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The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America's Children and What We Can Do About It.

The Vulnerable Child is a powerfully written book that raises a number of provocative issues that must be addressed if America is to succeed in strengthening its families. Weissbourd, a Harvard University policy expert, exposes a variety of social myths. He argues against viewing children and families stereotypically and asks that we rethink our prevailing assumptions about the underclass, particularly those that cling to racial or socioeconomic stereotypes. As the author points out throughout the text, the great majority of low-income children are not ghetto dwellers, and do not seriously abuse drugs or commit crimes. Indeed, the most vulnerable children are not poor.

The book, organized into two parts and 13 chapters, is well documented and thoroughly researched, Most revealing are the case studies of children and families struggling to cope with life. Weissbourd conducted hundreds of interviews of children and families, and he uses their stories to illuminate the complex factors that contribute to vulnerability. Many of these factors have gained attention only more recently, such as parental stress and chronic depression, job mobility, divorce and overwork; each interacts in debilitating ways to adversely affect children.

Part I examines the current, narrow social perspective surrounding debates about the "disadvantaged," and documents the interactive nature of children's developmental status, familial factors and community networks that shape lives. This part includes a focus on why our systems fail to help children. Those of us who have worked in programs for children and families deemed to be "at risk" will particularly appreciate Weissbourd's arguments against viewing them in this fashion.

In Part II, Weissbourd shares the successes of several community-based programs that are dramatically changing the prospects of vulnerable children and families. Many of these programs are family sensitive and prevention oriented, and they include health-care agencies, public schools, child protective service agencies and police forces. The closing chapters of Part II examine family support centers and collaborative efforts within cities and towns that can address child and family vulnerability. Although it offers no magic formulas, this text is a powerful companion to many of the recent books on collaboration in early care and education settings. It is must reading for any advanced undergraduate, graduate student or practitioner hoping to help vulnerable children and families.

Reviewed by Michael F. Kelley, Associate Professor of Early Childhood, Arizona State University West, Phoenix
COPYRIGHT 1997 Association for Childhood Education International
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kelley, Michael F.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1997
Previous Article:The Moral Intelligence of Children.
Next Article:First Steps Toward Teaching the Reggio Way.

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