Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

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

Rate this book
"Beam presents both a sharp critique of foster-care policies and a searching exploration of the meaning of family."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

Who are the children of foster care? What, as a country, do we owe them? Cris Beam, a foster mother herself, spent five years immersed in the world of foster care, looking into these questions and tracing firsthand stories. The result is "To the End of June," an unforgettable portrait that takes us deep inside the lives of foster children at the critical points in their search for a stable, loving family.

The book mirrors the life cycle of a foster child and so begins with the removal of babies and kids from birth families. There's a teenage birth mother in Texas who signs away her parental rights on a napkin only to later reconsider, crushing the hopes of her baby's adoptive parents. Beam then paints an unprecedented portrait of the intricacies of growing up in the system--the back-and-forth with agencies, the shuffling between pre-adoptive homes and group homes, the emotionally charged tug of prospective adoptive parents and the fundamental pull of birth parents. And then what happens as these system-reared kids become adults? Beam closely follows a group of teenagers in New York who are grappling with what aging out will mean for them and meets a woman who has parented eleven kids from the system, almost all over the age of eighteen, and all still in desperate need of a sense of home and belonging.

Focusing intensely on a few foster families who are deeply invested in the system's success, "To the End of June" is essential for humanizing and challenging a broken system, while at the same time it is a tribute to resiliency and offers hope for real change.

337 pages, ebook

First published January 1, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Cris Beam

7 books76 followers
Cris Beam is a journalist who has written for several national magazines as well as for public radio. She has an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University and teaches creative writing at Columbia and the New School. She lives in New York.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
925 (29%)
4 stars
1,445 (46%)
3 stars
644 (20%)
2 stars
100 (3%)
1 star
24 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 381 reviews
Profile Image for Suphatra.
202 reviews25 followers
October 27, 2015
I read this book because I was interested in adopting an older child. I found it difficult to find books about this topic and was very surprised that none of the Barnes and Nobles in my area had even one book on foster care or older adoption. Luckily my local bookstore (Elliot Bay Books) had at least two shelves of adoption books, though most of them are about infant adoption.

I quickly discovered why. Older child adoptions are not the same as the adoptions I had seen on TV and in movies. I thought: you go to an agency, process paperwork, wait a really long time, a kid shows up, interviews, adoption proceedings and despite hard times, they are your son/daughter forever.

Well, its much more complicated than that.

For example, older children's parents are given a 15-month grace period once their child enters the public care system, so that those parents still get a chance to come back and get their kids. This means constant delays in the process to give a kid permanency. Older children in the care system are not only NOT adopted right away, but when they enter foster care, the public system allows a 10-day return policy, where you can actually return your foster child within 10 days, to the serious detriment of the kid's emotional health. And being adopted right away isn't a good idea--Beam details a sight-unseen adoption which falls apart in a matter of months.

Foster care is not a happy subject, and Beam doesn't try to make it one, but she does achieve in making it feel real in its ups and downs. She introduces the reader to a happy foster family with a trove of kids, and lets you follow them across five years, where the true troubles of the foster care system play out, and the happy foster family (the Greens) are slowly unraveled. Some of their adoptions are great--like an open adoption for an infant, where the real father sticks around to stay involved but also keeps distance in case he relapses in his drug addiction. The natural father eventually makes the choice that's best for the child: keep the baby with the family he's already attached to, of which there is no drug addiction. They also have adoptions that "fail" -- such as, adopted kids runaway, get arrested, see their natural born parents and follow in their footsteps into crime or drugs.

The toughest part to read in the book is when she visits residential treatment centers, which are institutions where they send kids in the foster care system who have become violent or are generally troubled. In these centers, the state also sends kids with special needs and disabilities, and kids who are in juvenile detention. Before reading this book, I had a misconception that the traditional orphanage style home, where kids could get structure and be served to scale, was possibly a good idea. I learned I was very wrong. In fact, I learned that most of my assumptions about how to help troubled kids was completely wrong. These centers did nothing for these kids; if anything, it helped them down the path to crime or homelessness.

