Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHNNIE JORDAN? the Story of a Child Turning Violent

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHNNIE JORDAN? the Story of a Child Turning Violent

Article excerpt

TOTH, JENNIFER, WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHNNIE JORDAN? The Story of a Child Turning Violent. New York, NY: The Free Press, 2002, 291 pp., $25.00 hardcover.

This intense narrative account of the life of Johnnie Jordan draws the reader into the experience of a complex and disturbed child who had all the wrong turns in his path. Being raised partly on the streets with parents involved in drugs and crime was only the beginning of Johnnic's disadvantages. As the story unfolds, the reader is captivated not only by the horrific neglect he experiences but also by the incredible failure of Children's Services which leads to a young adolescent murdering his foster mother. Jennifer Toth utilizes her journalism skills to unpack the question of "What happened to Johnnie Jordan?" She bases her answer to that question on interviews with his foster father and other key informants, and also has multiple interviews with Johnnie himself.

The account of Johnnie's life begins with the day of the murder. A wonderful foster mother with a long history of helping children is dead; her husband is in complete despair. Amid the shock the community is experiencing are memories of warning signs that Johnnie could be a dangerous youth.

Johnnie's history is full of deprivation and abuse experienced in the care of his parents. Perspectives from former foster parents and social workers enrich the story as they address the failures in the systems throughout Johnnie's past and talk about their love for and dedication to the children. In piecing together Johnnie's history, family relationships and opportunities the reader discovers a child who has been shaped by the worst of home lives and who has taken the brunt of the system's failures.

As the trial is recorded, Johnnie's complete detachment from his emotions provides the reader with a glimpse of the intense pain and loss that he survived. Questions repeatedly arise regarding the failures of the social services to pick up clues that Johnnie indeed was dangerous and to provide an alternate placement for him. …

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