Lost Boy David Pelzer's Autobiography Book Review

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[. . .] David then told the judge that he wanted to be a ward of the court and he "felt Mother's radar of hate flicker, then turn off" (Pelzer, p. 73). When I read those words, I shuddered inwardly and could almost feel her eyes on the back of my head.

David Pelzer recognized that the entire foster care system has its faults, but reiterated that it also saved his life. It got him away from a severely disturbed mother and indifferent father who never took any responsibility for him. Indeed, even though David's parents were divorced, his father made no effort to obtain custody and hardy ever visited his son, much less bothering to provide any support. I can only agree with him that he was better off without these parents, no matter that his situation from age 12-18 was anything but ideal. As he points out at the end of the book, in 1973 there were a few thousand reported cases of child abuse in California but by 1997 this had increased to 616,000 (Pelzer, p. 306). Obviously child abuse was very much n underreported crime forty years ago, and probably still is today, but the entire system is overwhelmed. There are simply not enough social workers and foster homes available to deal with this overwhelming problem, much less provide the necessary counseling and emotional support.

David did receive some of this from his foster parents, of course, since he lacked even many of the basic skills when the court took custody away from his mother, and in general he had a high opinion of the people who took care of him, no matter how much society criticizes the system. Although the system was successful in saving his life, it failed to provide competent mental health treatment for abused and neglected children, and even had a foster placement in his old neighborhood, which was too close to his mother. It also failed to pursue his father and force him to provide child support, and allowed unsupervised visits with his mother, who continued to make threats about attempting to win back custody. Nor did she receive any treatment for her own substance abuse and mental health issues although David was definitely correct that she should never have been allowed to keep custody of him and his four brothers.

What changes within law or case planning/assessment would you say have created a more effective and efficient outcome for Dave? Now, present a discussion on what all of us as child welfare advocates and leaders might do individually and collectively to prevent foster care drift and further abuse/trauma to the children we serve?

One of the central problems that David Pelzer faced was the sheer number of child abuse reports and the incapacity of the system to deal with these numbers. This situation is worse today than in the 1970s, and Child Protective Services received 5.9 million reports of child abuse and neglect in 2010 or that over 2 million claims were investigated. If anything, these are probably underestimates and the true number of parents who abuse and neglect children but never get caught or investigated is probably much higher. At least 60% of complaints were made by teachers, police, lawyers and social workers, rather than by parents, friends and relatives, and the normal response to child abuse and neglect is still to ignore, deny or conceal it unless that is part of the job of the person making the report (Child Maltreatment, 2010, p. viii). About 78% of all reports were of neglect, compared to 17.6% physical abuse and 9.2% sexual abuse, although I wonder in the latter two are being underreported, as are the estimated 1,500 deaths per year due to child abuse and neglect (Child Maltreatment, p. x). Children younger than four made up nearly 80% of reported abuse and neglect victims, which seems to be a well-established pattern, while 81.2% of the abusers were parents and 6.1% other relatives (Child Maltreatment, p. 4). Child Protective Services are often overwhelmed by the caseload, although their average response time is 78 hours or 3.3 days, and even shorter than that in emergencies (Child Maltreatment, p. 8). In some states, their average caseload is over 100 per year, and as high as 184 in Rhode Island and 211 in Utah, which may well leave many cases improperly investigated or resolved, or wrongly classified as unsubstantiated (Child Maltreatment, p. 18).

In addition, the police and school authorities were too slow to recognize that David was the victim of severe and systematic abuse and neglect, although this was more of a problem in the past than it would be today. As C.H. Kempe pointed out in his pioneering work sixty years ago, the parent who seemed the more 'normal' in the sense of being well-spoken, alert, well-groomed and [END OF PREVIEW]

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Lost Boy David Pelzer's Autobiography.  (2012, January 19).  Retrieved February 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lost-boy-david-pelzer-autobiography/1186165

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"Lost Boy David Pelzer's Autobiography."  Essaytown.com.  January 19, 2012.  Accessed February 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lost-boy-david-pelzer-autobiography/1186165.