Growing Up In The Care Of Strangers: The Experiences, Insights, And Recommendations Of Eleven Former Foster Kids, by Waln K. Brown & John R. Seita
Leo Tolstoy once said in the beginning to Anna Karenina that all happy families are alike and all unhappy families are unhappy in its own way. But anyone who has spent a lot of time dealing with unhappy families or been a part of them or has spent any time dealing with the foster care system realizes that this is not true. A great many unhappy families are unhappy in the same monotonous and unfortunate ways, and this book is testament to that. Reading a book like this can make someone quite upset, and not necessarily the way that the book is intended to. Why do our incompetent state governments feel that they have the authority to remove children from their admittedly troubled birth families without being able to do a better job themselves. If it costs $50k per year per foster kid, what is it that we as a society are getting for it? Are we helping the children or the families they are taken out of or put into for that? Not often enough. Does the state know what it is doing when it comes to taking care of children? Not very often. Why then do we give them the authority to act as they do?
This book is a bit more than 150 pages long and consists of eleven accounts of foster care from those who have survived it and found some level of success as adults. The book begins with a preface, acknowledgements, prologue, and dedication, after which the first author gives his confessions as a former juvenile delinquent. After that there is a look at how someone found their way after foster care and got a doctorate in education. Another person, a doctor of ministry, provides an account of a boy named Peter. A woman ten gives her discussion of how she went from a victim of child abuse to a childcare professional with her master’s in Social Work, which seems to be a common journey in my observation. Another woman with an MSW talks about the degree of caring that separates her from her peers. After that someone with a BSW then talks about the need to grow past family violence, neglect, and abandonment, a responsibility that is faced by the young person. And so it goes throughout the book as the stories of these adults and their experiences in child care are remarkably similar.
This book is intended to seek reforms in the foster care system that would better serve those unfortunate children who find themselves in it. Yet I do not see how society is going to be willing to reward failure by putting more money into the system in order to provide higher staffing or allow for resources devoted to teach independent living to wards of the state. Those who are not faithful with little will not be trusted with much more. What remains to be done then? Is there going to be a greater effort spent on a societal level to help encourage and provide resources to families, deal with the root causes that lead people to self-medicate, increase the education of people and work on building robust and self-disciplined communities? That seems to be a utopian vision as well. In the meantime, children will continue to suffer and find themselves torn between birth families that have neglected and abused them and state systems that cannot take care of them either but demand the power to wreck with families. And books like this will continue to be written about the same sorts of unhappy families over and over again.