The Book of David: How Preserving Families Can Cost Children's Lives

The Book of David: How Preserving Families Can Cost Children's Lives

The Book of David: How Preserving Families Can Cost Children's Lives

The Book of David: How Preserving Families Can Cost Children's Lives

Synopsis

Using the true story of a murdered child as a point of departure, a leading expert on family violence argues that society's first priority must be protecting children rather than preserving families. Richard Gelles was once one of the most widely published and vocal defenders of family preservation: the social policy of keeping troubles families together as a primary goal. He then ran into the true and tragic case of David Edwards, an infant who was murdered by his mother after falling through the chasms in the child welfare system. David's story convinced Gelles that the system must change. Nearly half the children who are killed by their parents each year are killed after they have come to the attention of child welfare agencies. These children must be protected by getting them out of harm's way. That means a radically new child welfare system must be developed. The first priority must be to protect children rather than preserve families. This hard-hitting book critically examines family preservation programs and argues that they do not work. Gelles goes beyond mere criticism of the child welfare system to suggest specific ways the system should be changed, such as eliminating mandatory reporting of abuse, giving better training to caseworkers, and separating the investigation of abuse from case management.

Excerpt

I can still see the autopsy slide of a little boy I call David Edwards. He was not grossly disfigured like the battered children in the pictures typically displayed to professionals and the public. in fact, David looked like he was asleep on a white sheet. But: he was dead, suffocated by his mother. What haunts me about David is that we know enough about child abuse that we could have, and should have, saved his life. I cannot bear to see many more such pictures. I cannot bear to be involved in more fatality reviews of little babies. I cannot bear the frustration of devoting a lifetime of research and practice to the ideal of protecting children only to find that current policies ignore the research results. We must change the system. We will change the system.

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