By: Book Reviewers
Book reviews of Collaborative Intervention in Early Childhood: Consulting with Parents and Teachers of 3- to 7-Year-Olds; Growing Up in the Care of Strangers: The Experiences, Insights, and Recommendations of Eleven Former Foster Kids; and Mindfulness and Social Work.
Collaborative Intervention in Early Childhood: Consulting with Parents and Teachers of 3- to 7-Year-Olds, by Deborah Hirschland, Oxford University Press, 2008, 303 pages, $28.
Hirschland organizes this text into four major parts. She begins with how to collect and interpret information about child development. The importance of interpreting information within context is stressed, as are the communication skills necessary to get appropriate information from children and their families. The second part of the text concerns developing manageable family intervention plans compatible with classroom interventions. Part three examines the most frequently seen difficulties experienced by young children and presents very specific suggestions for overcoming these difficulties. Hirschland concludes with one chapter devoted to specialized issues facing children today, including trauma, the impact of the media, and crisis management; and the final chapter addressing anticipated adolescent milestones.
Multiple case examples are used to illustrate the childhood difficulties that motivate parents and/or teachers to seek specialized assistance for young children. Hirschland does an excellent job of explaining why it is important for professionals to explore multiple potential causes for problem behavior and, consequently, different and more specific interventions to address each issue of concern. Contemporary research explaining the various theories surrounding the causes and interventions are well documented. A “one-size-fits-all” approach is certainly NOT recommended. This is not a cookbook for treatment interventions. However, it does offer practical, developmentally appropriate strategies to address issues such as regulating energy and feelings, managing frustration, promoting flexibility, and developing confidence and resilience.
Social workers may be particularly interested in the chapter concerning how a family’s history and patterns of interaction affect child development. An assessment of family functioning, either formal or informal, is advised, with particular attention to the family’s interactional pattern. The importance of developing interventions that the family can realistically implement is stressed.
Family-focused interventions are based on three core issues: What do we see? What do we think? and What do we do? Interventions are strengths-based and recognize the resilience of children and families. The author provides specific suggestions regarding what to look for and how to look for it. Devising strategies to set limits for children and to help them transition from one activity or situation to another are major topics.
This text, in whole or in part, can be used in a variety of social work education and practice settings. It is particularly helpful in its discussion of early child development issues and provides direction for interpreting what is typical behavior and what may not be. Consequently, instructors of courses in the human behavior and social environment sequence will find this material a valuable supplement to a broader text. Courses designed for school social workers or other early childhood intervention services, such as day care centers or pediatric health settings, will also find this material very important.
Reviewed by Adele Crudden, MSW, PhD, Associate Professor and Program Director, Social Work program, Mississippi State University.
Growing Up in the Care of Strangers: The Experiences, Insights, and Recommendations of Eleven Former Foster Kids, by Waln K. Brown and John R. Seita, William Gladden Foundation Press, Tallahassee, FL, 2009, 175 pages, $27.95.
Children, youth, and teens face many challenges. These challenges are social, developmental, psychological, and physiological. Waln Brown and John Seita’s book, Growing Up in the Care of Strangers, depicts the challenges that no child should face—neglect by a system that has the legal and moral responsibility to protect them—children in state’s custody.
Growing Up in the Care of Strangers is composed of eleven stories of former foster children who not only survived, but established their careers in a system in which too many children fail to thrive. The authors in this book share their stories of pain, abuse, abandonment, neglect, and success. The stories are perceptive to the plight of children in foster care.
The eleven authors in this book have contributed to the policies and practices of providing services and care to the most vulnerable in our society, children in the care of governments in America. For example, both primary authors, Brown and Seita, grew up in foster care and are authors of several books that focus on providing the best care to youth in state’s custody.
The first compelling and heart wrenching story is by Waln Brown, founder and CEO of the William Gladden Foundation. He writes of his years as a juvenile delinquent, experiencing domestic violence, abandonment, being a resident in psychiatric facilities, and out of home placement. With such a dismal and distressed origin, he somehow succeeded. His story relates the horrors that too many children endure in the care of those who are supposed to protect them. He not only tells of his victimization in the home with his parents, but also of his victimization in the care of the state that placed him in facilities not equipped to treat an adolescent.
