Studying service support systems responding to problems in the family dynamic

Helping America's Families

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Alfred H. Kahn and Sheila B. Kamerman

"An extremely important, if not revolutionary, document....Excellent descriptions of human service programs."
Social Service Review

"We've been married for thirty-three years and now Roy wants a divorce. I don't know what to do."

"The principal says my children are acting out at school and I'd better get help for them."

"I finally found a job, but I need someplace to leave my three-year-old while I'm at work."

"My mother just moved to Florida. Her heart is bad, and I'm worried about her living by herself so far away."

Millions of American families suffer from these and similar problems—personal and interpersonal problems, practical problems, problems requiring support or advice or advocacy. In response to these needs, American society has produced a myriad of helping services, all intended, directly or indirectly, to support the family as it seeks to cope with changes in its social and technological environment.

Ranging from Parents Without Partners and marriage enrichment courses to counseling for drug abusers, these services have never before been examined as a "service system"—whether real or potential. In this wide-ranging study, Kahn and Kamerman trace the sources of these services in the marketplace, in the public service system, in the private not-for-profit agency, in churches and synagogues, and in self-help groups of various descriptions. They look at the differences and similarities among programs, their strengths and weaknesses, and who is most likely to use which kinds of programs, why, and how. They also review what little information there is on what kinds of problems American families have, and see themselves as having, and why the family, as such, should be an object of support and assistance. Finally, they offer some observations on how—and whether—American society can provide such a service system to its citizens.

This, then, is an invaluable book for those who would understand what is available—and what is needed to support families in an increasingly complicated society.


About the Author(s)

Alfred J. Kahn teaches and conducts comparative international research in social policy, planning, social services, and family policy.

Sheila B. Kamerman teaches and conducts comparative international research in social policy, planning, social services, and family policy. They are co-authors of five earlier books, including Not for the Poor Alone and Social Services in the United States, both published by Temple.

Subject Categories

American Studies



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