April 01, 2014

New in Print: Children Living in Transition

Claire Chiamulera

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

Take an inside look at children and families living in transitional situations—homeless shelters, temporary housing with family or friends, foster care or group homes—and their daily struggles. This new book offers suggestions for maintaining these families based largely on the experiences of staff at the Center for Vulnerable Child, a community-based service provider of mental health and case management services for families in Oakland, CA.  

The book explores the factors that cause families to find themselves in transitional situations, mainly intergenerational poverty combined with a lack of affordable housing, and parents struggling with mental illness, trauma, and substance abuse. It also reviews cultural and historic characteristics of these families with an eye toward how helping professionals and organizations can keep these characteristics in mind when intervening to help them. The importance of culturally sensitive, respectful responses is emphasized.

Promising, evidence-based programs that have proven effective in helping families in transition are shared. The programs each have a unique focus:

  • Services to Enhance Early Development (SEED)--A multiagency collaboration that integrates services while balancing the developmental/mental health needs of the child with child welfare mandates. 

  • Center for the Vulnerable Child --A child and family therapy provider for families under dependency court supervision.

  • Child and Adolescent Treatment Services (CATS Project)—A clinic specifically for foster children offering a multidisciplinary approach combining medical, case management, assessment and referrals.

  • Successful Preschool Adjustment and Readiness for Kindergarten (SPARK Program)—A program targeting homeless preschoolers with behavioral issues. 

 Stories of clients who have been served and benefitted from these programs show how they work and make a difference. 

A final chapter looks at how systems that work with families living in transition (housing, child protection, mental health, criminal justice, substance abuse) can work together to be more effective and focused. A collaborative, early-intervention approach, combined with strong case management and efforts to foster social and peer support for families in transition are key elements of future interventions. 

To order: $35. Columbia University Press