By: Book Reviewers
Book reviews of
Little Victim, Angels of Mercy, and
The Whole-Brain Child.
Little Victim: The Real Story of Britain’s Vulnerable Children and the People Who Rescue Them, by Harry Keeble with Kris Hollington, Simon and Schuster, London, 2011, 274 pages, $7.23.
Little Victim is a collection of narratives illustrating one year in the life of Hackley Child Protection in the United Kingdom, as told by Harry Keeble, a once drug task police officer turned child protection agent. In 27 chapters, Harry exposes an assortment of child protection investigations involving physical and sexual abuse, endurance punishment, drug abuse, mental illness, neglect, and cultural incongruity. Harry describes each one of these cases from beginning to end—receiving a referral, components of the investigation, and the outcome of the case. In illuminating these narratives, Harry brings to light the vulnerability and resiliency of children along with his own inner conflict concerning what he thinks is best for children and the unfortunate and painful limitations of child protection services. Harry aims to dissolve common misconceptions as he praises social workers for fighting the war against systemic problems that adversely affect children with minimal resources and negative perceptions of their work. The book concludes purposefully as Harry promotes positive change by challenging funding cuts to prevention services, encouraging readers to get involved as advocates for children, and diagramming a treatment team model that he feels will be safer and more productive for other social service agencies that are underfunded and understaffed.
Although this book centers on one borough in the United Kingdom, the messages and implications transcend to child protection by and large. The accounts in this book may seem graphic and upsetting to the general public, but individuals working in child protection know them all too well, and for that reason, social work students considering a career in child protection could benefit from the content about why some individuals feel called to the profession and why some choose against it. Novice social workers could benefit from the subject matter presented in each case, as well as the facts, advice, and insight provided by an experienced child protection worker. This book could be utilized by experienced social workers and social work educators as an update on current trends in child protection. This book could also be informative for social work clients involved with child protection services, because it may facilitate an understanding of the decisions that are made by the child protection agencies.
Overall, Little Victim is an honestly descriptive, sometimes gritty, compilation of narratives that accurately depict the ups and downs, as well as successes and failures, of child protection while still imparting the reader with a sense of optimism.
Reviewed by Angie Chisholm, LLMSW, Clinical Social Worker at Hope Network Behavioral Health.
Angels of Mercy: White Women and the History of New York’s Colored Orphan Asylum, by William Seraile, Fordham University Press, New York, 2011, 220 pages, $27.95.
Over the course of their careers, many social workers will find themselves working directly in the child welfare profession or working in conjunction with child welfare professionals. William Seraile’s book, Angels of Mercy: White Women and the History of New York’s Colored Orphan Asylum, provides a detailed account of the history of New York City’s first orphanage for African American children from its establishment in the early nineteenth century to its transition to the more modern child welfare agency in the mid-twentieth century.
Seraile opens his book with an interesting take on the driving forces that led white women in the 1830s to take up the cause of the “colored” orphans. These forces were two-fold; the first was a paternalistic attitude in which these women hoped to save the orphans’ souls by instilling a strict Protestant moral code they felt was missing in the “colored” race. The founders made a point to avoid any talk of social equality or amalgamation and fostered an “us vs. them” mentality by refusing to turn to the black community for guidance and support.
The second was the desire of the founding women to pursue work outside the home that would not upset the strict gender roles of the time. Their race deemed them superior to the children they were serving, so they were able to take on an empowered and authoritative role that would otherwise have been forbidden without de-feminizing themselves.