There is only one assumption I had that turned out to be about true: that unconditional love and a commitment to be the adult that "stays" with a troubled teen, could possibly help these kids begin to recover from a range of indescribable trauma: sexual, physical and mental abuse, a constant feeling of un-wantedness, self-doubt and blame and loss of contact of other family, and ever-present poverty. Beam interviews a foster home that fosters kids aging out or already aged out of the system (21 is the cut-off age where your benefits stop and the state is released of any responsibility to you), with a loose structure based around giving foster kids the space to regress through their trauma and get through it. The foster mom even recalls a 14-year-old that carried and drank from a baby bottle, as if working backwards through growth to relive what they've lost.

Through profiles of dozens of kids, you see a range of outcomes, but most importantly Beam illustrates the whole picture: generations of kids lost and confused, turned out to adulthood with only disastrous consequences, a public welfare system that is prioritized around child safety and structure (here's a roof over your head and rules to follow) instead of attachment (nurture the child to trust and love again) and permanent bonding (finding for kids, that one adult that stays, no matter the struggle).

Lastly, Beam's report of foster care calls into question the first action that society makes -- taking children from their parents. When the reason for splitting up a family is "neglect" and that interpretation is largely subjective and nebulous, it is dubious whether splitting the family apart is the best course of action, given the state of foster care and the effect on the parents. Given the disproportionate investment in a failing system, it'd be worth considering whether the same amount of state investment per child (upwards six figures through a whole foster care stint, which averages 4-5 years) would not be better spent given to invest in improving those natural born families struggling in the first place.

A friend of mine once told me there was a saying that "abortion was the bowling ball on the mattress of American politics." I wonder if it is not abortion, but foster care. In a singular issue, are the beginnings and ends of so many societal problems: crime, homelessness, poverty, drugs, racism and disease. Its a problem that's all of ours, and one that we need to solve.
149 reviews
October 27, 2013
As a foster parent to teens, I was incredibly impressed by how well researched this book was. It is so hard to find a realistic perspective on foster care: so many things I see are either extremely demoralizing (abuse in homes etc.) or unrealistically optimistic. Cris Beam's book is neither, and while I kept wishing and hoping that she was going to say something that would give me some more hope about the system than we currently have, I am deeply appreciative for her honesty throughout the process. Foster care might be the best system we have right now, but it's a total mess. Even when you have great foster parents and fabulous case workers and well intentioned bureaucrats, the reality is that kids cannot be properly raised by "a system." Thank you for writing this book Cris.
Profile Image for Shawn.
251 reviews42 followers
September 8, 2013
Fairly well written book about a heartbreaking subject -- abused, abandoned and anonymous children stuck in the country's foster care system.

I read some criticism of the author's clear "political bias". Set aside the fact that the author is, herself, a child of abandonment and a member of the LGBTQ community..., how does one write about victimization and not have it come across as "liberal minded"? This is about children who are often born victims, and the trajectory their lives follow because of it. I think more than an agenda, the author had an arsenal of facts -- first hand and otherwise -- that illuminated a system that is not only broken, but continually being "fixed" by policy and decision makers who are themselves broken. You have only to look at major (and minor) city streets littered (in a real and symbolic way) with loitering young people to know that what you're reading is true. Some people characterize facts as "agenda".

Worth reading. There wasn't anything in here that was particularly eye-opening, but it was told in a relatively clear, concise manner. In the end, I think the author concluded, though she may not have come right out and said, that this is a problem that will be around "Until the 12th of Never". And that's a long, long time.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,121 reviews1,200 followers
October 26, 2015
This is a compelling, though sobering, look at foster care and how it affects kids and families. This book is best read to get a sense of the major issues in foster care, and for the personal stories of the people the author follows, and less so for specific information about how the system works.

Foster care, as it turns out, is a big topic, so this book doesn’t cover everything (for instance, it focuses almost exclusively on New York). It starts with the reasons kids are removed from their homes – much more often for neglect than abuse, and “neglect” can mean anything from the parents being on drugs to a baby’s mother being an impoverished teen who doesn’t know how to care for a child. Babies and very young children are the most likely to be adopted, and so are often placed in pre-adoptive homes – but that can lead to heartrending situations for all concerned, when a biological parent wants the child back but the foster parents don’t want to give them up.

