Children and Youth in Limbo: A Search for Connections

By Nadia Ehrlich Finkelstein | Go to book overview

11
The Process of Change: Organizational Implications

As human needs and our perceptions of human needs change, so must the service delivery system change. Children's services in this country, rooted in the orphanage with its tradition of rescuing children from immoral, uncaring families, have come a long way toward accepting prevention of family dissolution as their primary goal. Yet many agencies providing institutional care with great commitment to children at times pay mere lip service to working with the child's family. There is an inherent, obvious, and sometimes semi-conscious destructive criticism of the family. As long as these critical attitudes persist, even the best-intentioned attempts to engage family members with their child are programmed for failure. There are, of course, some magnificently successful programs serving those same families who have otherwise been labeled as "unworkable," "multiproblem," and, worst of all, "resistive to change." This chapter will address the issues of organizational change so that family change can indeed occur.

We begin by recognizing that raising children in a protected, isolated environment, such as an institution, without primary regard to permanent family roots and connections fosters a revolving door of disabled people coming through the welfare system. A redesign of publicly mandated programs must follow, as well as reallocation of funding. The validation of roots and a need for permanent belonging must be an inextricable part of child welfare and mental health treatment programs.

Many institutions throughout the country have begun to work intensively in their own institutional milieu with families of the children in care. Through the reallocation of resources and the redesign of programs, it has become more evident that some children can and should be discharged from institutions; others should never have been admitted. Changes in philosophic

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