Each subsequent story by the contributing authors: Dr. John Seita; Angelique Day, MSW; Danita Echols, MSW; Maurice Webb, BSW; Dr Debraha Watson; Meloney Barney, B.A.; Elizabeth Sutherland, B.S.; Claudette Braxton, LMSW C/M, ACSW; and Dr. Rosalind Folman, communicates their ordeals while in the care of the state. These ordeals consist of, as Seita states, “loveless, even abusive, placements in foster homes and institutions,” multiple placements, sibling separation, disenfranchisement from family, lack of security, neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical and psychological abuse, lack of support, continued guidance, and the disempowerment of foster children.
Growing Up in the Care of Strangers also offers concrete resources and services that could make the placement of children in foster care less traumatizing. Claudette Braxton’s chapter, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,” addresses the discriminatory figure of youth who age-out of foster care who end up homeless or incarcerated. She states, “With problems that limit their successful integration into society is a sad testament to a system whose mission is to serve the child’s best interests.” The authors’ personal recollections of their experiences identify services and resources that would have benefitted their plight and could assist others in care, such as transitional services that extend beyond age 18; continued evaluation and assessment of placements; the continuity of services provided; psychological care throughout placement; and most importantly, the input of youth who have experienced placement in the polices and practices that affect this population the most.
Claudette Braxton states that she and her husband (also a former foster child), “are two of the lucky ones who had more good than bad experiences.” What a sad statement for youth in the foster care system. This book is a must read for anyone who has a part in the care of youth in out-of-home placement. Reading this book provides valuable insight in the predicament that foster children face. Too often, decisions for these youth are made without their consent or knowledge. Because the state of these children is our business, it behooves us as service providers, policy makers, and caregivers to have knowledge of the dilemmas children in foster care face.
Youth in foster care would also benefit from reading this book. Many youth in foster care have the sense that they will never succeed. Most lack mentors to guide their decisions. Here are eleven authors who did succeed in spite of their traumatized origins and an inadequate system designated to protect them.
Reviewed by Tonja Tarvin, BA, BSW, MSW, LCSW.
Mindfulness and Social Work, by Steven F. Hick (Editor), Lyceum Books, Inc., Chicago, IL, 2009, paper, 256 pages, $45.95.
In the book Mindfulness and Social Work, Hick has compiled 13 chapters that provide an overview and academic, textbook-like, discussion of mindfulness as a valuable personal and professional practice for social workers. Of the 15 contributing authors (several chapters have multiple authors), the majority are teaching or practicing in Canada in the social work or family therapy field. Hick is an associate professor at the School of Social Work, Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada.
The book outlines multiple ways in which mindfulness practices can be used by social workers. In the first two chapters of the book, seven mindfulness exercises are presented, a concise sample of practices to be tried and suggested to clients. The historical discussion and literature review, both current and detailed, will be of interest to social work students and practitioners.
The authors promote a personal practice of mindfulness as a valuable self care strategy and as a way to enhance effectiveness at both the micro and macro level. Hick, like many proponents of mindfulness and meditation practices, urges therapists to develop their own mindfulness practices for an extended period of time before attempting to instruct clients in mindfulness techniques. Also included are several chapters discussing specific ways to use mindfulness practices to better serve specific disciplines (family therapy), populations (children and youth, immigrants, and domains (community action, politics, social justice, and environmental activism).
Interest in mindfulness as a therapeutic strategy among helping professionals is widespread. Considerable research has been conducted documenting the benefits of a regular practice of mindfulness for a plethora of mental health and medical conditions: pain management, immune function, depression, and anxiety. Hick points out that social work is unique among helping professions in the expectation that in addition to working with individuals and groups to relieve suffering and facilitate change, workers are charged to engage in and support change at the organizational, community, national, and international levels. The strengths-based perspective, respect for clients’ right to self determination, and advocacy are core values of the profession. Mindfulness and Social Work touches on how mindfulness practice aligns with the core values of social work.
Reviewed by Jennifer Kinsey, MSW student, University of New Hampshire.