To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

endofjunebookreview

 

The sad truth about the foster care system in the United States is it is literally failing.  In fact, it often harms the children it is supposed to be rescuing.  Cris Beam wanted to find out why.  In the preface of To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care, she says,

“I didn’t know how we could be spending billions on foster children in the United States and yet see half of them with chronic medical conditions, 80 percent with serious emotional problems, and then abandon nearly a quarter of them to homelessness by their twenty-first birthdays.”

Over the course of five years, Beam follows several families to obtain a deep picture of what the foster system is like for the people who live in it every day.  One couple she gets to know is Bruce and Allyson Green, who live in Brooklyn with three biological children of their own.  They end up with a house full of foster children – mostly teenagers – “by a mix of happenstance and hope.”  First, New York’s Adminstration of Children’s Services calls them to say that Bruce’s sister’s kids, ages two a four, are being removed from their home.  Bruce and Allyson take the boys, and they go to an agency for a foster care license.  Later, when their daughter Sekina begs for a baby sister, they decide to start taking in more children.

The Greens start out idealistically, and they seem to have a lot of success as foster parents, at least at first.  They form a bond with Tom, the father of one of their foster children.  Allen, the child, lucks out because he finds himself with two fathers, for Tom visits him regularly at the Greens’ home, where he plays video games with the kids and enjoys Sunday dinners with the family.  When asked who Tom and Bruce are, he calls both men “Daddy.”

Unfortunately, the Greens’ story is also one of heartbreak.  One example is Dominque, who enters the home as a seventeen-year-old girl.  In one scene, she accidentally admits to Bruce that she loves him, and he triumphantly dances around in the front of the house, singing, “My daughter loves me, my daughter loves me, my daughter says she loves me!”

Three years later, Dominique is no longer with the Greens, and Bruce has hit a “psychological wall.”  He says, “I used to think I could save any child who walked through my door, but I can’t.  Dominique just wasn’t a fit.”

In addition to telling the personal stories of people like the Greens, Beam addresses how history, politics, sociology, and psychology have shaped the system to become what it is today, and she is clear that the answer to solving the problems in foster care is anything but easy.

In the epilogue, Beams sums up her final theories about the foster care system.  She makes three main points:

  • Children who have someone who will stick with them and support them for the long haul do best.
  • As hard as we may try to change things, history tends to repeat itself.  She says, “Over the five years of this book, kids replayed their parents’ patterns; agencies repeated their mistakes of the past.”
  • Poverty plays a huge role in the foster system: “And the poverty aspect of foster care is particularly troubling, as the one shining truth in my research is this: the poorer you are, the more likely to get entangled with the foster care system.”

Beam doesn’t provide solutions to any of these issues, for she says her goal with the book was “to be more descriptive than prescriptive, placing the why above the what next.”

Therefore, if you’re looking for answers about how to fix the system, her book is not the foster care book for you.  But if you seek understanding, this book will show you some of the problems our society faces when it comes to the welfare of our children.  After you learn more about the why, maybe you can get involved in what next.

To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

Nonfiction by Cris Beam

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

Debby
Debby

Debby is a writer and a mom. Debby freelances as a copywriter and content developer in the Upstate of South Carolina, and is passionate about finding homes for children in foster care. She was introduced to foster care by a friend and decided that although she wasn’t in a position to foster, she wanted to do more to help find families for children. Now, she reads all books related to fostering and recommends the ones she enjoys so that you can learn about fostering too! Her post format is book review, followed by an interview with someone who can speak to the book’s content. Follow her posts if you are just learning about fostering and unsure about how you want to become involved!

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