Children and Youth in Limbo: A Search for Connections

By Nadia Ehrlich Finkelstein | Go to book overview

Preface

"Nothing comes from nowhere." Everything has a history and a beginning. The ideas for this book were fast conceived in the early 1970s when, as director of Parsons Child and Family Center's Residential Program, I was still chairing intake conferences to evaluate children for admission to the then predominant program of that agency, historically rooted in the American orphanage. It was astounding to me then that 97 percent of the children in the Residential Program did not have two biological parents living together; I needed to understand who these children and families were and find out about them as meaningful groups. These early ideas were published in Social Work [ Finkelstein 1980].

As we got to know the families of the children in need of residential placement, my colleagues and I began to understand that our efforts must focus on the whole family, if the child's life situation is to have a constructive, meaningful outcome. This thinking stimulated some of my earlier work on family participation in residential treatment [ 1981, 1988]. While working on these ideas professionally, I was also deeply involved in parenting my own children, and naturally empathized with the many painful problems parents of children in placement had to confront and deal with.

As the years passed, I assumed a larger administrative role at Parsons; I became responsible for the agency's community-based programs in 1978, and all agency professional programs by 1983. This involved nineteen separate components of an agency whose largest caseloads today are outpatient and preventive, although it still provides family foster care and an array of residential services for youth who cannot live with their families either temporarily or permanently. Every program at Parsons functions within the same basic philosophy of care, validating roots and connections regardless of where the young person lives.

-xi-

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