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Created in 1919 by legislative act, the State Board of Charities was given broad authoritative powers to ensure standards of care for the disadvantaged citizens of Delaware. The Governor, himself ex-officio, was to appoint five people (with at least two being women), and charge them with conducting investigations, by letter or on-site inspection, of all benevolent and correctional institutions, in order to monitor the quality of care afforded the residents. Their intent, according to the law, was:

To provide humane and scientific treatment, care and the highest attainable degree of individual development for the dependent wards of the state.
To provide for the delinquent such wise conditions as will restore the largest possible portion of them to useful citizenship.
To promote the study of the causes and dependency and delinquency, and of mental, moral, and physical defects, with a view to cure and ultimate prevention.
To secure, by uniform and systematic management, the highest attainable degree of economy in the administration of the State institutions under supervision of the Board consistent with the objects in view.1
All institutions were to provide the Board with unrestricted access to their management personnel and all administrative and financial records. Upon satisfactory review, the Board would issue a certificate of compliance, essentially an operating license.2
With increased population came increased needs, and the Legislature responded to these needs by broadening the powers of the agency. By 1933, the Board could initiate corrective measures by searching out children needing protection, and providing said protection, whether by maintaining homes or contracting with privately operated residences to provide the services. The Board undertook studies of the causes of children’s problems in order to employ measures to eliminate those causes.3 Periodically, joint conferences were held with managers and officers of institutions and societies to discuss and develop better methods of caring for the poor.4
In addition, the Board was given authority and funding to hire trained social workers to conduct investigations. Its agents were to assist in parole work and were often utilized for performing background investigations in adoption cases.5
In 1943, the State Board of Charities became the State Board of Welfare (RG 1504), with its responsibilities essentially unchanged.6
Note: The duties of the existing Board of Supervisors of State and County Institutions in New Castle County (RG 2210) were assumed by the State Board of Charities upon its creation in 1919. There was a continuing desire to make the inmates of all state correctional institutions productive and self-sufficient. For a short time beginning in 1935,7 a Commission on Prison Industries was formed to explore the possibilities of commodity production within all penal institutions. The Commission was to find ways to produce goods while keeping the products out of open market competition; utilize the work process as an aid to eventual prisoner rehabilitation; and hopefully utilize the manufactured goods at other publicly maintained institutions.

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1 30 DL, ch. 64.

2 Ibid.

3 38 DL, ch. 54.

4 30 DL, ch. 64.

5 38 DL, ch. 63.

6 44 DL, ch. 77.

7 40 DL, ch. 121.
jf/February 11, 1988; March 11, 1988; March 21, 1988; May 6, 1988

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