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To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care [Kindle Edition]

Cris Beam
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A New York Times Notable Book

“Casts a searing eye on the labyrinth that is the American foster care system.” — NPR’s On Point

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 in their search for a stable, loving family.

Beam shows us the intricacies of growing up in the system—the back-and-forth with agencies, the rootless shuffling between homes, the emotionally charged tug between foster and birth parents, the terrifying push out of foster care and into adulthood. Humanizing and challenging a broken system, To the End of June offers a tribute to resiliency and hope for real change.

“[A] powerful . . . and refreshing read.” — Chicago Tribune

“A sharp critique of foster-care policies and a searching exploration of the meaning of family.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Heart-rending and tentatively hopeful.” — Salon

Editorial Reviews Review

Q&A with Cris Beam

Q. Why did you write this book?

A. I’m a foster mother and, through my other books and reporting, I’ve spent a lot of time with people impacted by the child welfare system. I was amazed that we could spend more than 20 billion dollars a year in this country on a system that nobody—not the foster kids, not the foster or biological parents, not the social workers, not the administrators or commissioners—thinks is working. I wanted to find out why.

Q. You adopted your foster daughter, Christina, when she was kicked out of her group home at age 17. Christina is 30 now. What is she up to these days? What is your relationship with her like?

A. Christina is an adult and she’s pretty amazing. She lives in Los Angeles doing HIV outreach and education and goes to college at night. We’re very close, we talk on the phone every other day or so. I feel so lucky, really, to have her in my life.

Q. You interviewed dozens of children, birth parents, foster parents, agency workers, and others in your five years of research. They all must have changed you in some way, but were there a few who especially stuck with you?

A. I spent several years tracking a set of parents in Brooklyn, Bruce and Allyson Green, who were particularly loving and dedicated. They did everything right: they took advantage of all the educational and extracurricular resources available to their foster kids, they loved their foster and biological kids equally, and when the time came, they adopted a girl named Fatimah and had done everything but sign the adoption papers with a girl named Dominique. Both of these girls were 17. Adoption is like the Holy Grail in foster care. In this case though, Fatimah and Dominique panicked. For so long, adoption had been held out as a kind of panacea to all of their prior trauma, and when adoption didn’t fix their lives, they ran away, and ended up worse than before.

I also followed a single mom in Yonkers named Mary who adopted much older kids, kids who had already aged out of the system and were technically adults. These kids also fell outside the fixed lens of child welfare, but they were helped tremendously by adoption. Sometimes the most creative solutions aren’t happening within child welfare itself, but just at its edges.

Q. In what ways is the state of foster care in New York City reflective of the state of systems around the country? In what ways is it different?

A. New York’s child welfare system is an enormous, overburdened bureaucracy with a thousand moving parts, all with different allegiances and poor intercommunication. It’s this bureaucracy, rather than one bad director or singular mal intent, which is so destructive. You’ll see this Kafka-esque quality everywhere. Also, as with our jails and prisons, child welfare is becoming increasingly privatized—in New York and across the country—and this has both useful, and problematic, implications. As far as foster care implementation, New York is somewhere in the middle: there are cities and states with far higher caseloads or longer delays to family reunification, and there are places that do a better job.

Q. About how many children are in foster care in the U.S. this year?

A. The last data we have is from July 2012, and there were 400,540 kids in foster care. The numbers have gone down significantly in the last 15 years, thanks to the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act, but the numbers have also changed. We’re seeing the youngest kids getting adopted, but more teenagers than ever are aging out of the system with no resources at all.

Q. Are there any numbers on what percentage of kids in foster care are eventually adopted?

A. It's important to remember that the central goal of foster care is to reunite kids with their birth parents, and in any given year about half of the kids will go home. The trouble is really with the trauma they endure during the separation, shuffling their way through multiple strangers' homes—on average, for close to two years.

There are biological parents who can’t or won’t care for their children, though, and last year about 50,000 foster kids were adopted from foster care and 100,000 foster kids were waiting for prospective parents. On average, the adopted kids had been in foster care for three years and then waited another year to be adopted. But these are averages: some kids will wait much longer, or never be adopted at all. And these figures don’t even include the tens of thousands of kids 16 and older who have given up hope for adoption entirely, deciding to just wait for emancipation from the system as adults.

