Disable The Label is a groundbreaking guide that will offer professionals involved children and youth hope, stamina and the courage to improve the system. This book has evolved from the trenches; a sharing of knowledge and experiences from a child within the foster care system, joined by a foster parent who is also a counselor working for kids in the system. (Derek Clark and Shelly Bonnah)
Disable The Label will challenge many of the accepted practices of the child welfare system and provide alternative ways to understand why kids behave in the ways that they do. This understanding will generate hope and restore dignity to the young people. This book will also give you insight into Derek Clark’s personal journey through foster care, and the key reasons that we believe Derek did not turn out addicted, incarcerated, or dead. This is Derek Clark’s story of resisting violence, shame, rejection and reclaiming his greatness.
Who Am I and Where Do I Belong? may be the private question influencing the public behavior of many children and youth in the foster care system. As professionals in the social service sector, we will explore how this question has been grappled with by kids of all ages who are navigating the foster care system in search of a sense of belonging. We will also describe how children and youth are viewed through the eyes of adults who often know them only through a short window of time. With the introduction of a Response-Based Approach, we are contesting many commonly adopted orientations that pathologize, minimize, and ultimately harm children and youth. Best practices-ethical practices-must include the heightened awareness of our language customs in the social service field and must have a solid foundation rooted in our knowledge of grief, loss and traumatic experiences.
Our Motivation and Orientation
As caregivers and professionals working for youth in the foster care system, we frequently gather in living rooms, classrooms, and boardrooms to review our practices and strive toward improving the lives of kids in foster care. Similarly, foster kids are gathered disproportionately inside the justice system and are taking psychotropic medication at rates approximately 60% higher than that of kids in the general population (Lambe, 2009). These challenges are not revelations and this book will not hold all of the answers. What is offered instead is an honest view of a child’s experience growing up in the foster care system through his adult perspective, and a framework for professionals to view those experiences. Our belief is that when the adults who touch the lives of children in the child welfare system collectively respond to them differently, the system itself will profoundly change.
Derek Clark & Shelly Bonnah
An intimate view into the thoughts, emotions and actions of Derek Clark’s journey through childhood and foster care will answer questions that many professionals working with kids in care may not have the opportunity to ask. Although he grew up angry, violent, and rejecting of most adults in his life-Derek speaks openly about the fundamental elements that made a difference to his success. He is now an inspiring motivational speaker to both youth and adult audiences, the inspirational author of Never Limit Your Life and the award winning I Will Never Give Up book series, and he is also a successful singer/songwriter. Throughout this book, Derek will share an honest perspective regarding his 13 years in the San Francisco bay area foster care system.
Shelly Bonnah is a foster parent, family therapist and the Chief Operating Officer for a social service agency providing support to children and youth in care. She has often tackled the challenges of anger, violence and rejection from a different vantage point than Derek. These behaviors are thrown into the center between two people who are attempting to form a relationship, sometimes making it virtually impossible to see one another through the chaos. Her adaptation of the Response-Based Approach has made it specific and applicable to youth in care, and offers a way for adults to understand, orient themselves, and respond differently to the grief, loss and traumatic experiences of youth.
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