Parenting Mentally Ill Children
Faith, Caring, Support, and Surviving the System
by Craig Winston LeCroy
March 2011, 204pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-35868-5
$55, £43, 48€, A76
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-35869-2
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According to one estimate, nearly 21 percent of U.S. children ages 9 to 17 have a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder with some recognizable impairment. What is it like for the parents who have to care for, mentor, and protect these children day in and day out, often far beyond their childhood years? How do they cope? How can society help?

This in-depth exploration uses individual portraits to show what parents face as they love and care for their mentally ill children and cope with how the mental health system has failed them.

The Surgeon General has identified children’s mental illness as a national problem that creates a burden of suffering so serious as to be considered a health crisis. Yet, what it means to be the parent of a mentally ill child has not been adequately considered—until now. Parenting Mentally Ill Children: Faith, Caring, Support, and Survival captures the essence of caring for these youngsters, providing resources and understanding for parents and an instructive lesson for society.

Author Craig Winston LeCroy uses in-depth interviews to chronicle the experiences of parents of mentally ill children as they attempt to survive each day, obtain needed help, and reach out for support, and he lets them share their misunderstood emotions of shame, anger, fear, guilt, and powerlessness in the face of stigma from professionals, family, and friends. The book concludes with a critical appraisal of the social policies that must be implemented to help—and the reasons we should feel obligated to initiate them.


  • More than 40 in-depth interviews giving parents the opportunity to tell their stories about caring for a child with a mental disorder
  • An extensive bibliography of relevant material
Craig Winston LeCroy, PhD, is professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. Dr. LeCroy has published extensively in children's mental health, including more than ten books. His published works include Handbook of Evidence-Based Treatment Manuals for Children and Adolescents; Case Studies in Child, Adolescent, and Family Treatment; and Empowering Adolescent Girls: Examining the Present and Building Skills for the Future with the Go Grrrls Program.


"After reading the moving stories told by caretaking parents of children with severe mental illness, one is grateful for this mind-stretching survey, which condenses research in the fields of psychiatry, social work, sociology, health care, epidemiology, psychology, and social policy. . . . The book's painful narratives defy easy analogy, but readers who persist will take seriously LeCroy's argument that a tolerant, strengths-based approach combined with information and resources can help families cope and, indeed, thrive. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries."—Choice, December 1, 2011

"This book is an honest and insightful glimpse into life with a special needs child and the significant challenges they and their families face." —Jennifer Davis, Parent of a special needs child

"Mental health professionals need to listen carefully to the voices of parents seeking help for their children who live with mental illness. They can start by reading this book. Parents, doctors, social workers and others can all benefit from its thoughtful, provocative approach to issues challenging the mental health care system." —Mike Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

"In this well-documented book, Craig Winston LeCroy asks: 'How can mental health professionals provide help if they do not understand the experience of a parent?' It's about time someone asked! LeCroy humanizes the many issues parents face as they struggle to help their child in a health system that routinely views parents with suspicion and treats them with disdain rather than welcoming them as partners. Thank you for telling our stories and reminding us that while psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals come and go, it's parents who often must deal with the consequences of a child's mental disorder for a lifetime." —Pete Earley, New York Times Bestselling Author of CRAZY: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness

"Craig LeCroy's Parenting Mentally Ill Children is a thorough, insightful examination of what it means to be the parent of a child with a mental illness. His deep and careful interviews with many, many parents will provide help to clinicians and comfort to readers who are trying to navigate those same difficult waters." —Paul Raeburn, Author of Acquainted with the Night and Director, Graduate Program in Science Writing, Florida Atlantic University

"Well-written, poignant, and heart-breaking, the stories told in Parenting Mentally Ill Children put a human face on the suffering and struggle of parents with children diagnosed with mental health disorders. This book should be required reading for any practitioner in the social, human, or mental health services working with these children and their families."—Jacqueline Corcoran, PhD, Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University

"I have been deeply moved by reading this magnificent volume. One of the most important books of the decade, it should be required reading for all mental health professionals and students. How could a book about parents and families be so important, in this time of neuroscience, genetics, and evidence-based medicine? Simply put, LeCroy and the families within these pages give us 'the rest of the story,' showing us the soft underbelly of our technological era and what parents and families endure even with the very latest science at hand. Reading this book should humble any of us who think of ourselves as 'experts' compared to what these parents have learned. But there is hope: if as a field we can learn, practice, and put to work the lessons taught by LeCroy and the parents within these pages, I believe the healing capacity of mental health professionals can be more than doubled." —Peter S. Jensen, MD, President & CEO, The REACH Institute, New York, NY; Co-Director, Division of Child Psychiatry & Psychology, The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
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