive queries which, at some time in his inquiry, the case worker might find it worth while to ask of himself. Such a battery of interrogations as is presented in Part III is sure to be misunderstood by somebody; it is confessedly a clumsy device, but no other way has occurred to me or my colleagues of giving the case worker, in small compass, a bird's-eye view of the possible implications of a given disability. It will be seen that some
questionnaires were prepared by one hand, some by another; while still others have been made by members of our departmental staff in consultation with case workers. These latter in particular must be understood to be experimental in their present form; they will have to be revised from time to time as it is possible to get further light from specialists who understand not only their own specialty but the needs of social workers.
The most difficult of all my problems has been to make a presentation of the subject of evidence in Part I which would be of practical value to the case worker. He is handling evidence all the time. How can he learn to handle it in such a way as to aid him in achieving a truly social result? When Professor Hans Gross was preparing his large handbook for the investigating officers of European law courts,1 he planned at first to have each part written by a specialist-by a physician, an armorer, a photographer, etc. But these specialists could not, he finally decided, meet the needs of the investigating officers by sufficiently keeping in view their aims and the conditions of their work. Therefore, though Gross reflected that the various chapters of his book "would have been set out in a more scientific manner" by such a plan, he was constrained for his purpose to adopt a less ambitious one. With far less equipment than Gross, who had an encyclopedic mind, this is what I have had to do, and I could not have done it without very generous help in criticism and revision from those who knew law and history, psychology and logic, as I did not.
Both Professor J. H. Wigmore, Dean of Northwestern University Law School, and Professor Lucy Salmon, head of the department of history at Vassar, have been kind enough to make suggestions regarding individual chapters. Special acknowledgment too should be made of the invaluable service rendered by Mrs. Ada Eliot Sheffield of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who has not only read and criticised the larger part of my manuscript, but in connection with Part I has gathered some of the illustrative material and has given the whole part a thorough revision, amounting in at least two of its chapters to collaboration. Mrs. Sheffield's
1 Criminal Investigation. A practical handbook for magistrates, police officers, and lawyers. Translated by J. Adam and J. C. Adam. Madras, A. Krishnamachari, 1905.
thorough knowledge of social case work under both state and private auspices has made her assistance doubly valuable.
Acknowledgment cannot be made individually to the several hundred case workers who have answered letters, examined questionnaires, lent case records, and helped me in a dozen other ways. They lead lives filled with demands and are accustomed to spend themselves unsparingly, so that each and all met this one more demand with prompt cheerfulness. Mention can be made, however, of those who have been associated with me in the Russell Sage Foundation in gathering data for this book or in correcting its first draft. Mr. Francis H. McLean should head this list, and the two case readers, Mrs. Hilbert F. Day and Mrs. H. S. Amsden. I am also indebted to Miss Margaret F. Byington, Miss Caroline L. Bedford, and to my present associate, Miss Mary B. Sayles. Valued help was rendered at one stage of gathering material by the departments of social investigation of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy and of the Boston School for Social Workers.
In 1914, as Kennedy lecturer of the New York School of Philanthropy, I used portions of these data that I had then gathered in a course of six lectures. I had to disclaim at that time and do now any idea that one who "crams" technical discussions of method becomes thereby an efficient practitioner. Not only is practice under leadership needed in addition to book knowledge, but an attractive and forceful personality is an indispensable factor. The method that ignores or hampers the individuality of the worker stands condemned not only in social work but in teaching, in the ministry, in art, and in every form of creative endeavor. Yet in none of these disciplines have practitioners refused to profit by process studies in their own field, in none have they found ordered knowledge the enemy of inspiration. Phillips Brooks once said of a certain type of minister, "The more the empty head glows and burns, the more hollow and thin and dry it becomes." Any social worker who has had to gather up the pieces after a supposed original genius who had dispensed with precedent and technique would be at a loss to say which leaves behind him the more completely burnt out territory-the purely inspirational worker or the one who leans too heavily upon rules and formulæ.