Sociální Pedagogika (Nov 2022)

First attempts at an innovative approach to care for at-risk youth in the USA

  • Lenka Hessová

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 2
pp. 38 – 44


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As part of a historical review of inspiring models of work with at-risk youth, the study deals with two institutions that were founded in the US in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the introduction, the society's attitude towards at-risk youth in the US at the beginning of the 19th century is outlined. The second part focuses on the New York House of Refuge, especially in the period 1824–1826, when Joseph Curtis was its manager. The third part looks at the Boston House of Reformation, when E.M.P. Wells managed the institution. Thanks to enlightened leadership, both institutions at the time represented the first tentative attempts to work with at-risk youth in the USA "differently", i.e. not resorting only to repressive measures. At the end of the study, the elements that made both projects exceptional at the time are summarized. In the case of the two presented institutions, the innovative efforts stood and fell with the personality of their managers. The change in management caused a return to the policy of punishment and retribution in relation to at-risk youth, and the facility unfortunately slipped back into the label of "dreaded institution". Nevertheless, Curtis and Wells' courageous work inspired other reformers who continued with their attempts to work with at-risk youth "differently."