Donald Lira, MSW ’52

Industrial schools were considered “progressive” when they were founded as an alternative to housing delinquent youth alongside adult criminals, and by 1900, the U. S. had 56 such schools. A half-century later, progressive social workers like Donald Lira (MSW ’52) favored a different approach: Close the large institutions and provide community-based services for children and youth instead. Assigned to develop an effective rehabilitation program at Topeka’s Kansas Boys Industrial School, Lira and his colleagues began including judges in discharge conferences, eventually convincing them that local resources were adequate to meet the needs of all the boys under 16. Next, Lira worked with the state’s Maternal and Child Health Division Director to recruit boarding, adoptive and group homes for older children as well, increasing community services to the point that the Kansas industrial schools closed for good.