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Keith-Lucas, Alan (1910 – 1995)

in: People

Alan Keith-Lucas (1910-1995): International Child Welfare Scholar & Advocate, Social Work Educator, and Author

by Breanna Schuetz

 

Portrait of Alan Keith-Lucas
Alan Keith-Lucas
Image courtesy: Roberts Wesleyan Department of Social Work

Alan Keith-Lucas was a noted educator, author, and consultant in the care and welfare of children. In his extensive writings he addressed the helping relationship, and expanded the focus of helping children in group care to include the needs of their families. He also emphasized the need for training and professionalism in the field of social work. In the words of Dr. Larry Brendtro, Keith-Lucas was a “powerful pioneer” in residential group care, who “saw love, acceptance, and understanding as prerequisites to positive behavior” (Kuhn, 2002).

Born February 5, 1910 in Cambridge, England, Alan Keith-Lucas attended Trinity College at Cambridge University earning a B.A. Degree with First Class Honours in 1931 and M.A. Degree in English in 1935. Upon leaving university, he secured a position as a school teacher and rose to the prestigious position of headmaster in his early career. Early in his career, he realized he had a passion for helping disadvantaged children along with a developing interest in child welfare (Kuhn, 2002; Ressler, 2010; Contemporary Authors Online, 2007).

Social work at this time was still a developing field. Since graduate social work study was not available in England, Keith-Lucas immigrated to the United States in 1937 (Kuhn, 2002; Powell, 2010). In 1939, he earned a Master of Science in Social Administration (M. S. S. A.) from Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) where he met Georgia Ruth Work, a fellow M. S. S. A. student. They married in the summer of 1939. 

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States entered World War II. In November of the following year, Alan Keith-Lucas became a U.S. citizen (Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995). During 1943, he served in the U.S. Army (Contemporary Authors Online, 2007).

Early in their marriage, Keith-Lucas and his wife served as foster parents (Powell, 2010; Ressler, 2010). He worked for the Cleveland Humane Society (an agency concerned with aid to children) as a district supervisor. With this background, he accepted a position as a case supervisor for the New Orleans Children’s Bureau and later became state supervisor of children’s services for the Louisiana Department of Public Welfare (Kuhn, 2002;Contemporary Authors Online, 2007).

In 1950 Keith-Lucas moved to North Carolina and joined the faculty at the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), where he taught until his retirement in 1975. While teaching at UNC-CH, he continued his own education at Duke University, receiving a Ph. D. in political science in 1955. During his studies at Duke University,  Alan Keith-Lucas began an examination of the compatibility of social work and Christianity. As a young person he thought of himself as “an ethical humanist,” not a religious person. The social issues of the 1950s and 1960s pushed him to re-examine how Christian perspectives could be applied to social issues of the day, and how the church might be active in social and personal change (Keith-Lucas, 1957; Keith-Lucas, 1968; Kuhlmann, 2010; Ressler 2010; Contemporary Authors Online, 2007). In 1958 his academic paper Theology and the Care of the Poor along with numerous monographs and academic presentations on how social workers could use a client’s religion, faith, and values in social work practice (Keith-Lucas 1958, 1972). 

Throughout his career, Keith-Lucas focused on social work practice with children, whether they resided in residential group homes or orphanages, or received services through public child service programs. As residential child care began to move away from orphanages and industrial schools towards new models of care, Alan Keith-Lucas would become an advocate for understanding the needs of both children and their families. Speaking in an interview, Dr. Constantine Kledaras, a former student and colleague at UNC-CH of Dr. Keith-Lucas, described  Keith-Lucas as having a uniquely intense commitment to child welfare, adoptions, treatment of children in group or residential homes, and the educational development of child welfare staff in public or private programs (personal communication, September 15, 2017). 

From the 1950s through the 1970s, numerous orphanages and residential care homes affiliated with church or civic groups within North Carolina and surrounding states provided long-term care or temporary care to children referred by county case workers.  With few M. S. W. trained staff in these facilities, Keith-Lucas worked to improve the knowledge and skills of caseworkers and administrators. He founded the Group Child Care Consultant Services within the UNC School of Social Work, and served as Director of the Group Child Care Project, which offered consultations, education, training curricula, and seminars focused on helping public and sectarian group residential homes and orphanages (administrators, caseworkers, and  staff) to better understand the needs and dynamics of adolescents and young adults (Kuhn, 2002; Kuhlmann, 2010).

Alan Keith-Lucas worked tirelessly, regularly visiting more than 115 agencies to provide consultations, case reviews, and trainings. In the summers he directed what became known as the “Summer Workshops” in Chapel Hill. Child welfare personnel (administrators, caseworkers, residential staff) from North Carolina’s child welfare agencies and institutions came for training and workshops to improve services to children and families. As these workshops became more well-known, child welfare staff from across the United States and foreign countries traveled to UNC-CH to participate in these meetings (Kuhn 2002; Ressler, 2010). 

A prodigious writer, Alan Keith-Lucas authored over 100 articles and monographs (including twelve histories of childrens’ homes), and presented numerous professional papers at state, regional, national, and international conferences. He wrote or co-authored numerous books centered on the fundamentals of the helping process and the importance of building relationships with clients. His most well-known book,  Giving and Taking Help (1972, rev. ed. 1994) provided a model of understanding the dynamics of the helping process and the conditions necessary for a person seeking help which are applicable to the many helping professions (Cohen, 1999; Harris, 2010).

