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Angela Blankenship

July 3, 2015


Walls, J. (2005). The glass castle: A memoir. New York: Scribner.

The Glass Castle offers a unique view of a family in crisis as told by one of the children.
Jeannette Walls takes her readers through her familys journey of poverty, hunger,
alcoholism, co-dependency, neglect, sexual and domestic abuse, and eventual escape from
their childhood. She shows the dynamics of her family in a way that an outside observer
may never see clearly. She also shows how the Walls family slipped through the
proverbial cracks of the child welfare system and remained out of reach, leaving the
children to rely on themselves and each other for any sense of protection and normalcy.
Walls tells of her familys nonconforming nomadic lifestyle, constantly moving from
place to place, staying one step ahead of bill collectors. She hints at the possibility that
after childhood injuries, which occurred as a result of lack of parental supervision, the
hospital staff suspected her parents of neglect and/or abuse. The led to her parents
breaking her out of the hospital before the doctors had discharged her. Her parents made it
seem as though life on the run was a grand adventure.
The Walls mothers role is one of a lackadaisical artist. Although college educated, she
refused to be employed as a teacher unless forced. She instead relied on the quarterly
dividends from a family owned oil-well to provide a small relief. She appears to not be
overly bothered by her childrens lack of food, heat, water, weather appropriate clothing or
by the fact that they live on the fringes of society.

Angela Blankenship
July 3, 2015

The Walls fathers role is that of an alcoholic dreamer, ex-military and intelligent, even
though hes not formally educated. Jeannette remains her fathers steadfast champion and
supporter through most of the book, believing in his dream of building the family a glass
The family eventually moves to the fathers hometown and the children meet their
grandparents. This enables the reader a glimpse of what may have happened in the
fathers life to have contributed to the man he grew up to be.
Eventually, the children leave the parents, one by one, and move to New York. When the
parents follow them, the reader gets a sense of the dynamics of the parents relationship
and why they made the choices they made.
The exact time the story takes place is never really mentioned and it is unknown what
programs were available at the time so it is difficult to know exactly how the child welfare
system failed the family. It is safe to assume the story took place around the early 1960s.
Since the National School Lunch Act was introduced by President Harry Truman in 1946,
free or reduced school lunches should have been provided for the Walls children
( Perhaps at the time,
mandated reporting was not required of school officials. This is evidence of not
recognizing the NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare Standard 5
Collaboration which states that the multidisciplinary teams; community leaders; and other
service providers in the fields of law, juvenile justice, medicine, public health, housing,
education, and behavioral health should collaborate to ensure families have access to

Angela Blankenship
July 3, 2015

needed services without duplication. If this standard had been upheld the children would
have had at least one meal a day.
When on a child welfare worker visits the home after someone reports the family, he is
turned away from the home by Jeannette and doesnt return. This violates the NASW
Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare Standard 8 Assessment. The child
welfare worker should have conducted a comprehensive assessment of the child, youth,
and family system to gather information in order to understand the familys perspective,
identify their strengths, and convey understanding and empathy for the familys situation
and /or difficulties. The many strengths of the family are shown throughout the book, but
since no one assessed and recognized them, the strengths were never fully utilized. And
though neglect and/or abuse was suspected, communication with the family was never
established by the social worker. This is violation of the NASW Standards for Social
Work Practice in Child Welfare Standard 10 Family Engagement which states that social
workers in child welfare shall engage families, immediate or extended, as partners in the
process of assessment, intervention, and reunification efforts.
The story of the Walls family should serve as a reminder to social workers in child welfare
to never drop the ball, be persistent in following up, and always remember that under
many layers of dysfunction, there are values and strengths that need to be unwrapped.

Angela Blankenship
July 3, 2015