Wastedby Patrick T. Murphy
This is a book about how a system designed to help children is instead helping to destroy them. For almost thirty years Patrick Murphy has represented abused and neglected children in court cases at every level of the state and federal judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He has labored in the trenches of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. In
This is a book about how a system designed to help children is instead helping to destroy them. For almost thirty years Patrick Murphy has represented abused and neglected children in court cases at every level of the state and federal judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He has labored in the trenches of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. In Wasted, Mr. Murphy charges that the child welfare bureaucracy is stuck in hundred-year-old realities and the politics of the 1960s and 1970s. The concern of state agencies and the courts for family preservation, he argues, has now gone too far. Keeping families together by lavishing public resources on abusive parents who can’t and won’t change their behavior is harming their children. Too many of them are suffering continued abuse, degradation, neglect, injury, even death. The system is sending all the wrong messages, Mr. Murphy insists: struggling poor parents are ignored by the government while abusers get help; confidentiality protects state agencies that make mistakes; a resistance to trans-racial placement and adoption ensures that many African-American children will never find a permanent home. Meanwhile America’s underclass continues to grow and ossify because we refuse to grapple with its racial implications. Wasted pulls no punches in describing the mess, but Mr. Murphy also offers a prescription for fixing what’s broke.
Murphy (Our Kindly Parent, the State, 1974) is the public guardian of Cook County, Ill., a unique office from which he represents both troubled children and the elderly. He has seen generations of children move through the child welfare system, bouncing from foster parents to birth parents until the children too are old enough to have children and mistreat them. Murphy very carefully differentiates between families who are merely poor, struggling but with a future, and the families of the "underclass . . . a dysfunctional fourth world culture that strangles its young." Using the first several chapters of the book to outline his own experience as prosecutor, Peace Corps volunteer, and Legal Aid lawyeryears of confrontation with the many aspects of povertyMurphy goes on to disdain both the traditional liberal view of the poor as victims and the conservative message to let the poor "rot at home." He has some serious questions about the family preservation policies that still drive most social service agencies. Some parents are irredeemably irresponsible, and children should never be returned to their care, says the author. Some modest proposals are offered that would in essence reduce the power of the courts in determining the fate of abused and neglected children and return those decisions to a reorganized child welfare system, modify confidentiality laws so that they no longer protect an incompetent welfare bureaucracy, and expand and bolster "residential care" facilities (orphanages, if you will).
Short and pungent, designed to be controversial, here's a blow at the child protection system from a knight who's been in the fray a long time and knows the enemy.
- Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
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professor of law, Harvard Law School
Chairman Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago
author of Color-Blind and The Rage of a Privileged Class
former mayor, New York City
Meet the Author
Patrick T. Murphy is Public Guardian of Cook County, Illinois, an office unique in the United States. He has also written Our Kindly Parentthe State and among many honors has received the Juvenile Justice Award of the American Bar Association and Criminal Justice Award of the governor of Illinois.
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