Through his writings, presentations, and workshops, Alan Keith-Lucas worked to change the philosophy and practices in child welfare practices of the time. He sought to improve the knowledge and skills of social caseworkers and staff in child welfare systems, both public and private.  He often met opposition to his belief that the custodial approach or group home should not be the first intervention, but instead a temporary solution if a family could not get back on track to being a healthy and supportive through direct services by the caseworker working with the family and child together.  In 1977, he and Clifford Stanford co-authored Group Child Care as a Family Service, the first major effort to address the needs and dynamics of children in residential care facilities.  Before the advent of what we now know as family preservation or family reintegration, Stanford and Keith-Lucas argued that orphanages, children homes, and residential group homes should not be custodial centers but active in family counseling, quality casework, professionalism, and advocacy (Harris, 2010; Ressler, 2010; Keith-Lucas, 1987; Powell, 1996).  

After his retirement from the UNC-CH in 1975 as Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Social Work, Keith-Lucas continued sharing his ideas on child welfare, advocacy, social work practice, and spirituality for twenty years. He persistently encouraged Christian social workers to be confident in their role and contribution to practice while committed to diversity, ethical practice, and client’s self-determination (Powell, 2010; Keith-Lucas, 1989).  He continued writing books, articles, book reviews, monographs, lectures, national and international presentations, and continued consultations with residential care agencies. He assisted social work programs with curricula review,  particularly with regard to child welfare practice, group work, and administration. His contributions were significant to the North American Association of Christians in Social Work (NCACSW) connecting Christian ideals to the social work profession and practice. As NCASW evolved, he served on the board and various committees, shaped their code of ethics, and provided book reviews and editorial services for its journal (Kuhlmann, 2010; Sherwood, 1995).

Alan Keith-Lucas died of cancer on August 5, 1995 (Powell, 2008). After his death, NCASW honored his life and accomplishments with the establishment in 1997 of the Alan Keith-Lucas lecture given at the annual NACSW meeting (Kuhlmann, 2010; Sherwood, 1995). A collection of his work, Essays From More Than Fifty Years in Social Work was published by the North Carolina Child Care Association in 1989, in recognition of Keith-Lucas’ dedication to social work and child welfare. Today his personal papers, writings, and correspondence are archived at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester New York.

 

For further reading:

Keith-Lucas, A. (1957).  Decisions about people in need:  A study of administrative responsiveness in public assistance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1962).  The church children’s home in a changing world. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1968). The church’s witness in social welfare. The Gheens Lecture, Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1972). Giving and taking help. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Keith-Lucas, A. and Sanford, C. W. (1977). Group child care as a family service. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1985). A hundred years of caring. The story of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, Inc., 1885-1985. Thomasville, N.C. : Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina

Keith-Lucas, A. (1987).  What else can residential care do? And do well?  Residential Treatment for Children & Youth,(4), 25-37.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1985). So you want to be a social worker: A primer for the Christian student. St. Davids, Pa.: North American Association of Christians in Social Work.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1989). The poor you have with you always. St. Davids, Pa.: North American Association of Christians in Social Work Press.

 

References: 

“Alan Keith-Lucas” in the U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995, Ancestry.com.

Alan Keith-Lucas. (2007). In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1000052943/LitRC?u=unc_main&sid=LitRC&xid=0b327cf0

Cohen, B. (1999). Measuring the willingness to seek help. Journal of Social Service Research, 26(1), 67-82.

Harris, H. (2010). A look back for the future: Applying the wisdom of Alan Keith-Lucas for child care services today. Social Work & Christianity, 37(3), 292-304.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1957).  Decisions about people in need:  A study of administrative responsiveness in public assistance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1968). The church’s witness in social welfare.  The Gheens Lecture, Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1972). Giving and taking help. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Keith-Lucas, A. (1987).  What else can residential care do? And do well?  Residential treatment for Children & Youth, 4, 25-37.

Keith-Lucas, A., & Sanford, C. (1977). Group child care as a family service. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Kledaras, C. (2017, September 15). Telephone interview.

Kuhlmann, E. G. (2010). The contributions of Alan Keith-Lucas to the North American Association of Christians in Social Work: A professional and personal memoir and tribute on the centenary of his birth. Social Work & Christianity, 37(3), 305-320.

Kuhn, F. (2002).  A special remembrance: Dr. Alan Keith-Lucas. Refocus Cornell University Resident Child Care Project (7), 9-10.

Powell, J. (1996). Alan Keith-Lucas, Ph. D., 1910-1995: Teacher extraordinaire. Residential Treatment for Children & Youth, (14), 81-92.

Powell, J. (2010). Alan Keith-Lucas, Ph. D.: Social worker and Christians, 1910-1995. Social Work & Christianity, 37(3), 251-267.

Powell, J. (2008). Alan Keith-Lucas, Ph. D., 1910-1995: Teacher extraordinaire. Residential Treatment for Children & Youth, 14(2), 81-92.

Ressler, L. E. (2010). Introduction to the life, contribution, and inspiration of Alan Keith-Lucas.  Social Work & Christianity, 37(3), 241-250.

Sherwood, D. (1995).  In memory: Alan Keith-Lucas. Social Work and Christianity, 22, 158-159.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Schuetz, Breanna (2018). Alan Keith-Lucas (1910-1995): International Child Welfare Scholar & Advocate, Social Work Educator, and Author. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/people/keith-lucas-alan-1910-1995/

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