Children and Youth in Limbo: A Search for Connections

By Nadia Ehrlich Finkelstein | Go to book overview

Introduction: Why This Volume?

THE PROBLEM

The American family and child care system is in trouble. This volume was conceived and written some time before the International Children's Summit of 1990. Seventy heads of state then gathered at the United Nations in New York City to address the well-being of children all over the world. They were confronted "just a few blocks from the shining glass tower of the United Nations ... [by] a lengthy and chilling sequence on what is happening to children in this the wealthiest nation of the world" [ Hartman 1990:483]. Yet there should be no surprise at recent horrifying developments. According to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, we are revealed to be "the first society in history in which the poorest group... is children" [ Phillips 1990, as cited in Hartman 1990:483].

The number of traditional families with a clearly defined child-bearing and child-caring role is declining. In 1987, of the 62,932,000 children under the age of eighteen in the United States, approximately 24 percent lived in a single-parent household, and that number continues to increase. The increasing need for foster care beds is symptomatic of the breakdown in family competence and commitment to nurturing its young. In New York State alone, "From 1986 to 1988, the foster care caseload increased by 58 percent.... The number of children in care [was] projected to increase an additional 36 percent in 1989 to a year-end total of 59,300, and to grow to 72,300 by the end of 1990" [ New York State 1990:7]. The American child-care and child welfare system lacks the necessary philosophic, functional, and comprehensive thrust to deal with the tens of thousands of children floating in limbo, many in abject poverty. These children do not know who will care for them until they can care for themselves.

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