Blunt and authoritative, another indictment of a child welfare system that jumps abused children from home to foster care to mental institution to jail like pieces in a manic game of checkers. Murphy (Our Kindly Parent, the State, 1974) is the public guardian of Cook County, Ill., a unique office from which he represents both troubled children and the elderly. He has seen generations of children move through the child welfare system, bouncing from foster parents to birth parents until the children too are old enough to have children and mistreat them. Murphy very carefully differentiates between families who are merely poor, struggling but with a future, and the families of the ``underclass . . . a dysfunctional fourth world culture that strangles its young.'' Using the first several chapters of the book to outline his own experience as prosecutor, Peace Corps volunteer, and Legal Aid lawyer--years of confrontation with the many aspects of poverty--Murphy goes on to disdain both the traditional liberal view of the poor as victims and the conservative message to let the poor ``rot at home.'' He has some serious questions about the family preservation policies that still drive most social service agencies. Some parents are irredeemably irresponsible, and children should never be returned to their care, says the author. Some modest proposals are offered that would in essence reduce the power of the courts in determining the fate of abused and neglected children and return those decisions to a reorganized child welfare system, modify confidentiality laws so that they no longer protect an incompetent welfare bureaucracy, and expand and bolster ``residential care'' facilities (orphanages, if you will). Short and pungent, designed to be controversial, here's a blow at the child protection system from a knight who's been in the fray a long time and knows the enemy.