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Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk
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Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  649 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Why does an infant die of malnutrition? Why does an eight-year-old hold a knife to his brother's throat? Or a mother push her cherished daughter twenty-three floors to her death?

Marc Parent, a city caseworker, searched the streets--and his heart--for the answers, and shares them in this powerful, vivid, beautifully written book.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 27th 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1996)
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Colin McKay Miller
In today’s world of having an Internet site and a “Law & Order” for every criminal kink, child abuse may not be the great dark taboo that it used to be, but Turning Stones still gives a city caseworker’s insight to the pains of this everyday reality.

For a little over four years, Marc Parent was on the front lines at New York’s Emergency Children’s Services, making the call as to whether or not children should be taken from their living situations. Turning Stones chronicles seven of those ca
Aug 07, 2016 Fishface rated it really liked it
I expected to dislike this book, but I loved it. The memoir of an Emergency Children's Services caseworker in NYC, the author serves up only the most wrenching, hair-raising and generally horrifying stories from his four and a half years at that job. He writes really beautifully and compassionately about every case, about himself, his colleagues, and about his roommate, a man being eaten by piranhas. (Read it. All will be explained.)
Aug 08, 2007 Kara rated it it was ok
Shelves: child-welfare
Children are not stone. Children have deep flowing roots grounded in complex ecological structures. When working with children involved in CPS there needs to be emphasis on the importance of valuing both the individual as well as the system in which leads to structural degradation and subsequent social patterns within groups. While a child’s life can ultimately be affected by the decision of an ECS worker, individual problems are the consequence of the societal problems at large. Structural barr ...more
Sep 07, 2008 Sharon rated it it was ok
Shelves: foster-care
I think this book is valuable for building empathy for what kids in the foster care system experience, and for showing the difficult circumstances under which investigative workers work (e.g., a two-week training period, even for those with no relevant experience and unrelated fields of study; large caseloads and limited resources). It is also interesting to consider that Parent never learns the outcomes of any children whose cases he investigates (other than those whose cases are reported in th ...more
Sabrina Rutter
If you have ever wondered what it's like to work for child protective services this book gives you a pretty good idea. marc Parent tells us about a handful of the thousands of cases he has encountered in this book. He also tells us of the dangers involved in the in this line of work. This is not a fact and statistics book but a memoir about Marc's time working in the mean streets of New York to help as many children as he can.
What drives mothers to starve their children, believe God is telling t
Aug 04, 2009 Cindy rated it really liked it
This is the memoir of a caseworker for Emergency Children's Services in New York City. It is a true story that reads like a novel and has some of the best dialogue I've read in a long time. It is not perfect, however. There are a few pages here and there that don't quite seem to belong—reminiscences about the author growing up in Wisconsin, some of the portraits of his co-workers—but every word the author has written about the children and families he meets is just about flawless. This is a book ...more
Jan 29, 2008 Kaitlin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in social work, child protective services.
This book is an account from a man who worked for CPS. It is heart wrenching and gives you a real understanding for the struggle the case managers go through when deciding when to remove and not to remove children from their families. What is best for the child? What is best for the family? What happens to the child after they are taken away? An excellent text. I couldn't put it down.
Marisa Rube
Aug 14, 2013 Marisa Rube rated it it was amazing
Even for someone who works regularly with victims of all kinds of abuse, this book was incredibly shocking and unbelievably sad. Yet the stories are told in such a thought provoking, human light that it is hard not to empathize. Loved this book for its portrayal of human struggle and emotion.
Jan 19, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was a tough read, as some of the stories of abused children are really stomach-turning and difficult to read. At the same time, I think it's important to recognize how challenging life is for many children in our country, and how we have to work to address it.
Although I admired a lot of the book, there was one thing that troubled me (and that I found magnified in a very negative critique of the book I found online).