Meanwhile, kids who aren’t adopted – either because their biological parents try just hard enough to prevent their rights from being terminated, or because the kids are older and no one steps up – can be shuffled among different homes for years. In New York, apparently, nobody keeps track of past placements that worked out – so a kid can be fostered for years by a loving family, go home for a few months, and then when things go downhill again, be placed in a random new home, rather than with the original foster parents. (I believe this is handled better where I live – and certainly hope so, because that is a disaster.) The book also looks at group homes and institutions – the end of the line for foster kids, and a situation that usually only adds to a kid’s feeling of alienation.

Not surprisingly, this whole system leaves children more traumatized than it finds them, and much of the book focuses on teenagers and young adults aging out of the system. The author follows families who are committed to the kids and willing to adopt, and a few work out, but many flounder despite good intentions. And in the end, kids are on their own without any foundation – often having changed schools too much to earn a diploma, without the skills or maturity to keep a job, and most importantly, without the emotional and financial support system that almost everyone (rich, poor or middle class) relies on when transitioning to adulthood.

So, this is not a happy book, but it does illustrate all of these experiences in a compelling way, through the stories of kids and adults who have lived through them. Beam writes without judgment about the kids and parents, allowing readers to see what these folks are going through and draw their own conclusions.

A couple of Beam’s opinions come across a little too strongly, though. She opposes removing children from their parents in general – and while, by the end of the book, we can see why, she still takes it rather far, seeming to lament the deaths of children at the hands of their parents only because it is bad PR for marginal families and results in more removals. Clearly, some kids need to be removed. And in the conflict between biological and prospective adoptive parents, she’s on the side of the biological families, no matter how little they may have to offer. Beam describes her position as “liberal,” apparently because she is otherwise liberal – she acknowledges that opinions about foster care don’t fall along partisan lines, and I can see liberal and conservative arguments on both sides. At any rate, these opinions are most prominent early in the book, in the section dealing with babies; the chapters about teenagers and adults leave much less room for ideological differences.

My other criticism is that while the individual stories are intriguing and enlightening, discussions of law and policy are less so. Of course, laws change from decade to decade, and vary from state to state, while policy differs from county to county, and so this isn’t the focus of the book. But I was sometimes left unclear on how laws or policies discussed affect kids, or to what extent they are even implemented.

Despite those criticisms, I found this to be a very worthwhile read, one that engaged my attention and added to my understanding of a slice of society I knew little about. I would recommend this to those interested in foster care or sociology.
Profile Image for Amber.
188 reviews
November 25, 2013
It is possible I should have left this book at the library and never opened it because it brought up all kinds of raw, unresolved emotions related to our personal experiences with the foster care system. The problems related to foster care are so complex and I have always complained that the privacy laws that are intended to protect the children in foster care actually don’t; they protect everyone else involved in the system. This book did a remarkable job of breaking away these “protections” and revealing some of the real issues.
Profile Image for Susan D'Entremont.
677 reviews16 followers
May 6, 2014
This was not a book that outlines the policies and statistics of foster care. Nor does it provide many suggestions for improvements. But that's OK - the author states at the very beginning that this book is anecdotal, but she hopes by bringing the stories of real people in, it will help people to discuss the policies and procedures of foster care.

Despite the fact that this book was mostly anecdote and people's individual stories, I did learn a lot about foster care, especially in my home state of New York. My kids periodically have students in their classes who are in foster care, including two fairly large group homes in the neighborhood (one therapeutic, one not, I believe, after reading this book). I already knew that family reunification is usually the ultimate goal for these kids, but I did not know that moves from family to family to group home, etc. is often more due to happenstance, rules, and lack of coordination between agencies than to the needs of the child or even child misbehavior.

