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The Least Detrimental Alternative

The Least Detrimental Alternative: A Systematic Guide to Case Planning and Decision Making for Children in Care

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 448
  • Book Info
    The Least Detrimental Alternative
    Book Description:

    In this book Steinhauer brings together the fragmented research that has been done in a number of different disciplines.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7662-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Gerald Caplan

    In the best of all possible worlds, every child would be brought up by his or her biological parents, who would have stable and mutually satisfying relationships with the child and with each other. They would provide the child with loving care and affection throughout childhood, act as role models to exemplify the values and behavioural norms of their culture and the different characteristics of men and women, provide controls and guidance to help him or her internalize the constraints of society, and offer psychosocial support to enable the child to master the stresses of life.

    In today’s world, although...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. PART ONE The Historical Context of Foster Care and Adoption

    • Chapter One The History of Adoption and Foster Care
      (pp. 3-10)

      The problem of how to deal with orphaned and homeless children is known to have existed for at least forty-eight centuries. The earliest recorded adoption was that of Sargon i, the founder king of Babylon, in the twenty-eighth century bc. His story, told in an ancient inscription, resembles that of Moses: Sargon was placed in a vessel made of reeds and floated down a river, where he was found by a simple water carrier who, out of the ‘kindness of his heart... raised me as his own son’ (Rank 1914, quoted in Clothier 1939).

      Originally, reasons for adoption had less...

  7. PART TWO Background Issues

    • Chapter Two Issues of Attachment and Separation: Mourning and Loss in Children
      (pp. 13-41)

      Among the most important psychological and developmental hazards faced by children within the child welfare system are those related to problems of attachment and separation, and to children’s difficulty in successfully mourning their losses. This chapter reviews in some detail the literature on attachment, separation, and mourning, demonstrating how problems in any one of these areas may spill over to undermine, first, the others and, ultimately, the child’s overall development.

      For optimal development, all children ideally should grow up in a family that is caring and able to provide both high-quality and continuity of parenting. The infant’s first basic need,...

    • Chapter Three The Child Who Could Not Mourn
      (pp. 42-58)

      In the early 1960s, shortly after having become interested in Bowlby’s description of children’s typical responses to separation, I was asked to see in consultation a five-year-old girl who, just two days earlier, had lost both her parents. Charlene had been riding with her parents in the family car when it collided head on with a tractor-trailer. Both parents were killed instantly, but Charlene was left without a scratch. Immediately following the accident, she was removed from the wrecked car by the police, who described her as ‘stunned’ and ‘in shock.’ The officers correctly suspected that she didn’t fully grasp...

    • Chapter Four Identity Formation and the Influence of Life History and Special Status of the Foster and Adopted Child
      (pp. 59-75)

      Before discussing the effects of being a foster child on the identity and life history of the child who grows up in a family other than his or her own, let us review briefly some aspects of normal development particularly relevant to foster children.

      The term ‘self-concept’ refers to the one’s cognitive understanding of what one is like. One aspect of it is one’s self-esteem, the feeling about oneself that reflects the kind of person one thinks one is. A child’s identity is a combination of these; it describes what children would say if they could supply complete answers to...

    • Chapter Five Assessing for Parenting Capacity
      (pp. 76-110)

      This chapter deals with the central dilemma faced by child welfare agencies and family courts, that of when to remove children permanently from their natural families. It is a dilemma because failure to remove a child from a sufficiently destructive family soon enough can lead to serious and lasting damage, but premature or unnecessary removal will violate parental rights while proving no less damaging to the child in the long run (Tooley 1978). Intended as a guide to gathering and assessing the information needed for appropriate decision making, this chapter consists of three major sections. The first briefly reviews children’s...