There was a strange element of stereotyping in this book. Although Par
Nov 22, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Marc Parent recounts his experiences during the four years he worked for New York City's Department of Emergency Children's Services. ECS was responsible for children in all five boroughs of New York during nights and weekends when other social service agencies were closed. Just out of college, his job was to go anywhere in the city to respond to reports of trouble in which children might be involved, to assess the situation and report on it to a follow up agency, and to remove the children to e ...more
May 16, 2007 Liz rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sociology majors
Marc Parent tells an honest, heartfelt account of the children and parents (usually mothers) he met while working with NYC's Emergency Children's Services. An idealist, Marc fought hard for every family he met, and writes their stories with reverence and poise, never accusatory to the parents who failed or the system that was disorganized and unsupportive. It was a very educational and inspirational book for myself, as I once thought about becoming a DCF caseworker, and have considered social wo ...more
Aug 01, 2007 Sharon rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those who want to read about the scary situations that CPS workers are in, without any context
While Marc Parent tells a pretty accurate picture of life as an overnight, emergency child protective worker I found this book to be lacking in the development of connections between his work and that of the agency as a whole. Mr. Parent shows little understanding of the complex dynamics that create the families that he served (poverty, mental illness, etc.). Additionally, his experiences seem to be told as much for shock value as for his own personal therapy, and not in a way that is useful to ...more
May 23, 2013 Colleenish rated it really liked it
This book was pretty awful, as a lot of social work is. Marc Parent was a young social worker in New York City. His job was to check out the welfare of children and decide whether to take them from their parents or not. His stories were brutal. And even when they ended well, I couldn't help realizing that they don't always. I was surprised by the ones about mental illness because when I expect the abuse, but don't expect loving parents to harm their children. In the last chapter, he explains the ...more
Oct 23, 2010 Ami rated it liked it
This is the true story of a man who spent 4 years as a child protection worker in the city of NY. His experiences were fairly horrific. I read the book with some discomfort. Practice has improved in the last 15 years and I hope they have made some progress. But the severity and quantity of cases must still be the same. This book is read by all child welafre students and my child abuse and neglect class is reading it now. I look forward to the discussion. Coincidentally, the author Marc Parent is ...more
Renee D
Oct 30, 2011 Renee D rated it liked it
I think the meat of the book is in chapters 7-8, the epilogue and the afterword. For me, chapters 1-6 seemed too out of place. Felt like the author was trying for the "shock factor" before reeling in the reader for his actual message. I understand the importance of chapters 1-6 but being a child protective services worker myself, the chapters didn't make sense and didn't fit together with each other. The chapters were too disjointed and seemed not to have much of a purpose. I would have liked to ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Tee rated it liked it
I should probably begin by saying that I decided to read this book based on my interest in entering the child protective service field. I wanted to some insight from someone who has experienced the field & I could say this book gave me a little bit of that. I give this book three stars because I caught myself wanting to skip more than a few pages and put the book down whenever the author wasn't referring to anything related to the cases in the book, however the story still tugged at my emoti ...more
Pfillip Tepper
Oct 30, 2015 Pfillip Tepper rated it really liked it
Thankfully, it wasn't written by a sociologist and, despite Marc Parent's occupation and involvement, isn't glaringly biased to the point of being normative. Nowadays, if it's not prefaced with "X bad, Y good, I was shocked!," people don't have the constitution for it. If you were too busy being bothered by the style of writing to absorb the tales of a terrible reality most people are fortunate to never learn about, stick to Huffington Post articles.
Oct 12, 2013 Danica rated it liked it
It started off very strong. Well written with some tragic stories, I especially appreciated the insight on child protective services and on how not everything is as "black and white" as we might first think. Towards the end I started to lose interest. His personal turmoil and emotional fall into depression lasted a little longer than I was willing to read through. This could have been my own mind set at the time, however. Overall, a good book and an easy read.
