The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls


The Glass Castle is a book written by a contemporary American writer, Jeannette Walls. In this book, Jeannette tells the story of her life. Her family has “no steady income” (Walls, 2005) and frequently changes the locations. The first part of the book tells a story about Jeannette and her family living on the West Coast in the various mining towns. While living in the desert, Jeannette explores nature with her brother. However, life in the desert ends when Rex’s (Jeannette’s father) alcoholism becomes worse. Then the family moves to Welch, Virginia, where they have to face the winter season. In the end, all the siblings move to New York, since they cannot bear living with their parents. Nevertheless, their parents appear after a while in a van in Manhattan, looking for a shelter, but children are not able to host their parents anymore.

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The next part of the book review presents the contrast and comparison of the book with the NASW Standards of Ethical Child Welfare Practice and the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute’s (NCWWI) Leadership Competency Framework. Both of these acts provide pivotal information about child welfare. Some important aspects are not met in Jeannette’s life as a child.

National Association of Social Workers provides the information and guidance for the social workers regarding which ethics and other principles a social worker should follow while performing the tasks (National Association of Social Workers, 2013). According to the Standard 9 of NASW (2013), “social workers have to ensure that the child’s educational, medical, dental, developmental, emotional, cultural, spiritual, social, recreational and mental health needs are met”. (p.20). In the memoir, these demands are not satisfied since the household does not own a “steady income” (Walls, 2005), and as a consequence, the needs of the children cannot be satisfied. Moreover, the children do not feel safe after the rat attack, and Brian “slept with a machete” (Walls, 2005). Additionally, the situation, when the dog ate the rat in front of the youngsters, affected them dramatically, negatively influenced their mental stability, and caused emotional trauma.

According to the plot, the social worker notices that the family does not meet all the children’s needs, and the check day is set. At first, it seems hopeful, since the children and the family try to improve the living surroundings. The hope for better living appears. At the same time, it looks rather hopeless, as it is hardly possible to bring the house to the presentable condition. However, in the end, the social worker does not come to check if the living conditions and the atmosphere in the family meet all the required characteristics (Walls, 2005). The social worker’s irresponsibility hurts the children’s welfare and the family. The situation in the family becomes worse, and the children decide to move to New York for better living. It can be said, that to some extent the lack of competence of the social worker was a first call for the children to increase the quality of their lives.

Compared to the NCWWI there are some facts, which do not meet the guidelines of the Leadership Competency Framework. The goal of the Leadership competency network is “to build the capacity of the nation’s child welfare workforce and improve the outcome for children and families” (National Child Welfare Institute, 2010, p. 5). Additionally, it provides the analysis and the list of certain skills, which a child welfare agent should have. In the book, a child welfare man appears, and the family tries to clean and make the house as tidy as possible. However, for some reason he does not return, he shows a high level of incompetence since the family is poor and experiences dramatic difficulties regarding the electricity, water availability, and life in unsanitary surroundings. According to NCWWI (2011, p. 35), a social worker should be able to plan and reach the desired outcome of the situation, in the context of the book social worker lacks competence, does not show social responsibility to achieve the expected social outcome.


In conclusion, it can be said that the towns where the family was living did not have well-developed child welfare infrastructure. It is clear, that the family does not have enough of the resources to satisfy children’s needs. Jeannette’s family does not have a permanent electricity supply and is not able to pay for the trash disposal fee, these facts make children live in devastating and depressing conditions. However, no one can help children to achieve their needs and help them to develop as personalities. The social worker, who appears in the book, notices the severe environment where the children have to live, but he appears to be completely incompetent and does not work towards a positive outcome. The guilt for the situation in the family can be equally shared between the family and the social services since both of these elements play a pivotal role in society.


National Association of Social Workers. (2013). NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.

National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. (2010). Leadership competency framework. Albany, NY: National Child Welfare Workforce Institute.

Walls, J. (2005). The Glass Castle. Web.

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