CYC-Online 108 FEBRUARY 2008
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A personal reply to a student query

Henry Maier

When Lorne Sobczyk was a student in the Child and Youth Care counselling program at Mount Royal College one of the assignments was to do some research on Henry Maier. Lorne wrote to Henry asking him about his life and as was so typical of Henry, when he received a request from a student he answered fully. Lorne sent this along thinking it might be on interest to others. We thought so too.

Dear ---,

You inquired about my professional and life history. It has been a colorful and very varied one. I shall try to sum it up for you. Right now you should know I am a retired University professor and my current professional life consists of consulting and writing my monthly column for the International Journal of Youth Care. I enjoy the latter because it keeps me professionally active and maintains my varied associations with the field of practice.

Most outstanding is the fact that I am with my 84 years still very connected with fellow professionals like you and former students of mine with whom I have stayed in contact over the past 50 plus years.

You should know I came to this country as a refugee from Nazi Germany in 1938. I originated from a German middle class family and had a very protected early life. In my early childhood I was very active with the German boy scouts and my father had a high professional position in one of the German governments. This enabled my mother my siblings and me to have a very protected and active childhood.

In 1933 my father lost his position because he was not in agreement with the political and warlike directions of the Hitler government. At the same time my mother died suddenly due to some internal defects. The loss of my father’s position due to his political leftist position and then the sudden unexpected death of my mother left him in a very desperate situation and he took his life.

With the loss of my parents and the political situation I had nothing to hold me in Germany and due to fortunate circumstances I had a chance to migrate to the USA. In the USA I quickly acquired a factory job in the state of Maine. At this job I earned my living and found my roots in America. I learned to live with a minimum income thanks to a skilled factory job. My life in the states was a satisfying experience for me finding my way on my own as a twenty-year-old young man.

In those days I re-established contact with the American boy scouts and found much pleasure in those associations. These contacts led me to a summer job in a boys summer camp. Here I discovered that my real skills and satisfactions rested in working with young people.

The camp director introduced me to a number of colleges and encouraged me to apply for a college stipend and a working position. I was fortunate to receive a stipend from the Quaker College Earlham at Richmond Indiana.

Shortly there after my successful start at Earlham College the United States got involved in the now reaching World war. As a Quaker I refused to serve in the draft and registered as a conscientious objector. My pacifist position could be traced to my parents and the overall family standing as pacifists. Also, my own conviction that young men had to refuse to serve in order to stop governments from pursing war on the basis that the government wanted a change in their political world situation.

I was fortunate to be classified as a “conscientious objector” and assigned to alternative services in the form of becoming a firefighter in the western forests as well as for several years to serve as counselor in a government camp for severely delinquent boys. Here I discovered that my interest and capabilities were in working with children in difficult life situations. I served in those assignments for over five years and by the end of the draft and war I applied for a college stipend at Oberlin College (Ohio). Here I graduated with honors in 1947 and had the good fortune to receive a stipend for continued college education.

In all those years in college I worked for my board and room and had to do my studies late at night. Here followed now three years of graduate studies and the acquisition of a social work practice degree at Case Western University at Cleveland Ohio. Besides my professional degree I had the good fortune to meet Jeanne Horan. So I finished my studies at Case Western Reserve University with a masters in social group work and Jeanne as my life partner.

With my academic degrees in my pocket now followed many years of professional practice experiences that by chance led me to exciting practice experiences under the leadership of Dr. Benjamin Spock, doctors Fritz Redl and Dave Winemann. My work with Redl and Winemann at their Pioneer House opened up new avenues for working with severely disturbed youngsters and their teaching influenced me to become a strong disciple of their perspective. My work under the influence of Redl and Winemann also brought me in close professional contact with Bruno Betelheim, Eva Burmeister and other leading persons in the treatment field.

While working at the University of Pittsburgh in the special treatment program I started a training program for care workers. This program won much attention and became a pioneering program within that university. In those days I became very much involved in serving as consultant for other training programs but soon realized that I didn’t know enough of what I wanted to teach. Thanks to Jeanne’s support I decided to return to university for more education. That was not an easy decision because by now we had three young strong boys and it meant to live at a reduced budget.

I entered the University of Minnesota to obtain my doctorate in child development. Those studies were most stimulating for me and after three years I received my Ph.D. While completing my dissertation on the development of children's effect, behavior and cognitive development. This dissertation received much recognition and had a good sale so that my wife and I could send all of our three boys to university.

With a doctorate as part of my name I received an invitation from the University of Washington (Seattle, Washington) to start an intensive practice program for future professionals. From then on I became strongly involved in the training of care workers and social workers while serving as a professor of the University of Washington. My frequent publications of articles and giving a series of guest lectures gave me quickly a base of leading consultant in the United States as well as in Europe.

Let me add my pride is not just my professional development but also the growth of our family with all three boys obtaining a solid academic education and are now well established. My pride is my boys' accomplishments and their six wonderful diverse children. Let me conclude my high appreciation to my colleagues and former students who helped my wife and me to a most interesting family life and professional wandering.


Henry W. Maier 

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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