Dec 03, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it
Most of us in the field are reluctant to write about our work -- concerns about confidentiality, commitment to the children, and concerns about having a safe space to vent about our frustrations present roadblocks in presenting our experiences candidly. Parent, however, does an excellent job in describing the children we work for, the successes they experience, and the failures of an overworked system. Thought provoking, gentle, and real, this book is one I've read several times.
Patricia Kaniasty
Aug 06, 2014 Patricia Kaniasty rated it really liked it
This book really opens your eyes to the Emergency Child Services. What they go through to try and protect these kids is inspiring. I couldn't do it. The stories that the author tells are amazing and horrible. How can people do those things to kids. I will never understand. Anyway, this is well worth the read.
Feb 12, 2008 Young rated it it was amazing
Sad, gut-wrenching, realistic...a great book about real kids and real systems that do not work for the under-priveleged. I learned more about Child Protective Services, the people who work there, the system, and the children that are affected. Again...another book that reminds me I do not have complain about in my life.
Sep 02, 2010 Karson rated it liked it
This book was good. It's value is in the author's experience. A lot of memoirs are about nothing too special, this one is one that deserved to be written. The guy has a story to tell, and his anecdotes from working in the field of child services in NYC are interesting as hell. It Is thankless, dangerous work. He spent four years emersed in it, and this is his worthwhile story.
Jul 30, 2010 Ami rated it liked it
This book will stay with me for a long time. Marc Parent may not be a great writer, but he is a hero in my book. What type of person can work within a broken government system, with limited resources, an ever increasing work load, and find children in the most horrific circumstances without loosing their humanity? Very few unfortunately, and as a society we are in their debt.
Aug 04, 2015 Laura rated it liked it
I wanted to like this more, but the passages with the co-workers' banter dragged. And if the chapter about the child who was sexually abused wasn't hard enough to read, some of the euphemisms the police officers and welfare workers used for 'rape' were downright offensive. All in all though, it's a tough, ugly job and I'm thankful there are people who do it.
Concetta Kellough
Sep 13, 2016 Concetta Kellough rated it it was amazing
The author talks about his time as a social worker. It will break your heart to read about some of his clients but it also makes the reader glad that someone, if even for a short time, is willing to be there for children at risk.
Apr 15, 2009 Dana is currently reading it
This book is right up my alley as I am a GAL and an officer of the Court. It tells the struggles that a NY newly graduated child welfare worker experienced. There are many short stories within the book. Very interesting and gives a new perspective to child welfare workers.
Jul 10, 2009 Becca rated it liked it
Shelves: college
I had to put this book on hold for the moment because it literally gave me nightmares! And they were horrible! But the things Marc Parent has experienced are horrific, yet it is amazing he has survived.
Sarah Lin
Apr 08, 2007 Sarah Lin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: child welfare workers
READ THIS BOOK. If you work in human services or with children in any capacity, this book is a must read. It will haunt you. It's a scary portrayal of our child welfare system, and the many children who are abused and neglected and are overlooked by the system.
Pamela Montanez
Jan 17, 2015 Pamela Montanez rated it it was amazing
Such a life altering book for me. You cannot read this book and not be moved (if you have a soul). Im so grateful Parent took the time to shed light on a very real part of the world in the U.S. I only hope we can eventually find real solutions to these problems.
Liz D'Onofrio
Apr 02, 2013 Liz D'Onofrio rated it it was amazing
Tragic and brilliant all at once. Sometimes difficult to get through, but necessary all the same. This book serves as a reminder to me of why I wanted to be a social worker in the first place. I highly recommend this memoir, especially for anyone just starting out in social service land like me.
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“What I'm saying is that we all hold, in our minds, the ability to create images that would break us in half.” 2 likes
“You gotta love the cops. They start the night ready to shoot someone's eyes off and at the same time ready to carry a child with a grandmother's tenderness. Ready to shatter and ready to soothe at the touch of a trigger, a good cop is an amazing animal.” 2 likes
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