"Using the true story of a murdered child as a point of departure, a leading expert on family violence argues that society’s first priority must be protecting children rather than preserving families."
The tragedy of abused children who have been failed by child welfare agencies is made palpable in the case presented here, followed by a specialist in family violence. Gelles, director of the Family Violence Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, examines the brief life of David, who died of suffocation at 15 months-one of the many children killed by their parents in the U.S. each year. Though previously reported as an abused child whose older sibling had earlier been removed from the family, David was nonetheless allowed to remain with his biological parents. The author attacks this operating principle of social service agencies that claims children are better off with their own families than with other caregivers. It is his documented observation that the central mission of child welfare agencies-preserving families-does not work. In tracing the system's tragic failure to save a child, Gelles sounds a wake-up call to agencies to put children first and reassess the efficacy of family preservation programs. (Apr.)