Although the book left me with more questions than answers - is it good or bad to have the foster system linked with the juvenile justice system? Is it better to give states a per diem or a flat fee for kids in care? Should reunification or early release for adoption be the goal for kids? - I did come away with ideas for a few practical fixes to improve a system that will always have flaws because the kids are in such tough and complicated situations. For instance, keep track of the families kids have been in, and have good matches be the first family a kid goes back to if they get pulled from their biological family again. Bring services to the kids where they are at, rather than requiring them to come to another borough. Try to place kids in foster families where the parents speak the same language as the kids. Elevate the job of caseworker and have a training/internship period for caseworkers. Of course, these all cost money, but even investing money in a good computer tracking system might save a lot of money in the long run.

I didn't walk away from this book with a huge amount of hope, but I was inspired by all the people who were highlighted that have the strength, soft skills and stamina to provide hope and help to these neediest of kids. Just having someone there to come back to is huge.
Profile Image for Danielle.
552 reviews208 followers
September 12, 2016
This was a sobering book, but definitely worth reading. The author says she primarily wrote this book to be descriptive rather than proscriptive and that's accurate. It's mostly just descriptions of interviews and experiences with foster children and foster parents (and some social workers) in the New York City foster care system.
In the epilogue she talks about how all these social programs (food stamps, foster care, juvenile justice, homelessness, poverty in general) are all interconnected. She talks about how social workers either get burned out and leave (low pay, high stress, long hours) or stay and become hardened and disillusioned. You can't blame them. I felt ready to throw up my hands at the futility of it all after getting to know just a few foster kids in this book. They enter adulthood under educated, unprepared to manage their time or finances, and with lackluster role models at best. The majority end up homeless. It's uncommon to find a case where drug or alcohol addiction isn't a factor. It's just a big web of problems, and even the best of intentions and interventions only seem to be putting a bandaid on a leaking dam.
I read this book because I might want to be a foster parent someday, especially to teenagers who have never experienced the stability and unconditional love of a normal family. This book definitely made me think twice about that, although I have some years yet before I'll be in a position to make that decision.
On the upside, I'm sure this book made me more sympathetic to people in less fortunate circumstances than myself (the deck really is stacked against them), and made me want to hug my kids a little tighter and be a little more patient. Surely good things.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
959 reviews67 followers
February 24, 2018
I read nonfiction regularly, but I am more likely to "gulp" mysteries and fantasies than nonfiction. I gobbled Cris Beam's To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American
Foster Care
. She compellingly and insightfully combined case studies, statistics, and theory about foster care, especially about teenagers in foster care.

Beam concluded that we both are failing at foster care (e.g., no state meets more than two of seven federal criteria for successful care), and that our failures have long-term consequences for these children and teens in terms of increased homelessness, low rates of college attendance, poor relationships, increased crime, and problems getting and holding jobs.

To be clear, our failures don't just affect these children and teens, they affect the US society and economy.

The cause? As Beam concludes, "Is the root problem there one of poverty, inequitable opportunities, institutionalized racism, or one giant pileup of minor discriminations? Again, the answer is yes, yes, yes, and yes" (p. 63).

Nonetheless, there is no easy solution.
If poverty and its attendant burdens— depression, anxiety, drug use, heightened community violence, paucity of support systems, and so on— can sow the seeds for child abuse, then child welfare needs to go back to prevention. But this is a tall order for one sprawling and splintered administration, which has always been reactionary: it treats symptoms, not disease. The solution, as it has always been, is bigger than foster care, bigger than abuse; the real solution will be rooted in society as a whole. (pp. 63-64)
While the ultimate cause is unclear and it remains uncertain why so many children, especially why so many African American children, are being removed from their homes, one problem is clear and can be addressed: "each move means another ruptured attachment, another break in trust, another experience of being unwanted or unloved" (pp. 89-90). As Beam concludes, too many children are traumatized by being in foster care, which focuses more on housing than attachment. Further, because the system focuses more on housing and often has foster parents who are unprepared to deal with traumatized children, foster children hit 18 (or 21) unprepared for the adult world. (My own daughter's foster parents were wonderful, but should have been allowed to adopt her rather than having her given to us.)

I wish the quality of the research available on foster children and their birth, foster, and adoptive parents was better. Beam outlines interesting observations and some useful hypotheses, but it is not clear that there is good, controlled research available.

