In To the End of June; the intimate life of foster care in America Cris Beam provides hope for the dysfunctional American foster care system (FCS) but not without first bringing to light the historical, social, and economic background of the present day FCS. Reading this book is certain to ignite the flame of motivation to fix this broken system. The ideal audience for this book includes child advocates of all types, especially policymakers, physicians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers, as well as those interested in evidence-based cost-effective health care.
The author is well suited to write on the topic of foster care. She is a professional writer, journalist, and creative writing instructor as well as a foster care parent and former runaway teenager. Her work is supported by 36 pages of notes documenting a wide range of sources that support an in-depth analysis consistent with those by other health policy researchers into the American foster care system.1
Beam uses first person narratives to focus an intimate look into the history of several foster youth from Brooklyn as they enter and leave the FCS. Woven into the stories are relevant historical facts provided to give social, historical and economic contest to their stories. She concludes the book on a positive note, sharing examples of innovative programs designed to make a difference for youth suffering in the system and recent foster care policy changes in several states that aim to decrease the need for foster care as well as the cost, in dollars, pain, and suffering.
The author examines the foster care system from the perspective of all participants in the system: foster, adoptive and birth parents; children; and those who advocate for them. Ms. Beam recounts her own interactions with students and their families who are in the FCS, her experiences as a foster parent, and the experience of one teenager who permanently ran away from a dysfunctional home at the age of 16.
The book is written in three sections entitled Catch, Hold, and Release. The first section, Catch, describes the historical and present day ways in which children enter the foster care system and how the system has evolved from being a resource for parents too impoverished to care for their children to a resource for children who are at risk of harm or neglect by their parents. There are several disturbing facts presented that suggest children are often removed from birth families unjustly, with little hope of subsequently leaving the broken system, as they are shuffled from one foster home to another. [End Page 1472]
The Hold section identifies the growing number of children caught in the system with no anticipated resolution to their homelessness. They are often not returned to their family of origin or successfully placed in a foster or adoption home. There is often a tug of war between parents and the system as policies change frequently between favoring birth parents (reunification at all costs) and policies that favor early intervention and placement into adoptive homes to provide early stability. Beam provides examples of placement decisions based on numbers and formulas rather than the need to secure a caring home. As children age they become less likely to be adopted into loving homes and are often placed in residential care facilities, boarding homes, or apartments living on their own until they “age out” or can legally leave the system. Frequently, these foster care veterans age out without having secured a high school education or training in a trade. Beam laments the discordant fact that housing a youngster during this phase often costs the state more than the average annual cost of room, board, and tuition in a private school.
Release, the third section of the book, outlines four outcomes for children in foster care. The first is to be released into another level of foster care such as specialized care or residential care for hard-to-place children. Examples abound of...