The Child-Saving Movement -- By: Hastings H. Hart

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 058:231 (Jul 1901)
Article: The Child-Saving Movement
Author: Hastings H. Hart


The Child-Saving Movement

Rev. Hastings H. Hart

There is in progress in the United States an organic Child-Saving Movement. It is not a plan devised and put in execution by some wise individual or society. It is an evolution, developed by inward and unseen forces; but certain principles are now clearly defined and generally accepted.

The State Responsible

The first principle underlying the child-saving movement is this: The great mother state is responsible for the welfare of the dependent and neglected child. When the natural protectors of the child fail to meet their obligation, either through death, misfortune, incapacity, or depravity, then the community, collectively or individually, must assume the burden: first, because the child has a natural right to an opportunity for normal and healthy development; second, because the care of such children is essential to the preservation of the community. The hopelessness of stemming the tide of pauperism, vice, and crime by remedies applied to adult dependents and delinquents has long been recognized, while experience has demonstrated the efficacy of wisely directed efforts for the rescue of children. It is true that even these efforts do not go to the roots of the social problem: they do not remedy the social conditions from which these children spring. Nevertheless, they offer the most immediate and practical means yet devised for the prevention of pauperism, vice, and crime.

Importance Of Environment

The second principle underlying the child-saving movement is this: Environment, rather than heredity, controls the destiny of the normal child. There is a fraction of the children in the community which includes children who inherit feeble-mindedness, epilepsy, syphilis, etc., condemned by hereditary conditions to dependency. There is a very small fraction which includes children who are “moral imbeciles”—children born without the sense of right and wrong; whose viciousness is apparently inherent, and unaffected by their environment. It has been fashionable to ascribe to heredity all of the vices and virtues of the community; but within the past few years there has been a remarkable change in the tone of medical writers and students of sociology alike. Physicians are much more cautious in their claims as to hereditary diseases. Consumption, for example, is no longer recognized as a hereditary disease. The effort of certain sociologists who demonstrate the existence of a criminal type has not been successful.

Heredity must be recognized as a powerful force in the making of human character; but experience has demonstrated, that, in the case of the great majority of children of unfortunate antecedents, if taken in tim...

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