As an aside, there were several places where Beam misused psychological terms (e.g., referring to Erik Erikson as a social psychologist). A small complaint about an otherwise beautiful book.
Profile Image for Maggie.
100 reviews3 followers
September 16, 2015
Before I read this book, I imagined all kinds of good things about what being a foster parent or foster kid might mean. That was quite naive, it turns out. It does work out well sometimes, but now I think that most often, it doesn't. This book brought home to me just how messed up the system is and how hard it is for good things to come from it.
This is a big problem in the US, and one that sounds niche so it's often overlooked. But the truth is that we don't deal well with kids whose parents are failing them. While trying to keep them physically safe, we traumatize them by moving them from place to place, so they feel constantly rejected, unloved, guilty, so that they don't have space where they feel safe to grieve for the people they loved who have left their lives. Instead of helping them heal, we break them with this system more than they were broken before.
If the plight of children weren't enough, this is tied up with how we end up with so many homeless people, so many people abusing substances, and so many people in prison. Many many of these adults were foster kids first. We can't solve these problems without getting to the root cause.
This book made me really want to help, and left me less sure than ever what real help would look like.

1,328 reviews30 followers
July 4, 2014
deeply sad stories of kids in foster care in New York. Author had been a foster parent herself and obviously did a thorough job of following up repeatedly with a few foster parents and the kids who cycle in and out of their lives. Also brings out some of the unintended consequences of policies in this realm, systemic failures, pendulum swings from doing anything to keep families together vs. being quick to remove children from the home, often in (over)reaction to which kind of horror story most recently made the news.

It's her book to write obviously, and she tells the stories well, but for what it's worth i would have valued having a couple chapters devoted to interviewing policy makers, administrators, etc. As it stands, it just came across as everything they do is wrong and counterproductive, thwarting even the best efforts of some heroic foster parents. That may be, but it would be good to hear from that side at least what the intentions were, what constraints (other than, obviously budgets and the shortage of heroes willing to devote their lives to sometimes difficult, troubled kids not initially their own) they face in implementing the programs, etc.
Profile Image for J.
907 reviews
June 8, 2014
Stumbled onto this book at the library while searching for parenting books. Of course, my heart melted when I saw the cover! As a new parent, I couldn’t imagine my precious baby being passed between strangers. It broke my heart to think about it!

Unfortunately, the author is crazy uber-liberal. I later discovered she wrote a prior book for parents/foster-parents promoting the transgender lifestyle for teens. She colors her writing with bias. She displays sympathy to rule breakers and actively lays blame on others (ie criminals shouldn’t be in jail for societies “failures”).

I also found it annoying that in the prologue she acts like foster care is the only issue in the world. She seems to think that if you aren’t actively trying to fix foster care, you are a monster. Heaven forbid you work on different issues.

Ultimately, I couldn’t finish the book due to the author’s extreme political leanings. Too bad. I am genuinely interested in the topic.
Profile Image for Em.
56 reviews3 followers
August 13, 2014
You know you're a nerd when you can't put down a book about the difficulties foster children face in America. I was sobbing at the end of this book. I wish I had the energy and health to take all of them into my home and love them unconditionally. They are everyone's children, and we all need to love and help them. Cris Beam isn't prescriptive. She just tells the stories of foster children unbiased and from all sides. It's beautifully written with lots of heart. Loved loved loved this book. We all need to do more.
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,928 reviews90 followers
July 21, 2019
Well-done and thought-provoking book on a subject I knew little about. Books such as JUNE really hit home regarding how much our early life determines our trajectory in adulthood; I pondered how many of the perpetually troubled library patrons I interact with have histories similar to the young people profiled in this book. We like to pretend everyone has the same opportunities for success in this country, but this just isn't the case.
Profile Image for Abigail.
510 reviews11 followers
July 23, 2016
This book is a look at the foster care system. The author looks specifically at the system in New York and some of the issues with it. What I like best about this book is she took time over a period of several years to follow several foster kids/families and tell their stories. Using these stories, Beam tells a story of good intentions gone wrong and how kids are lost to the system.

