Child Welfare Services - Falling Through the Cracks: Background information when reading A List of Cages

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A List of Cages

by Robin Roe

A List of Cages by Robin Roe X
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 320 pages
    Dec 2017, 320 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
Buy This Book

About this Book

Child Welfare Services - Falling Through the Cracks

This article relates to A List of Cages

Print Review

Children's' HandsIn A List of Cages, even though fourteen-year-old Julian displays all the symptoms of an abused child – missing school, frequent lies, keeping friends at arm's length, poor grades, etc. – he doesn't receive the attention he needs from his teachers or his school district's social services. The authorities ask the wrong questions, pay too little attention to subtle physical signs of neglect/abuse, and seem clueless about communicating with children.

Even as I write this there is a headline in the 1 January 2017 Chicago Tribune that relates a horrific story about eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez who was tortured, beaten, burned, starved and then eventually died in 2013. The article mentions disciplinary action for no fewer than nine LA County Sherriff's Deputies who were negligent in his case. It is one of the worst cases of a child falling between the cracks of our social services, but there are far too many.

Criminal charges were brought against four case workers who failed to catch on to little Gabriel's suffering at the hands of his drug addicted mother and her boyfriend. But there were so many cracks in the system it inspired Los Angeles authorities to undertake some sweeping changes in their child welfare department. The article doesn't say whether those changes have resulted in more responsive care, but it does mention that police officers responding to child abuse calls must make full reports and take special training courses, plus a yearly refresher course. However, it also mentions that police too often treat child abuse as a secondary crime because they assume Child Protective Services (CPS) has been the first responder.

But even when children don't fall through the cracks, prospects are dim. CPS is grossly overloaded and understaffed. Caseloads can number into the three figures even though the Child Welfare League of America recommends no more than 17 cases per social worker. These programs may be understaffed partially because job qualifications call for a minimum bachelors' degree and frequently an MSW (Master of Social Work), yet average pay is far less than $40,000/year and starting pay is in the mid-$20,000s. More daunting, perhaps, is the very real risk of workplace violence that caseworkers face on a daily basis when irate family members take out their frustration with an overloaded bureaucracy on the one person they encounter face to face.

Though agencies strive to keep families intact, it is often impossible and children must be placed in foster homes. CPS faces numbers of children needing placement that exceed the number of foster homes willing or able to take them in. Too frequently critical background checks are skipped and children end up being placed in the homes of felons or even known child molesters.

In A List of Cages, Julian is dyslexic but his uncaring uncle has told him that it was cured so he no longer needs special help with reading. It is, of course, a ploy by Russell to keep Julian isolated from the authorities. This is a rather mild challenge, but thousands of children in need of foster homes have moderate-to-severe special needs. Placing these children, whose needs can be demanding and time-consuming, or being able to provide support services so the children may live with their parents, is even more difficult. Often it comes to outright denial of their issues in order to find or keep them in a home.

The reduction of government budgets for social, family, child and education services in many parts of the country is not making the system any more efficient, nor is it solving any more of the problems real children and their families face on a daily basis. Until more resources are allocated for children and families, the last best hope for the Julians of this world may be to have a friend like Adam.

Image of children's hands courtesy of

Article by Donna Chavez

This "beyond the book article" relates to A List of Cages. It originally ran in January 2017 and has been updated for the December 2017 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: An American Summer
    An American Summer
    by Alex Kotlowitz
    As a Chicagoan, I've become used to the most common reactions when I'm traveling and tell someone ...
  • Book Jacket: The Sun Is a Compass
    The Sun Is a Compass
    by Caroline Van Hemert
    Caroline Van Hemert fell in love with her future husband, Pat, in 2001, discovering they shared a ...
  • Book Jacket: Women Talking
    Women Talking
    by Miriam Toews
    Miriam Toews' Women Talking is a circadian novel, unfolding over a span of just a few hours and ...
  • Book Jacket: Confessions of an Innocent Man
    Confessions of an Innocent Man
    by David R. Dow
    It is circumstance that carries the wave that sweeps trendy Houston restaurateur Rafael Zhettah to ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    by Louis Bayard

    A master storyteller at the height of his powers, delivers a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    When We Left Cuba
    by Chanel Cleeton

    An exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

A masterpiece of storytelling, and a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win Women Rowing North

The instant New York Times bestseller

A guide to wisdom, authenticity, and bliss for women as they age.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A B Penny A T U

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.