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The passage belongs to the first and what might be termed the "muddling
along" period of dealing with family desertion, but the fact that boards
of directors actually were willing to print such frank statements about
their own shortcomings was a sign that the period was drawing to a
This first stage was succeeded by a disciplinary period, in which
earnest attempts were made to enact laws that would punish the deserter
and aid in his extradition whenever he took refuge across a state line.
Laws of the strictest, and these well enforced, seemed for a while the
only possible solution.
Then gradually, with the unfolding of a philosophy and a technique of
helping people in and through their social relationships, a new way of
dealing with this ancient and perplexing human failing was developed.
This third way involved a more careful analysis of relationships and
motives, a greater variety in approach, an increased flexibility in
treatment, a new faith, perhaps, in the re-creative powers latent in
human nature. But it is unnecessary to enlarge upon a point of view
which these pages admirably illustrate. Desertion laws continue to serve
a definite purpose, as Miss Colcord makes clear, but no longer are they
either the first or the second resort of the skilful probation officer,
family case worker, or child protective agent.
Just after the Russell Sage Foundation published a treatise on Social
Diagnosis two years ago, a number of letters came to the author urging
that a volume on the treatment of social maladjustments in individual
cases follow. But this second subject is not yet ready for the large
general treatise. A topic so new as social case treatment must be
developed aspect by aspect, preferably in small, practical volumes each
written by a specialist. This is such a volume, and Miss Colcord breaks
new ground, moreover, in that her book illustrates the whole present
trend of social work as applied to individuals.
Grateful acknowledgment should be made to the social case workers who
have furnished valuable contributions to the body of data gathered for
the present study. Miss Colcord wishes mention made of her especial
indebtedness to Miss Betsey Libbey, Miss Helen Wallerstein and Miss
Elizabeth Wood of Philadelphia; Mr. C.C. Carstens and Miss Elizabeth
Holbrook of Boston; Mrs. A.B. Fox and Mr. J.C. Murphy of Buffalo; Miss
Caroline Bedford of Minneapolis; Mr. Stockton Raymond of Columbus; Mrs.
Helen Glenn Tyson of Pittsburgh; Mr. Arthur Towne of Brooklyn; Mr. E.J.
Cooley, Mr. Charles Zunser, Mr. Hiram Myers, and Miss Mary B. Sayles of
New York. Many others not here mentioned were untiring in answering
questions and furnishing needed information.
MARY E. RICHMOND
_Editor of the Social Work Series_
NEW YORK, May, 1919.
I. INTRODUCTION 7
II. WHY DO MEN DESERT THEIR FAMILIES? 17
III. CHANGES OF EMPHASIS IN TREATMENT 50
IV. FINDING THE DESERTING HUSBAND 65
V. FURTHER ITEMS IN THE INVESTIGATION 91
VI. THE DETAILS OF TREATMENT 106
VII. THE DETAILS OF TREATMENT (_Continued_) 125
VIII. THE HOME-STAYING NON-SUPPORTER 149
IX. NEXT STEPS IN CORRECTIVE TREATMENT 164
X. NEXT STEPS IN PREVENTIVE TREATMENT 185
It has frequently been said that desertion is the poor man's divorce
but, like many epigrams, this one hardly stands the test of experience.
When examined closely it is neither illuminating nor, if the testimony
of social case workers can be accepted, is it true. It is true, of
course, that many of the causes of domestic infelicity which lead to
divorce among the well-to-do may bring about desertion among the less
fortunate, but the deserting man does not, as a rule, consider his
absences from home as anything so final and definite as divorce.
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