No Place for Tommy and Children of the Evening
In Bert Kruger Smith's early years at the Hogg Foundation she reported and wrote extensively on the topic of what were then called “emotionally disturbed children.”
Her publications including No Place for Tommy, A Quarter for Growing Up, and Children of the Evening, which is the piece excerpted below.
Each of the publications Bert penned on this issue highlight different children in need. Her writing was always personal and forced the reader to connect with the issue directly.
A commitment to children has been part of the foundation's DNA from its beginning, or even before its beginning (Ima Hogg helped found the Houston Child Guidance Clinic in 1929)
, a clinic staffed with a team comprised of social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, who collaborate to assess and devise interventions for what today would be called “at risk” youth. And continuing today through the Ima Hogg Endowment, which are funds set aside to support mental health service programs for children in the Houston area.
Who were these Children of the Evening Bert writes about? They are Tommy Smith, “a youngster whose emotional problems made him need residential care.” And Cindy Fergusion who was diagnosed with autism when she was a one year old. They are “13-year-old freckle-faced” Timmy, and “Sad-eyed” Susan – “a solemn girl with a curly pony tail.”
In 1956 Bert compiled and abstracted two reports prepared by Dr. Eugene C. McDanald, Jr. and Dr. Harold A. Goolishian about the Youth Development Project in Galveston, Texas – a center for “troubled young people.” A Quarter for Growing Up begins with the story of Susan and Timmy, both needing and seeking psychiatric help. Timmy, abandoned by his parents, is distraught about how he’s going to pay for his treatment. The nurse smiles gently at Timmy and explains that the charges at the center vary according to income and his would only cost twenty five cents a visit:
Timmy grinned, a boyish, crooked-tooth grin. He reached into his jeans and pulled out two dimes and a nickel. “Here’s my first payment. I’ll have a whole quarter the next time.
No Place for Tommy: A Study on Emotionally Disturbed Children in Texas, published in 1958 and edited by Bert, tells the story of Tommy Smith, a youngster whose emotional problems require residential care. It is written as a series of letters primarily between a friend of Tommy’s mother and the concerned friend’s daughter, who is actively involved in youth issues. Together they attempt to find a facility in Texas that will help Tommy receive the care he needs. However, most of these places are full, too expensive, or ill-equipped to handle Tommy. Bert makes the case that there is a strong need for more facilities that can accommodate these children despite the high cost. She argues that losing these children is an even higher cost. The pamphlet ends with a call to action:
As Texans become informed of the needs, as they become concerned about an action program, hundreds of citizens can work together, plan together, think together, and in so doing, they will find SOME PLACE FOR TOMMY.
In 1961 Bert wrote Children of the Evening: A Report on Seriously Disturbed Youngsters. Here she takes a darker tone:
This very morning thousands of children woke from fretful, frightened sleep without hope, without joy, without peace, looking upon a day as drab and shadowed as evening.
It was the Hogg Foundation’s publication policy to make recent findings available in printed form. This pamphlet was a report on a study by the Junior Leagues of Texas on the resources available for “emotionally disturbed” children. It summarized the views and data provided by professional workers in the field and outlined some possible steps which might be undertaken in communities of any size. While No Place for Tommy highlighted the need for more facilities that can help “emotionally disturbed” children, Children of the Evening discusses what can be done directly in the communities.
Bert went on to write several more publications for the Hogg Foundation on issues for mental health services for children in Texas as well as two books – No Language but a Cry in 1964 and Your Non-Learning Child: His World of Upside-Down in 1968. She was honored with several awards for her work with children including the Texas Association for Children with Learning Disabilities Certificate of Merit in 1970 and the Texas Council on Family Relations Moore-Bowman Award of Excellence in 1982.
The Hogg Foundation has a long history helping children in need in Texas. Beginning with Ima Hogg’s involvement with the Child Guidance Clinic in Houston, a clinic staffed with a team comprised of social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, who collaborate to assess and devise interventions for what today would be called “at risk” youth. And continuing today through the Ima Hogg Endowment, which are funds set aside to support mental health service programs for children in the Houston area.
Throughout her time at the Hogg Foundation Bert focused her attention on a wide range of problems and concerns, including emotional disturbance and learning disabilities in children, exceptional and gifted children, aging, alcoholism, institutionalized living, the role of women, parenting, poverty, and handicapping conditions. However, as a mother of three, one who died of polio in 1949, Bert never ceased trying to make Texas a better place for hers and others children.