  8. PART THREE Client-Related Issues

    • Chapter Six Guidelines for Removal and Placement of Children
      (pp. 113-142)

      This chapter, first, discusses factors that should be considered in deciding the key question of where to set the threshold between the level of parenting that, while far from ideal, is at least tolerable and that which is sufficiently inadequate to demand removal and placement despite the risks involved. It then reviews a number of ways of avoiding placement, even in some situations where parenting is inadequate, including mediation and preventive interventions. The chapter concludes by presenting a number of ways to protect children from some of the more harmful effects of removal and placement through active and informed planning...

    • Chapter Seven Guidelines for the Clinical Management of the Sequelae of Separation
      (pp. 143-157)

      Prior to and at the point of separation of a child from his natural family, the first goal of effective management is to minimize stress and, thereby, the amount of anxiety confronting the child at any one time, since excessive anxiety encourages repression and the abortion of the normal mourning process. Anxiety is best minimized by taking the child into care on an elective basis wherever possible, thereby allowing sufficient time for the assessment of the child’s needs, the selection of an appropriate placement, and the preparation of child and foster parents for each other. This preventive work is best...

    • Chapter Eight Sharing a Child between Natural and Foster Parents
      (pp. 158-172)

      Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O, my Lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my...

    • Chapter Nine Visits of Foster Children with Their Natural Families
      (pp. 173-182)

      The proper regulation of visits of foster children with their natural parents is an issue of great but often underestimated importance (M.S. White 1981). Far too often, decisions regarding visits are made either for or against with no rational basis whatsoever (Proch and Howard 1986). Yet a systematic policy regarding visits should be an integral part of every foster child’s management plan. Whether or not a given child should have visits; the frequency and duration of such visits; where, when, and under whose supervision they should occur – all should be determined in advance. Courts, at times, order visits according...

  9. PART FOUR System-Related Issues

    • Chapter Ten The Foster Care Service System
      (pp. 185-200)

      An examination of the relationship between the child welfare agency, the foster parents, the biological parents, and the child in care will enable us to define how the caseworker can best enhance the quality and permanence of a placement. To begin, consider some differences between traditional and specialized foster care, summarized in table 10.1.

      It is overly optimistic, at best, if not frankly naïve, to assume that the older and already damaged children currently coming into care will obtain the quality of care they need in most traditional foster families (Berridge and Cleaver 1987, pp. 182–3; Cooper 1978; Darnell...

    • Chapter Eleven The Family Court System and the Quality of Foster Care
      (pp. 201-219)

      It would be remiss to discuss the management of children in care without some mention of the key decision-making role played by the family court system. Although this chapter deals with issues as they occur within the family courts of the Province of Ontario, there is good reason to believe that the same issues are at least as problematic in child-welfare courts in most jurisdictions.

      While it is the child welfare system that is responsible for the placement, supervision, and day-to-day management of children in care, except in that minority of cases in which a family voluntarily seeks the services...

    • Chapter Twelve ‘Permanency Planning’
      (pp. 220-232)

      The program of the American Orthopsychiatric Association Annual Meeting (American Psychiatric Association 1980) stated: ‘There is a consensus that children need and have a right to a stable permanent home, and that a child’s own home and parents are best.’

      A New York State committee on adoption, in a document entitledAdoption: Service Needs and Goals, discussed long-range planning for children, listing, in order of priority, three basic goals: 1 / to maintain the child in his own home; 2 / if 1 were not possible, to return the child to his natural family; 3 / if 1 and 2...

    • Chapter Thirteen Potential Contributions of Mental Health Consultants within the Child Welfare System
      (pp. 233-257)

      This chapter discusses different ways that child psychiatrists and psychologists are utilized as consultants by child welfare agencies and explores the benefits and some limitations of each.

      Psychologists and psychiatrists are most often utilized by child welfare agencies to provide client-centred case consultations, that is, clinical assessments of children or families that are then used to guide case planning, usually at a point of crisis, or to support the agency’s position in court. There is no doubt that effective client-centred consultation can be helpful, especially if it is appropriately timed and followed up by adequate two-way discussion of the practicality...

