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During the 1960s and 1970s, runaways became a source of national concern in America. Countercultural activists provided support to runaway youth, and private agencies began developing innovative, sometimes controversial programs to serve them. In this multilayered history, Karen M. Staller examines the programs and policies that took shape during this period and the ways in which the ideas of the alternative-services movement continue to guide our responses to at-risk youth.

Staller begins with the 1960s, when the mainstream media began to characterize the act of running away less as an opportunity for exciting adventure (as experienced by Huckleberry Finn) and more as a temptation with dangerous consequences. She then turns to the books, poems, broadsides, and songs produced by Beat writers and countercultural meccas like Haight Ashbury and New York City's East Village, which embraced runaways as kindred social revolutionaries. Adopting the ideology of the Beats, groups like the San Francisco-based Diggers established informal services utilized by runaway adolescents, including crash pads and helplines. Many of their ideas took root, and alternative providers began to bridge the gap between counterculture and mainstream institutions.

Staller concludes with an analysis of how the legislative desire to decriminalize running away, coupled with the judicial system's growing discomfort with policing the moral and civic education of youths, led to an increase in the number of troubled children appearing on the streets. It also prompted the enactment of federal runaway youth legislation, including the Runaway Youth Act of 1974, which endorsed thealternative-service community's model.

By looking at the history of runaways, Staller illuminates how the mainstream media and countercultural ideologies shaped the identity and perception of this social problem and how developments in service and social policy continue to evolve today.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Foreword: A Personal Journey to Some Research Questions 1. Testing Freedom: On the Road to a Runaway Problem Part I: Constructing Runaway Youth 2. Media Myth Spinning: From Runaway Adventurers to Street Survivors (1960-1978) 3. Spinning Myths from Runaway Lives: A Hip Beat Version of Dropping Out Part II: Psychedelic Social Workers and Alternative Services 4. Digger Free: Power in Autonomy, Independence in a Free City Network (1966-1968) 5. The Grassroots Rise of Alternative Runaway Services (1967-1974) Part III: Policy and "Runaway" Youth 6. Shifting Institutional Structures: From Moral Guidance to Autonomous Denizens (1960-1978) 7. Legitimization Through Legislation-The Runaway Youth Act: National Attention to the Runaway Problem (1971-1974) Part IV: Conclusions: Where We've Been, Where We're Going, What We've Learned 8. National Extensions-Problem, Services, and Policy (1974-) 9. Closing Note: Lessons Learned and Conveyed Appendix 1: Runaway Youth Act (Senate Version, S. 2829: the Bayh/Cook Bill) Appendix 2: Runaway Youth Act (House Version, H. 9298) Appendix 3: The Runaway Youth Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-415) Notes Selected Bibliography Index

Promotional Information

Karen M. Staller's excellent book is part of a growing body of scholarship about the sixties that is overdue. Her research is impeccable, her writing accessible, and her attempt to shine a light on the issue of 'runaways' and its implications and changing treatment by the press is laudable. It is a compelling, interesting read. -- Peter Coyote, actor and author of Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle This book will be a valuable resource for anyone working with runaway youth. Karen M. Staller's unique perspective offers a distinctive and comprehensive view of this population that is generally unfamiliar to providers, policymakers, and program developers. -- Sanna J. Thompson, associate professor of social work, University of Texas at Austin Runaways is a readable, compelling demonstration that ideas matter in forming public policy. Runaway adolescents have been characterized as deviants and as victims, as independent adventurers and as hapless rejects. Karen M. Staller explores the roots of these images and shows how they combined to shape laws and social services. -- Joel Best, professor of sociology and criminal justice, University of Delaware Karen M. Staller's excellent book is part of a growing body of scholarship about the sixties...a compelling, interesting read. -- Peter Coyote, Actor and Author of Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle

About the Author

Karen M. Staller is assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan. She has also practiced public interest law with low-income senior citizens and at-risk adolescents in New York City. Karen Staller, PhD, JD is Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research focuses on runaway and homeless youth and other at-risk adolescents. Her scholarly interests include the relationship between social problem construction and social policy, interdisciplinary legal-social work practice, and the history of social welfare institutions. She has practiced public interest law with low-income senior citizens and at-risk adolescents in New York City and was educated at Cornell Law School and Columbia University School of Social Work.


" Runaways offers an informative description of the history of service development and media construction of runaway youth in America." -- Emilie Smeaton, Child and Family Social Work

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