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So far,
you have developed a wide range of understanding and skills to assess families
at risk. You have studied the behavior and attitudes of family members and have
thought about stress, depression, value problems, and other personal issues.
Your learning has included identifying specific signs of risk and seeing how
they are experienced by family members. You now have a good feel for people,
families, and their problems.

You also have learned about assessing how people get along.
You are able to focus on relationships, communication, problem solving, and
decision making. Additionally, you now know how to use some tools and
shortcuts to determine the risk level for your family.

It is now time to bring your understanding and skills
together. Here is an extended narrative of a family at risk. As you will see,
the people in the narrative behave and reflect attitudes that are sometimes
helpful and sometimes very risky. Your challenge is to identify the elements of
risk, understand how bad outcomes follow from actions and events, and assess
the risk for the family.

The narrative is divided into seven sections reflecting
critical periods in the life of the family. The underlying events are true.
This is the way it really happened. Many of the details and descriptions have
been changed to protect the family’s anonymity.

Were this a fictional family, all the motivations, events,
and details would have been carefully crafted to answer all the reader’s
questions and to eliminate all gaps and inconsistencies. Real life is not so
neat. You will need to use your developing insight and skills to fill in the
gaps, understand the inconsistencies, and to somehow make sense of life in the
real world.

You may want to skip the Risk Points sections your
first time through the narrative. This will enable you to have the full picture
in mind as you consider the points of risk.@
It also will facilitate your dynamic understanding. You will better see that a
family is not static nor is it best understood as one event followed by
another. Rather, your family grows and changes over time, with everything
shaping and influencing everything. What happens today shapes tomorrow but also
shapes your perception and understanding of what happened yesterday. In this
sense, you never fully understand but have a dynamic understanding that shifts
and changes over the years.

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