Great New Book, ‘To The End of June,’ Explores America’s Foster Care System

In a fascinating new book called To the End of June, author Cris Beam explores the intricacies of America’s foster care system. She shares heartfelt stories of real kids journeys woven in with solid research and insight. Our country has more than 400,000 foster kids today–and they’re in every city and school. Yet, the average person doesn’t know much about them or what they go through.

Cris hopes to inform us all–and thereby improve–childrens’ lives. Read my Q&A with this amazing author below. Cris left her own home at age 14 and never saw her mentally disabled mother again. Later, as a grown woman and educator, she adopted a transgender foster kid who was getting lost in the system. She pores her soul into her acclaimed, must-read release.

KK: In three sentences, what is your book about?
CB:
To the End of June reads like a novel as it closely follows a few foster families over the course of five years as they navigate their way through child welfare. These families love their kids and want to do what’s best for them, so through their journey, we can more easily see the problems and potential in child welfare overall. When the families encounter particular issues endemic to foster care (running away, birth family reunions, intersections with juvenile justice, etc.), the book pans back into some child welfare history and research, but always sticks closely to the individual characters and stories themselves.

KK: Your own story is amazing. What inspired you to write this book?
CB:
When I was 28 (I’m 41 now), I was working as a high school teacher in a school where many of my students were foster kids. One of my students, with whom I had become close, had been kicked out of her group home and the adults in charge of her wanted to put her into juvenile hall because they didn’t have any more beds available for her—even though she hadn’t committed a crime! I was outraged, and offered to let her stay with me for a while and then, long story short, she became my daughter.

Christina had been in and out of care since she was 7 years old, and as I got to know her backstory, I wanted to understand how a system designed to protect children could have failed her so spectacularly. We spend more than 20 billion dollars a year on child welfare in this country and for the most part, nobody—not the kids, not the foster parents, not the biological parents, not the case workers, the commissioners, all the way up the chain—thinks it’s working. I wanted to find out why.

KK: If you could convey one message to the average person about today’s foster care system, what would it be?
CB:
Foster care isn’t about some “other” kids “over there.” They’re our kids, in our communities, our schools, our playgrounds, and they have a lot to teach us about creativity and resilience and family. And the nature of loss.

KK: After doing all of your research, do you believe it’s better for a kid to go into foster care or stay with the parents?
CB:
This is an impossible question, because every family and every crisis is different. Seventy percent of the child maltreatment cases in this country are “neglect” cases—and many people believe neglect is code for poverty. Should a child be placed in foster care because her parents are poor? Obviously not. Abuse, like love, is in the eye of the beholder, and there are often home-based services that can be implemented. Then again, there are terrible parents, who won’t or can’t love their children—the trick is identifying them, which takes time and experience and teams of people, really. In short, I think we need to be very careful about when we choose to place a child in foster care because the trauma of being yanked from one’s parents (even if there’s some neglect) and put in a house with strangers (even if they’re loving) is deep and long-lasting.

KK: What can we moms do to help the situation?
CB:
Please read my book! And learn about child welfare—the things that make the news tend to be one small slice of a fascinating world. And if you have the inclination or interest, consider adopting one of the more than 100,000 babies, kids and teenagers who are waiting for families.

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