This book is sad. Because the author followed these kids you can see how they go from thinking everything is going to be great, to kind of jaded adults who are stuck in the cycle of poverty and drugs and bad decisions and the inability to cope with life. It's an interesting read, but I'd recommend it interspersed with something a little more upbeat, because while it is an interesting book that it'll make you think, it'll also make you hurt for the world.
Profile Image for David.
511 reviews37 followers
January 2, 2015
Probably a good book to read for anyone thinking of becoming a foster parent or social worker.

Anyone looking for an uplifting story should look elsewhere. The children and families we meet, with an exception or two, are relentlessly depressing. I have a great deal of respect for the people that try to make foster care work but the rewards appear to be few while the frustration and headaches seem to be abundant.

The stories themselves are interesting and informative and the best part of the book (despite their dismal nature). The book’s early sections on the foster care system and policies are interesting at first but really drag as it becomes apparent there are no good policies. It felt to me like a list of all of the things that don’t work without any real hope for improvement.
Profile Image for Courtney Taylor.
27 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2020
Wow!! The author takes an incredible look inside the foster care system by examining different families’ experiences (foster children, birth parents, foster parents, case workers, etc.) and couples it with statistics and research.

As a new foster parent, I learned SO MUCH from this book, and highly recommend it to any foster parents or people who might plan to enter this amazing journey. The author focuses on the good and the bad of the system by giving us a glimpse of it from the inside.

Even if you are not interested in being a foster parent, there are so many ways to help decrease the number of children being taken out of homes. I love this quote from the book. “Work on one small aspect and we’ll be working on the whole. Better school lunches, better libraries, after-school care, neighborhood resources—anything that touches social reform touches foster care too.”
Profile Image for Emi Yoshida.
1,469 reviews84 followers
September 16, 2013
Wow, previous to this Tonya Cooley of MTV's The Real World Chicago was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of America's system of fostering children. Tonya's tantrums, bravado, hyper-sexuality, lying, insecurity and even kidney problems all fit perfectly with the descriptions Cris Beam gives in this collection of case studies in adoption, fostering, delinquency, etc.

While I found her writing a bit fractured and not always easy to follow, I totally appreciate the sheer volume of stories she shares, including that of her own experience. Not only does she do a great job of tracking the back and forth of shifting policy from pro-biological family to pro-adoptive family, but she provides family cases that illustrate both sides of each equation, all of it heart-breaking.
Profile Image for Alica McKenna-Johnson.
Author 9 books75 followers
February 26, 2019

This was heartbreaking and eye opening. After 10 years as a professional foster parent my focus was 100% on the kids, but how I can see the bigger picture of the system of foster care.
One system, and the one I worked in, of professional foster parent communities wasn't mentioned in this book. I do believe these professional communities have the potential to solve some of the issues in foster care: the constant moving, untrained foster parents, abusive foster parents, and attachment issues.
Profile Image for Emily.
320 reviews4 followers
January 6, 2014
Great book, bracing, saddening. Some of the information re government agencies, etc., got hard to follow for someone not in the field or familiar with the system, but very thoughtful.
Profile Image for Sher.
535 reviews3 followers
October 12, 2019
I read this book, because I have a close friend who has just taken a volunteer position as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), and I wanted to better understand the foster care system in America and the challenges my friend will be facing. Beam really does great job showing the huge challenges in this field while also reporting on some of the very special foster parents who have incredible love and willingness to do this work despite being a position to lose their children at any time. The problems in the foster care system are revealed, and gives the reader much to think about.
Profile Image for Eliza.
461 reviews16 followers
September 6, 2016
1/3/2014: What a sad, lovely book. Beam writes with such clear-eyed sympathy for the entire cast of characters in the seriously broken American foster care system: the children, birth parents, foster parents, social workers, even the policy and government leaders who are trying to bring change to the system. She interviews them, follows them for years, tells their stories with no apologies or excuses, and yet, despite all the awful things she finds, she still sounds firmly optimistic. She knows there is no miracle cure—unless we could begin to find cures for poverty, mental illness, addiction, and myriad other social problems—to the conundrum that is foster care. She understands that even with the child’s best interests at heart, there is not always a right answer to that child’s dilemma. She explains how attachment disorder makes foster children incapable of forming trusting relationships with anyone, which makes it ever harder to find foster parents who will “rock with them all the way” (loosely quoted from the book). She explores all kinds of situations, gets to know all kinds of dysfunction, considers all sides of a story--all the time maintaining a calm, thoughtful balance between being an objective, observant journalist and a frustrated, heartbroken champion of these kids and the families and agencies that try to save them.

