Monday, May 21, 2012

KP Author Jo Bailey Sets the Record Straight About Orphan Care

The journey for the collection and publication of Orphan Care: A Comparative View has been incredibly long, yet fruitful.

In 2006, I attended the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Conference in Munich and presented my research on international adoption and the effects of institutional care on children. At the conference, I attended roundtables and met professionals and scholars from around the world. I was surprised to find so many people studying the same issues I was interested in, surprised mostly because their research never surfaced in my searches of the literature. This was especially noteworthy to me because, as I state in the Introduction, the English language social work literature purported a global perspective. From my new perspective, this “global” vision had a strongly western view. I left the conference with a new directive, to somehow connect with scholars in other countries to gather their insights about children without parental care.

But, finding contributors was difficult. For the next five years, I contacted (or attempted to contact) close to 60 researchers. Some didn’t respond to my email, countless others connected me to someone they thought may be interested, which sometimes bore results and other times did not. Some accepted the invitation to collaborate but could not follow through because of personal or professional reasons. For those who signed on to the project, it was not easy. I imposed rather rigid criteria for acceptance in terms of content and format (that is, certain issues had to be addressed).

Over time, all of the submissions underwent a number of revisions. In the end, we had ten authors who found a way to complete their chapters in time and in accordance with guidelines constructed to allow true comparisons to be made between countries. I am especially indebted to these authors. From the far reaches of the world, they responded to a plea from a person unknown to them. And over the several years of preparing this collection, each of them met my numerous, and often urgent, requests for information with punctuality and poise. And, they are generous. All of the authors immediately agreed with the proposal that instead of any of us earning money from the book, we find a global organization that helps orphaned and vulnerable children. Because of its solid reputation, worldwide reach, and mission of connecting children to communities, we agreed that any royalties from the book would go to SOS Children’s Villages International. This project has also enriched me personally, deepening my global connections in ways that I didn’t foresee.

In 2008, with support from the University of Houston-Downtown, I traveled to Brazil and was fortunate to meet with Christiane and Lúcia, and we co-presented some of our initial results at the IFSW Conference there. Then, Lúcia’s university, Espirito Santo Federal University, sponsored a trip for her to come to Houston in 2011. Local Rotarians, Dr. Ed and Robin Charlesworth, graciously provided her with housing and transportation while in Houston. On her visit, she lectured, to the delight of our students, in our social work classes at the University of Houston-Downtown and toured social service agencies, such as Neighborhood Centers, Inc. Harutai and I got to meet when she and her husband came to Dallas. I was attending the National Association of Social Workers/Texas conference and they were visiting their daughter and son-in-law. Victoria Schmidt and I have also continued working together. We are currently working on a paper about child welfare in the Czech Republic, where she now lives and works, and hope to expand our analysis to other countries. And, finally, several of us, Victoria, Rodreck, and I, plan to attend the joint IASSW/IFSW/ICSW Conference in Stockholm in the summer of 2012 to present our findings and experiences in writing the book. My experience with Kumarian Press has been equally propitious. As the manuscript was close to completion, I pursued its publication. I was told by a couple of presses that the work was too narrow in focus for them.

Undeterred, I kept searching for the right outlet and eventually found Kumarian Press. Because KP’s focus is on issues of development, the fit was perfect. The editor, Jim Lance, expressed enthusiastic interest from the start. And, he and others at the press, namely Alex Hartnett, worked diligently to produce a scholarly work that would appeal not only to academics but to practitioners and policymakers alike. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. We accomplished precisely what I set out to achieve. That is, we not only produced what I hope to be a valuable report on some of the world’s most vulnerable children, but we also created a platform for a number of incredible scholars, most of whom have years of practice, research, and leadership experience, to reach a western audience.

Orphan Care is available to purchase through the Kumarian Press website. For more information on ordering and/or reviewing this publication, please contact Marketing Associate Jennifer Kern at Jennifer@styluspub.com.

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