Review by Melanie Davis
The foster care system receives billions of dollars, yet after five years of dedicated research, author Cris Beam reveals how poorly this system is working. To The End of June: An Intimate Life of American Foster Care shines a focused light on one of the darkest corners of American culture. In this book, Beam follows the lives of ten children in the foster system of New York City and the families who reject them, as well as the ones trying to make a difference.
How Children are Brought into Foster Care
The book begins by showing the ways children are brought into the foster care system. Most often it happens because of neglect, which can be caused by a variety of situations, such as a young teenage mother too poor and untrained to correctly care for a child or because of the disinterest induced by drug abuse. The stories of the children tear at your heart, as they epitomize the traumas children experience in their home lives and how the foster care system only adds to their wounds.
All too often, adopted or not, the children have tough life experiences. For example, when adopted as babies, fights can occur later between the adoptive parents and biological parents. Once they pass the popular “cute” ages for adoption, foster children end up shuffled through the system, moving from foster house to foster house for years without records being kept of how the preceding placements worked for them.
Aging Out of the System
Most of the book centers on children who are older, aging out of the system, and how their lives turn out after they are released from foster care. In many cases, they have gone in and out of so many schools they never finish or receive a diploma. Most of them leave foster care unprepared for adult life and can often become homeless. In these children’s stories, Beam gives us upsetting witness to how human lives can become nothing more than products to be moved about, as if they are inventory to be managed, rather than valuable people whose needs matter.
We also learn about foster parents who try their best to help the children, and you cheer for them with the hope they can overcome the myriad of hurdles. The stories have compassion and love, but often despite the foster parents’ best efforts the children’s lives end with negative outcomes. While complicated and varied, Beam shows us how the reasons for unsuccessful outcomes prove the current foster system is not working.
In To the End of June, Beam explains Ainsworth’s Attachment Theory, which helps make the book a good academic resource for social work studies, as well as an important work that identifies weaknesses in the foster system. However, at times Beam criticizes and places blame based on political ideology, which weakens some of her arguments. Liberal or conservative, we all care about children and their needs, and want solutions to foster care system problems.
Well-written and engaging, To The End of June can be a catalyst for awareness, discussion, and changes to a system with many problems. May it inspire many who read it to stand up for those who often have no voice or say in the direction of their lives as they are growing up.
Reviewed by Melanie Davis, bestselling author of The Triumph Book: HEROES