Q. Why don’t we hear more about these kids?

A. For one, people are afraid to read about child abuse. It’s painful and frightening to think about kids being harmed. In reality, though, the vast majority of kids are removed from their families not for abuse but for neglect—and many argue that “neglect” is a code word for “poor.” We can look at poverty with a more direct gaze, so this may be a way to open the conversation more.

Secondly, there’s a kind of fait accompli attitude around foster care and foster kids in general; we don’t see it as the dynamic, changeable, and changing system that it really is.

Q. Since 2006, Florida’s foster care system has been funded differently from other states’. Their system was recognized as a possible model for other states by President Obama in 2011. What makes Florida unusual? Should other states adopt their way?

Traditionally, and in most states, foster care is funded on a per diem basis: agencies get a certain dollar amount from the federal and state government for every day a child stays in a foster or group home. This financial structure provides a kind of perverse incentive to remove kids from their parents. In 2006, Florida accepted a flat fee, called a waiver, for five years. This meant they only had to remove kids from the most dangerous households and then could spend the rest of the money on things like abuse prevention, drug rehabilitation, and keeping the family stable and secure. Thirty states and counties have now applied for similar waivers, promising a sea change in the way we think about, and approach, child welfare overall. I think it’s quite promising and exciting.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Whenever newspaper headlines scream about the abuse of foster children, the public is outraged, child protection agencies radically change their policies, and poor children go on living in a hodgepodge of foster care and suffering myriad unintended consequences, according to Beam, whose background includes a fractured childhood and experience as a foster mother. Here she offers a very intimate look at a system little known to most people. Beam spent five years talking to foster children, parents and foster parents, and social workers, mostly in New York. Her profiles include Bruce and Allyson, with three children of their own, taking in as many as five foster children, and Steve and Erin, fostering a child they want to adopt, whose mother signed away her rights on a napkin. Beam also writes about teens who’ve been bounced from home to home, some longing for adoption, others sabotaging their chances out of fear, many hoping for promised aging-out bonuses. Beam offers historical background and keen analysis of the social, political, racial, and economic factors that drive foster-care policies, noting the recent swing from massive removals to support for keeping families together. A very moving, powerful look at a system charged with caring for nearly half a million children across the U.S. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • File Size: 1785 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0544103440
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (August 13, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,066 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
These small birds would warn the miners of toxic fumes with their smaller resistance and rapid decline. Foster children as our most vulnerable members, warn us of the changes of national issues such as unemployment and health care. These are children who have no other safe options than state care. This book explores the larger issues, but illustrates them with individual stories of children in different phases of the system.

Infants come with their own vulnerabilities, but also with the most options. As desirable objects for adoption, the rights and advantages of preserving the family must be weighed against the hope of a new permanent family. As the child ages, so do their options and the memory of the birth family becomes more compelling. Finally, a child "aging out" at 18 or 21, runs great risk of leaving shelter with no meaningful back up or preparation. They are less likely to be prepared for independence, and they lack that great American fall back of moving home.

A society must be judged by its treatment of the least of its citizens. In this case, the outcome of our endeavors is vital to the whole country. It behoove sinus all to consider the facts and opinions presented in this book. The author's prose enables the reader to undertake the task with pleasure. The characters are fascinating and present conundrums that have left me pondering well past the last page.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and Inspiring August 21, 2013
By Hill H.
I read this book in two nights, and at times I wanted to cry for these children's losses and pain, and then cheer for some of these amazing foster parents who go above and beyond to give these kids stability and love. Cris Beam writes movingly and carefully about this complex world that you may not read about beyond intermittent newspaper headlines. She really immersed herself in the foster care world and it shows in the depth of the stories she tells. My hope is that politicians read this book, because what you come away with is how much more we need to do as a community to support these children and their families - both the biological and foster parents. A truly powerful read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is a must read for anyone who is considering becoming a Foster Care Parent. It is also an invaluable book for those who are interested in Adopting a child. The author, Cris Beam does an extraordinary job of taking a very deep, thorough, as well as very compassionate view of both the personal experiences of children who have been in the Foster Care System, as well as the parents who have been in the Foster Care system.

You will enjoy the research and depth that the author goes into in understanding this very complicated, as well as important subject. This is a very well researched book. It dives into the historical view, as well as the current view of, what makes the Foster Care system work well, and what parts of it do not work well.

It reads like a "Training Manual" of all the ins and outs of what the actual reality of becoming a Foster Care Parent is, and what are the innate illusions.

