Sturz is the founder and head of the Argus Learning for Living Center, a rehab program for high-risk teens in the South...



Sturz is the founder and head of the Argus Learning for Living Center, a rehab program for high-risk teens in the South Bronx, and this is her account of the program's aims and accomplishments: a disjointed account, written in the jargon of a fund-raising plea (and also hampered by some personal agonizing), which nonetheless puts across the difficulty of reclaiming kids brutalized in every conceivable way since infancy. These kids, black and Hispanic, are all unwanted by whatever family they have, all on drugs, all school failures, all sexually casual (many, the victims of incest), virtually all antisocial, disordered personalities. That they're been in trouble with the law seems, in this context, the least of their troubles. Argus takes them in, on contract (they have to promise to attend regularly, be punctual, abide by the rules), and subjects them to a ""highly structured program of groups, academics, vocational counseling and work experience."" (This ""holistic approach"" is achieved--resourcefully--via ""grants to operate a drug-free day treatment program, a child-care program, various employment programs, several training programs, and key bits and pieces financed by private foundations or corporations."") Complementing the rigor, intended to create ""a safe environment,"" is emotional nurturance (""a lot of touching and cuddling and rocking and cradling"") and group therapy: encounter, Gestalt-type sensitivity, and Positive Mental Attitude exercises. Sturz proselytizes for PMA--but she also shows breakthroughs by a combination of methods (as well as kids still teetering). She lauds her staff (and herself for selecting them)--but, as products of the same environment, they do appear to be effective: tender and tough. She includes some artificial dialogues (""Do they have a conscience?"" etc.)--but also some touchy staff confrontations. She scorns the bureaucracy--but with specifics from her experience. Not especially well-ordered, in sum, and hardly self-effacing--but any program in operation since 1968 under these conditions has something to teach.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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