The Lost Children Of Wilder: The Epic Struggle To Change Foster Care, by Nina Bernstein
This book is an example of what happens when an author is so up her own colon trying to promote a particular view of social justice that the obvious if complicated nature of what she is trying to write get lost under the detail of generational patterns of failure. Coming squarely out of the leftist tradition of the press, this book seeks to serve as a case study approach of an immensely complicated and multi-generational set of court cases known as the Wilder case, which exposed the fault lines of the foster care system in New York City. This book was part of our gloomy book of the month club reading for CASA  and it fits pretty strongly within that genre of writing, being long (at almost 450 pages of core text) and as downcast as it is possible for a piece of journalism to be. If the author were not so resolutely pro-ACLU and so favorable to other socialists of that ilk, some of whom spend this book involved in disputes with other disreputable socialists and statists and others of that kind, this book may have been less depressing despite its material. As it is, the author chose a case that perfectly models the failures of the socialist and anti-religious mindset and manages to do nothing with it except argue for wealth redistribution as a solution to the moral failings discussed here.
The contents of this book are organized more or less chronologically. We follow a troubled black girl, pregnant with a child and the survivor of rape and incest as she gives up her child to the tender mercies of public care and grows up scarred before losing her life to AIDS after a wasted life of shallow relationships and drug addiction, follow the life of that child, Lamont, as he too is chewed up and spewed out by that same system and has his own illegitimate child from a broken relationship and himself gets caught up in the system in turn. We see radical social reformers grow old and die and feel their life is wasted as a city deals with intractable problems where generational patterns of sin–specifically addictions, promiscuity, abuse and neglect–interact with larger scale social sins relating to racism and economic injustice in the face of scarce attention and resources to lead to mind-numblingly repetitive tragedies for those families who get caught up in the foster care system. New York is hardly alone in this problem–this book manages to go, briefly, to Minnesota where we see the same processes at work. We see judges and lawyers and social reformers argue over settlements and try to preserve or build political coalitions in the midst of a social contract that is unwilling to make any care for able-bodies indigents more pleasant than the least pleasant work would be, a social contract that the author hates but does her best to acknowledge, however grudgingly. The end result is a depressing picture of the glacial to non-existent pace of social improvement in the face of intractable problems of sin that the author simply cannot label for what they are.
In the end, the author is left arguing for fundamental social change while having provided more than enough evidence to show the complete and utter incapability of the public sector to provide meaningful care or oversight of what it already has and failed to take responsibility for. The horrors one reads about the state of the foster care system in New York are not limited to that area alone. Anyone who has a familiarity with its analogous forms in other parts of our nation will find much in here that they understand rather grimly, and those of us who, by some sort of near miracle, avoided being caught up within the system’s grasp over the course of our own tragic childhood will find much to puzzle over and muse about. Despite the author’s failures due to her defective moral and political worldviews, this book does provide a sufficiently robust case study that those with more accurate worldviews will see the way in which the sins of fathers and mothers are visited on their children to the third and the fourth generation. What one does not see is repentance and many examples of people owning up to their own lives and to their failures to live up to the moral standards that make improvement in life possible. Instead, we see a lot of blaming, a lot of excuses, and calls for scarce resources to bankroll and subsidize failure generation after generation, where even the names of lead plaintiffs don’t even change from one generation to the next in a broken system designed to help mitigate the damage of broken families. The children involved may deserve better, but no one can give it to them.
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