JANUARY 10, 1956
BELLINGHAM, Wash.—In giving you an account of my Thursday activities last week I purposely did not mention a meeting I attended that evening of the Citizens' Committee for Children because I felt I wanted to tell you in more detail about it. It was called to acquaint the members of the committee with conditions for teenage youngsters in New York City—and, of course, they are no different from those existing in other large cities.
The first prepared report that was given us was called "The Neglected Age." The age covered was from 13 to 21 and is the age during which delinquency and youthful crime rate are at their highest. It is apparently, according to this report, the age when there are sad gaps in community services to meet the needs of this age group.
There is a recent Children's Bureau Publication, I understand, which, in speaking of the transition between childhood and adulthood usually known as adolescence, describes it in the words of Charles Dickens (though he used the words for another purpose):
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief ... it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."
This report is more interesting in the light of the help that might be extended to young people. It was followed by a report made to the superintendent of schools in New York City by the Bureau of Educational and Vocational Guidance. This latter report shows how great is the need for more guidance in our schools and better trained experts in guidance. Finally, there was a report on reform institutions and the young people who make up their population.
Several people in the room seemed astonished at the conditions prevailing for this age group. And they were particularly amazed at the effect of the State Reform Institutions, which on the whole do not seem to render as satisfactory services for reform as for producing more criminals. The institutions are not really to blame for this. There is always great difficulty for any state institution to achieve modern standards because usually the legislators who provide the money for running institutions are quite indifferent to the human values. They seem primarily to be interested only in the budget of their departments, which they want to keep as low as possible regardless of the services rendered.
I wish Mrs. Singer, who made the report to us, could talk to groups in New York and many other parts of the country. The lack of awareness on the part of citizens of what is really going on as regards the teenage youngsters in our midst is one of the reasons our legislators do not react as quickly as they should to the needs of the institutions serving these youngsters.