The most amazing thing about TTEOJ is Beam’s extraordinary ability to write from the heart without being distracted from her goal of telling this story as fully and justly as she can. So much of this story is so heart-breaking and depressing, it could have spiraled very quickly into maudlin moo-ing. But it doesn’t. It takes something we all know exists but don’t want to think about, and makes it good and noble and important—just like all the people in it, who strive, in their ways, to make something of themselves and to help others. It’s no coincidence that the last line of the book is a quote from a young woman who grew up in foster care, and was back working as a social worker, though she was going to leave that job as soon as she finished her master’s degree, as she had burned out already: “”I want to get old and say to myself, ‘You have treated people well. That’s all.’”
Profile Image for Mary.
831 reviews45 followers
January 29, 2014
There's much to commend this book for FYF: it's very readable, with lots of personal stories, and there are examples of many of the major appeals and strategies/fallacies. It's a topic with a rich history, which Beam often dips into, and one that almost everyone has some sort of connection with: I don't think there's a person in America who hasn't known someone who was either in foster care, or raised someone in foster care, or was connected to the system in some way.

That being said, there are two major flaws in this book for use as a FYF text. First is relatively paucity of controversies. I kept trying to think of ones that I could use if I were a freshman: foster children shouldn't be housed in group homes, especially with juvenile delinquents; case workers should be more uniformly trained to avoid big disparities in how often children are removed from care; children should be placed with adults that are important in their lives rather than random (but trained) foster parents; people should stop offering "consolation prizes" to children who age out of the system so they don't disincentive late-teen adoption; children shouldn't be moved from home to home without significant cause. Okay, actually that sounds like a lot, but it's just that this text is more like the Internet security one than the market one, where there were so many various topics. It's more limited.

The other reservation I have is that despite the subtitle, this text is actually mostly about New York's foster care system, because that's where all of Beam's examples come from (with the exception of a friend who lives in Austin). She assures us that the problems she outlines are prevalent elsewhere, but many of her complaints are with policies that are particular to New York agencies, so it's hard to feel a lot of relevant connection.
Profile Image for Lyndsey Pheister.
16 reviews2 followers
July 6, 2017
I haven't been a foster parent, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the book, or how things have or haven't changed. It was enlightening for me; we are considering becoming a licensed home, and I was glad for an objective view because no one in the recruitment process wants to talk about any of the weaknesses of the foster care system.
I love that this book followed multiple families, ages, situations and went the distance with them over the course of a few years. She also made a point of sticking with the teens she followed as they aged out of the system, so that there was more awareness of all the challenges they face and all of the ways the system has failed them. She was not judgmental or moralistic in the book. Her point was to give a portrait, and not to suggest what is next. She points out things that have worked, things that might work and things that haven't, but she also points out how even just a single unrelated traumatic event or person in a child's life can change the course of their story for better or worse.
My main take away was that the worst thing to do would be to volunteer for foster care unprepared and unaware of the experiences these kids have or are facing. If you're going to "rock with a kid," as the book says, you need to understand not only where the kid is coming from, but also the promise of what your're offering them.
In the end, it was evident that the problems in foster care are a microcosm of problems stemming from poverty, and that if you can work on a broader issue, like education, healthcare, policing, employment, drugs, jails, etc. it will directly help the fostercare system too.
Profile Image for Cassandra.
1,384 reviews23 followers
January 21, 2015
This was an interesting look at foster care in New York city. There was a lot of detail about the history of foster care in the United States and a detailed look at the current foster care system in New York.

