Thursday, May 29, 2008

History of child guidance clinics in Oregon

A small pamphlet in the PNW Archives Collection describes the history and early development of the Child Guidance Extension program in Oregon. Written by Allan East, social worker and sometime medical historian, the essay touches on the history of child guidance clinics in America generally before moving on to a consideration of the child guidance movement in Oregon.

East credits Chicago with the development of the first child guidance clinic in 1909. The idea did not take hold here in Oregon until 1932, when the University of Oregon Medical School first began its Portland Child Guidance Clinic. That was, incidentally, the same year in which a Dept. of Psychiatry was formally established at UOMS, with Henry H. Dixon, MD, as department head.

In 1937, fulfilling its mission to improve the health of all Oregonians, the University broadened the child guidance program throughout the state, in an extension program that sought to develop and maintain clinics in small communities far from Portland. East declares: "Never before had the administration of the Medical School officially, and in the name of the school, underwritten an activity to extend so far beyond the confines of the campus." But the administrative involvement of the school was deemed necessary, and was--by the time of East's writing in 1939--proving to be critical to the success of the clinics in these rural settings.

Contemporary glass lantern slides in the Historical Image Collection here--probably used by East and/or Dixon in presentations about the Oregon experience--contain some statistics and organizational information about the guidance clinic program, and nicely complement the printed reports.

East's opening comments may sound a bit familiar to modern ears, exposed to the rising concerns over a doomsday scenario of genetic manipulation of fetal development. Just replace "society" with "science":
Many students of sociology today contend that, insofar as society may be said to create the individual, it should create individuals with "traits" or "dispositions" essential to the general welfare.
Another report in the OHSU collections, Child Guidance in Oregon, with recommendations of the Governor's Special Committee, includes a section at the end entitled "Suggested changes in the marriage law of the State of Oregon." When does guidance become eugenics? Where should nature--true nature--take precedence over nurture? As history shows, these questions too are not new under our sun.

UPDATED Sept. 29, 2009: Allan East was not a physician, but rather a social worker. Thanks to Tim Marsh for correcting us.

No comments: