Book Review -raising cain, Caring for Troubled Youngsters/Repairing our Troubled System

By: Richard J. Delaney

Disclaimer: This book review is my opinion of the book. If you have a different opinion of the book that is great. I know I have loved several movies and books that other reviewers have not liked and disliked movies and books that receive great reviews. I think we all have. If you would like to submit your own review, I may consider posting it. Thanks.

The primary audience of “raising cain” is foster and adoptive parents though the author dedicates the book “To all helping professionals whose labor of love includes troubled foster and adopted children” and most of the behaviors and many of the issues can relate directly to residential care.  Cain is the person in the Bible that killed his brother Abel and the author describes him as the “first emotionally disturbed child”  He uses Cain as a metaphor for for troubled foster children, I think, because of their behavior they are sometimes forced to wander through the foster care system in the same way that Cain was forced to wander the earth as a marked individual for his behavior.

I enjoyed “raising cain” not so much because it is a great resource to help me deal with difficult behavior but more as an affirmation that behaviors and trends I have noticed in the troubled children I have worked with are real, others recognize many of the same flaws that I have noticed in the system, and that there are others that want to work together to improve the system.  Though the book does offer some very good suggestions for dealing with specific behaviors as well as difficult behavior in general.

The book only has six chapters, but each chapter is divided into subchapters that address the individual behaviors, situations and interventions.

The first chapter is titled, “The Children: Troubled Like Cain, Marked By Their Past”  It identifies and discusses 14 of the most common behaviors that troubled foster and adoptive children have.  For example: Eating Disorders, Feeling of Being a Victim, Inability to Profit from Experience, Emotional Immaturity, Family Phobia, etc.  I often found myself relating this to several of the children I have worked with as I was reading it.

Chapter two, “Our Foster and Adoptive Families”  This chapter discusses many of the issues that tend to either prevent people from wanting to become or stop being foster and adoptive parents.  Though I would add that many of the issues are the same for houseparents and other residential childcare staff.  Topics include: Victimization of foster and adoptive mothers by the disturbed child (I have seen this many times in my career.  More often than not, even though I am the main disciplinarian in the home, the child almost always takes issue with my wife.  Usually if there is a complaint to administration it is about my wife.)  Living a fish bowl existence, Dealing with the occasional unhelpful, helping professionals, etc.  

Chapter three, “Family-Based Strategies for Helping Troubled Youngsters”  This chapter includes a very comprehensive list of questions that can be asked when trying to come up with strategies for dealing with difficult behavior.  I think these questions can really be helpful in getting to the origin of the problem behavior rather than just focusing on the results of the behavior

Chapter four, “Sample Strategies”  This chapter offers several examples of how a foster/adoptive parent addressed a behavior in a somewhat unconventional manner.  Some of them I thought were not only “out of the box” but out of the world and impractical others made total sense to me.  The greatest asset of this chapter is to help you to think “out of the box” and realize that sometimes extreme behaviors need extreme solutions (AND I DON’T MEAN ABUSIVE or PHYSICAL.  Just unconventional.)

Chapter Five, “Raising Cain With The System” and chapter Six, “Raising Cain Better” deal mainly with policy and possible reforms of the system.  Often subjects many houseparents couldn’t care less about, though I do enjoy discussion on policy.

The book is published by Wood & Barnes Publishing, Oklahoma City, OK.  Copyright 1998.  It comes in soft cover and is 135 pages long.  I paid $17.95 plus shipping for my copy, but you can get it for much less at

The New Houseparent Network

I am currently working on a re-design of The Houseparent Network.  The last time I changed the page, and did it the way I thought looked best, I got hate mail because some people that the colors were horrible and the gold was hard to see.  Here is a link to the current revision.

Please check it out and give me your feedback.  You can post your feedback on my Facebook Page, here in the comments, or email me at  I am looking forward to seeing your comments and suggestions.