A BOOK REVIEWER
A BOOK FOR REVIEW
THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER ONLINE
Life Without Consequences
by Ami L. Vitko, BSW Student, College of St. Catherine, St. Paul,
A Life Without
by Stephen Elliott, MacAdam/Cage Publishing: San Francisco, CA,
2001, 186 pp., U.S. $25.00, Canada $38.00.
A Life Without
offers a firsthand look into the life of a young adolescent boy
named Paul. Through the voice of Paul, author Stephen Elliott
paints a vivid portrait of the emotional and physical reality
of growing up in the foster care system. Before being placed
in foster care, however, Pauls life has not been easy.
He has endured a physically abusive father, the death of his
mother, life on the streets as a runaway, and a suicide attempt.
Soon after his attempted suicide, Paul is placed in an adolescent
psychiatric facility. It is at this point, when Paul is 14 years
old, that he enters the foster care system.
Pauls various placements into separate chapters. First,
Paul is in the hospital, then a toolshed, then Adlai Stevenson
House, and finally, nine months in a less restrictive group home.
Through each of these situations, we learn about the fierce loyalties
and tenuous connections among Paul and the other adolescents
in foster care. We hear about the lack of hope, the lack of physical
safety, and the constant sense of distrust. More impressive,
however, is how author Stephen Elliot has managed to make Pauls
narration so deeply personal and yet so dissociated from the
events he is experiencing. This is an excellent example of how
an adolescent like Paul might cope with the emotional and physicial
traumas he is experiencing.
Many of the events
in A Life Without Consequences are based on experiences
author Stephen Elliott has had in his own life. He has written
a brutally honest and emotionally moving account of what it is
like to be on the receiving end of a system that remains largely
impersonal. It is an excellent example of emotional survival
and the determination to thrive. Elliott reminds us that foster
care is not simply about placing a child in a home. Many of these
kids cannot be placed in typical homes. Once they are in the
foster care system, they continue to have huge educational, psychiatric,
and physical needs. Elliot clearly understands these issues.
Foster care children
are involved with the educational system, the juvenile court
system, mental health system, and child welfare system. They
are involved with many of the systems that have a direct connection
to social work practice. This book is useful in its ability to
educate social work professionals, social work students, and
anyone working with foster care, about what children might be
experiencing and feeling when placed into this system. It is
also important for social work clients because it is a story
of success that is presented in a very realistic manner. Hopefully,
it will inspire us all to continue to examine our foster care
laws, so we can help make changes that bring hope to these children,
not just futility.
appears in THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER, Vol 9, No. 1, Winter 2002.
© 2001, 2002
White Hat Communications