By: James P. Anglin

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.

If you are an administrator at a facility or looking to open a new facility this would be an excellent book to read.  It is basically a summary of a 14 month study the author did of well functioning and not so well functioning group homes in British Columbia, Canada.  Though you may consider texts from outside the US irrelevant to our system, you will be very surprised at how similar the conditions, philosophies, practices are to our system in the US.  Additionally the conditions that make for a well functioning program or facility are universal regardless of where the program is located.

If you are a houseparent looking for a text to help you be a better residential childcare worker, there are probably several others that are better suited for that purpose.  This book is more directed for program managers and supervisors to help them create a program that works toward what is best for the youth in care.

He points out that the program is going to be a reflection of director good or bad all the way down to the children in care and uses his research to make his point.  I can concur that in my experience with several programs that I have worked for or been associated with, that is true.  He also shows how staff training or lack there of has a serious effect on how the youth in care are viewed and treated.  And how the programs with better trained staff were usually more effective at caring for and helping the children.  He also uses his research to show that there is a very definite need for group homes in an era when many people are trying to close them down.

Chapter topics include:

  • Historical and contemporary issues in residential care for children and youth.
  • The staffed group home study; research method and implementation.
  • A theoretical framework for understanding group home life and work
  • Congruence in service of the children’s best interest; the central theme of group home life and work
  • Creating and extrafamilial living environment: the overall task of a group home
  • Responding to pain and pain-based behavior; the major challenge for staff
  • Developing a sense of normality; the primary goal for residents
  • Through the lens of the theoretical framework;  a review of selected residential child and youth care literature
  • Implications for new directions in child and youth care policy development, education, practice, and research.

Though the book provides valuable information, I must tell you that it is not easy reading.  You have to have a desire for the information to want to keep reading.  Additionally, to grasp much of the information you might need to be very above average in intelligence or education, there were several times I had to read and re-read to understand what he was saying or to get the point of the topic.  A few times he completely lost me and some words I just blew off, because I didn’t want to do the research to figure out what they meant. 

My favorite quote from the book is: “There is nothing like poor practice to put good practice into perspective.”  I think we all can relate to this on some level, and the author does a good job of comparing the two. 

This book has a copyright of 2002 so it is one of handful of current writings about residential childcare. Of course it is now 2020 so go figure, I originally wrote this review in 2007.

Click here to buy PAIN, NORMALITY and the STRUGGLE for CONGRUENCE from

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