The book is divided into three sections.

Part One: Catch. This part explains the intricate way in which someone may end up in the foster care system. It also addresses how a person can get into becoming a foster care parent.. How they are "caught" if you will. It also include in detail what happens in this first part of the process of becoming a child in Foster Care, as well as a Parent who wants to become a Foster Parent.

Part Two: Hold. This section explains the way in which children come and go in and out of the system. It explains how hard it is for a child in the system to learn how to assimilate into a new family, as well as what a new parent needs to KNOW about a child who has been in and out of Foster Care, and what their deeper needs are. It also explains the adoption process of a Foster Care Child.

Part Three: Release.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complex Pain Personified August 28, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was hoping that this book would help prepare me for the reality of dealing with the foster care system. I got more than I expected, yet less than I was looking for. The preface is wonderfully candid. However, this degree of sensitivity is missing from the bulk of the story that describes the Green household (I happily found it again most noticeably in the twelfth chapter).

The Greens are are a Christian couple of mixed heritage that has fostered/adopted a number of children, from infants to young adults. Early on, you get a sense that they are complex, with some contradictions that you first notice when it is revealed there's a Buddha statue sitting on their TV. Here, the author successfully speaks volumes without having to comment.

Still, there are some key moments where I longed to get into the wealth of insight the author carries based on being a survivor of similar painful circumstances (as evidenced from the preface). She reveals small fragments here and there...I believe that an opportunity was missed to further humanize the struggling African American children that were hell-bent on fulfilling ghetto stereotypes. Their subsequent cringe-worthy behavior left me wishing this book better reflected the diversity of behavior within the race as well as the fact that most children in foster care are white.

Throughout much of this book, I felt like my guide along these complexities was a little too detached-perhaps a bit opportunistic. "To the End of June" is taken from a female in that household who tells the author that she has given up on her dream to write a book with this exact title. I longed to see forthcoming words of encouragement from a woman who had success in this field and was positioned to make an impact in this area.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars These issues are troubling and there are no easy answers, but the...
This is a well-written, engaging exploration of an important issue. Anyone who works in the areas of education, social services, youth services will find this to be a worthwhile... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Smiling Jack
5.0 out of 5 stars Very very well said..
I appreciate first of all that the book was well written. the interviews with the kids and the foster parents and bios were significant. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Anna
4.0 out of 5 stars As a former administrator in a foster care agency I ...
As a former administrator in a foster care agency I found this book truly reflective of the system I worked in. Read more
Published 20 days ago by T. Berlatsky
5.0 out of 5 stars A really interesting look at the foster care system
I love that the author considered so many different perspectives: children and teens, birth parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, social workers, policy makers, etc. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Kerianne Hourihan
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Good point, not earth shattering. Statistic information was interesting to read about in addition to the stories.
Published 24 days ago by Laura Jacobs
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed it, I already knew some of kids in Foster Care. Still learned more.
Published 1 month ago by Joanne Griffin
3.0 out of 5 stars Sad Reality Check
Tragic stories of small successes and huge hurdles. I read the book hoping to be inspired. Instead the realities it reveals left me feeling horrible. Read more
Published 1 month ago by LEE
5.0 out of 5 stars New Foster Mom
My husband and I just completed foster parent training, and are now certified as foster parents in NYS. This book is informational and sympathetic without being judgmental. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jaygirl
5.0 out of 5 stars I would definitely recommend even as a casual read
I had to buy this for a class but it's actually a really engaging read. I would definitely recommend even as a casual read.
Published 2 months ago by Fernando Amendola
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Terrific, scarifying book.
Published 2 months ago by E. Raphael
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More About the Author

Cris Beam's most recent book is To The End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). Her first book was Transparent: Love, Family and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers (Harcourt, 2007) which won a Lambda Literary Award and was a Stonewall Honor Book. Her young adult novel, I am J, was released by Little, Brown in March 2011, and was named a Kirkus Best Book and Library Guild Selection of 2011, and is the first book with a transgender character to be placed on the state of California's recommended reading list for public high schools. Her short memoir, Mother, Stranger was published by The Atavist in 2012 and quickly reached the top ten on Kindle Singles. Cris teaches creative writing at Columbia University, New York University, and Bayview Women's Correctional Facility. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia and lives in New York City. She's currently working on a novel.

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