    • Chapter Fourteen The Role of Psychotherapy and Residential Treatment within the Child Welfare System
      (pp. 258-282)

      By now, it should be clear that a conflicted and rejecting family life prior to coming into care exacerbated by the effects of separation from the natural family is likely to cause disturbance in the foster child which will affect his ongoing adjustment in foster care. The frequency and severity of this disturbance will probably increase with each successive repeat of the cycle of rejection and loss. Most foster children show signs of psychological and/or social disturbance and, frequently, of serious learning problems. These, in themselves, often play a major and increasing part in repeating the cycle of rejection by...

    • Chapter Fifteen Four Innovative Models of Foster Care
      (pp. 283-300)

      The value of foster care as a service for children requiring placement has recently been challenged by a number of prominent mental health professionals and government officials who question whether long-term foster care is so innately unstable that children unable to be raised in their own families would be better served by a return to institutional placements. A number of factors have contributed to their taking this position: difficulties in both recruiting and retaining foster parents; the frequency with which placements break down; the high numbers of foster children requiring institutional placements; the number of failures of the foster care...

  10. PART FIVE Issues Related to Sexual Abuse within the Foster Care System

    • Chapter Sixteen Developmental, Clinical, and Legal Implications of Children’s Testimony
      (pp. 303-328)

      There are two main reasons for including a chapter on the evaluation of allegations of sexual abuse in a book dealing with the more generic aspects of foster care. The first is that many children who have been abused will end up in foster care, and that the sequelae of their having been abused may lead to difficulties within their placements. Often, the first evidence of their abuse may come to light only after they are safely in care. An understanding of how children are affected by abuse and some guidelines for the assessment and recording of allegations of abuse...

  11. PART SIX Adoption as an Alternative to Long-Term Foster Care

    • Chapter Seventeen Factors Related to Success or Failure in Adoption
      (pp. 331-352)
      Margaret Snowden

      It is generally agreed that success or failure in adoption depends primarily on the relationship between the adoptive parents and the adopted child. This relationship, is determined by the interaction of three sets of factors: characteristics of the adoptive parents; characteristics of the adopted child; the fit or integration between them, stemming from the ability of each to meet the other’s needs and to accept the other’s limitations.

      Qualities generally sought in prospective adoptive parents are summarized in table 17.1. While this and the subsequent tables reflect what has appeared in the adoption literature and are consistent with the clinical...

    • Chapter Eighteen Placing the Older Child on Adoption
      (pp. 353-358)
      Margaret Snowden

      Since, as has been indicated, the adoption of ‘special needs’ children currently represents two-thirds of extra-familial adoptions (Hepworth 1980; Rowe and Lambert 1973), let us examine specifically the older-child (and often sibling group) adoptions that represent so large a part of this population. Some agencies consider a child to be ‘older’ (for purposes of adoption) following the first birthday. Most agencies consider potential adoptees older children by age four years.

      1 /Adoption of the older child normally initiates a family crisis. It has been suggested that some sort of family crisis almost inevitably follows the adoption of an older...

  12. PART SEVEN Summary and Review

    • Chapter Nineteen Summary and Review: The Preventive Use of Foster Care
      (pp. 361-378)

      There is a widespread belief that long-term foster care is inherently unstable and generally damaging (Filkelstein 1980; Gruber 1978; Maluccio et al 1980). Cooper (1978) suggests that, while short-term fostering in preparation for adoption has a clear purpose, intermediate and long-term fostering lack a clear definition of task and are so inherently unstable that they promote insecurity for all involved. Numerous authors (Maluccio et al 1980; Gruber 1978; Steinhauer 1980a; Fanshel and Shinn 1978; Prosser 1978; Wiltse 1976) have expressed concern about the number of foster children who, more from inadequate planning than from any conscious decision, end up drifting...

  13. References
    (pp. 379-418)
  14. Index
    (pp. 419-426)