Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son With Schizophrenia, by Paul Gionfriddo, Columbia University Press, 2014, New York, 226 pages, $24.95.
This book was initially a troubling read, in that it recounts how a child gets lost in the system because of his mental illness. What was troubling was that the author is a lawmaker who would ordinarily be able to navigate the systems of care more easily than the average citizen. Yet, consistently, there are times when the intention of policy and the implementation of policy become very different experiences.
The growth of this family into self advocacy and witnessing the persistent way in which Tim finds his place in society are at once heart lifting and heart wrenching. From the early interaction with the criminal justice system to the lack of the education system to understand how to be present for Tim, we see his family become fierce advocates, even when there is nothing they can do.
I feel that most social workers, educators, and policymakers will come away from this book with a warm feeling of the triumph of the human spirit and the power of family. I, however, was angry. I kept thinking of the “why.” Why would a system, in this day and age in the richest country on the planet, consistently fail our most vulnerable in this way?
The policy implications in this book will cause social workers to question our role in these complex systems. I ask this: are we, as social workers, truly agents of change or agents of social control and compliance for our clients and their families?
Reviewed by Jack Register, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CSI, Executive Director, NAMI NC.