I was expecting something different than what the book actually delivered. The inside cover says that "Beam closely follows a group of teenagers in New York who are grappling with what aging out will mean for them and meets a woman who has parented eleven kids from the system, almost all over the age of eighteen, and all still in desperate need of a sense of home and belonging." I was expecting much more of the book to be about these teenagers, with the history of foster care mixed into the stories. Instead, the book is about the history of foster care with the stories of the teenagers interspersed. That made it a slower read than I had anticipated.

Still, it was enlightening, though depressing. Not one of these kids had a happy ending. I know it's difficult to recover from a childhood of trauma but I was hoping for at least one truly redeeming story in the mix of depressing stories.
Profile Image for Alex Templeton.
640 reviews31 followers
December 15, 2013
This book is a fascinating, eye-opening look at an often-ignored population in America: the foster children. It was reminiscent to me of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's equally excellent "Random Family", if only in that both authors used the stories of New York City-based families to illuminate larger issues. Beam aptly paints a picture of the difficulties in adopting foster children and the dysfunctions of the system. Thankfully, she doesn't shy away from the difficulties faced by social workers and the parents themselves in trying to help children who in many ways seem to make it impossible. In the end, however it becomes clear that the main losers are often the children, whom "the system" has often chewed up and spit out by a young age, as well as (sometimes) their biological parents, who often for issues tied into race and class are not considered "correct" parents for their children. I hope Beam speaks widely on this issue and writes shorter articles about her findings, as they are important for everyone to be aware of, even those who don't want to commit to a whole book.
Profile Image for Joe Schrock.
104 reviews4 followers
November 7, 2018
Many of the key assumptions don’t fit with our experience as foster parents or with the system in Ohio. It is true in a very basic description that foster parents are temps while the parents try to develop needed skills. However it is a false statement that foster families are told not to attach, in fact our social worker and the dozens of others I have encountered say that failure to attach is a failure in placement. Certainly it could be different in other states, but since the author paints with a broad brush, it would seem even one state that contradicts her contentions would be enough to cast some questions on her aspersions. The system is certainly not perfect, but I would recommend more research before declaring this book to be inclusive of all of America’s foster care systems.
Profile Image for Genevieve.
83 reviews8 followers
June 21, 2017
I agree with the author that her book is descriptive, not prescriptive. Author puts a lot of herself in there, but she did work hard on researching the history & context of child welfare. Narrative journalism, with enough investigation for the scope of this one book. Took years getting to know her subjects, earn their trust, portray their stories as truthfully as possible. A huge project. The book is useful if you're curious, but should be read in broader context if you want to understand the system as a whole (sole focus is New York's ACS) or proposed solutions. Very readable, a good entry. Hopefully will convince some to foster or adopt themselves.
Profile Image for Karla Osorno.
654 reviews16 followers
February 10, 2018
Hard truths that everyone of us needs to face so we can stop replaying our past mistakes. Well written stories communicating why the foster system is where it is and the impact to children, teens and young adults. Cris Beam offers no prescription and wisely says in the epilogue, “anything that touches social reform touches foster care too.” We can make a difference and must make a difference. What that looks like will be different for everyone (in process of discovering for myself and my family). Reading this book provides more of a why so we can add the action - unconditional love, involvement and staying power in our families and communities.
Profile Image for Abby.
1,424 reviews178 followers
June 9, 2014
Well-written and moving account of the very difficult and heartbreaking US foster care system. Cris Beam focuses on portraits of specific foster children and families, which presents a more compelling perspective on the foster care system as a whole. Particularly moved by the examples of grace extended by the Green family; true examples of unconditional love toward people who -- because of their circumstances -- are not able to receive or return it.
Profile Image for Jp Perkins.
77 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2014
I tried very hard to get through this because it came highly recommended by a friend, but in the end I gave up half way through. To me it was all too familiar and too obvious. I suppose if some one had no contact with the system they may find this surprising and even shocking, but having worked with foster kids for many years, I found no surprises and the stories in the book mild compared to some of my experiences.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 381 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.