Title: Fostering Resilience and Well-being
in Children and Families in Poverty: Why Hope
Author: Valerie Maholmes
Release Date: March 2014
Dr. Valerie Maholmes devoted her career to studying factors affecting child developmental outcomes. She was a faculty member at the Yale Child Study Center in the Yale School of Medicine where she held the Irving B. Harris Assistant Professorship of Child Psychiatry, an endowed professorial chair. She was the first African American to hold this distinction. She has served on numerous professional boards and research societies. A Howard University alumna, she was president of the D.C.
Chapter of the Alumni Association and chair of the Friends of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. She is also a member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and serves as the chair of its annual Black History Luncheon.
She currently works as the chief of the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch of the Child Health and Human Development Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
AFRO: What was the impetus for writing
Dr. Maholmes: So much has been written about the bad outcomes of children in poverty. I was very interested in knowing how children who experience early adversity manage to fare well and lead successful lives.
A: What’s the overall theme?
VM: Hope, optimism and resilience. We all have the internal drive to be succeed (however we define it). Families have many strengths and these strengths can be used as a catalyst for overcoming some of the challenges of adversities associated with economic disadvantage. If these strengths are acknowledged, and valued perhaps we can
learn from them to help other families overcome similar challenges. Policies and programs need to be develop from a strengths based perspective – not solely a focus on deficits.
A: What surprised you about the development of the book?
VM: That the family members I interviewed would be willing to share their stories and their insights. Their experiences brought the research and statistics I cited to life.
A: Which character excites you most?
VM: The family members I interviewed are the centerpiece of the book. One individual whom I refer to as “Carlton” is an African American single father. He is in recovery from alcoholism. He was motivated most by his love for his daughter. This gave him hope that he could overcome his addiction and raise her on his own. After a long and challenging journey, he is successfully raising his daughter, has a steady job and a stable home. He encourages
other parents to believe in themselves and in a higher power to help them achieve success.
A: For what audience is your book written?
VM: Policymakers, practitioners and anyone who works with children and families.
A: What one thing do you most want the reader to learn?
VM: Nothing is more influential than the relationship between a parent and child. We need to design, implement and consistently fund culturally relevant programs and support services to promote positive parenting , to strengthen the attachment bond between parent and child and to reduce the stressors that may place parents at risk of poor parenting practices.
A: What one thing do you want the reader to remember forever?
VM: That hope matters. As a society, we cannot afford to consign people to a life of disadvantage. How we start out is not necessarily how we end up in life. As long as there is hope, people have a chance at overcoming adversity. Hope promotes optimism and optimism fosters resilience.