WAITING ON “ANOTHER FORGOTTEN CHILD” — JAN. 9

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine. 

Today’s feature is a book I’m eagerly anticipating, due out on 2/5/13.  Not long to wait!  Another Forgotten Child, by Cathy Glass, spotlights issues with the child welfare system.

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Eight-year-old Aimee was on the child protection register at birth. Her school repeatedly reported concerns about her bruises. And her five older half-siblings were taken into care many years ago. So no one can understand why she was left at home to suffer for so long. It seems Aimee was the forgotten child.

The social services are looking for a very experienced foster carer to look after Aimee and, when she reads the referral, Cathy understands why. Despite her reservations, Cathy agrees to Aimee on – there is something about her that reminds Cathy of Jodie (the subject of ‘Damaged’ and the most disturbed child Cathy has cared for), and reading the report instantly tugs at her heart strings.

When she arrives, Aimee is angry. And she has every right to be. She has spent the first eight years of her life living with her drug-dependent mother in a flat that the social worker described as ‘not fit for human habitation’. Aimee is so grateful as she snuggles into her bed at Cathy’s house on the first night that it brings Cathy to tears.

Aimee’s aggressive mother is constantly causing trouble at contact, and makes sweeping allegations against Cathy and her family in front of her daughter as well. It is a trying time for Cathy, and it makes it difficult for Aimee to settle. But as Aimee begins to trust Cathy, she starts to open up. And the more Cathy learns about Aimee’s life before she came into care, the more horrified she becomes.

It’s clear that Aimee should have been rescued much sooner and as her journey seems to be coming to a happy end, Cathy can’t help but reflect on all the other ‘forgotten children’ that are still suffering…

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Why am I waiting for this one?  Having worked in the child welfare system for many years, I am all too familiar with those cases that fall through the cracks.  This one sounds like a must read.

What are you waiting for?  Come on by and share….

 

 

FAILINGS OF AN OVERBURDENED SYSTEM — A REVIEW

When children spend most of their formative years in the foster care system, and then are turned out because they’ve reached the age of eighteen (or nineteen in some situations), the results can be devastating.

On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System zeroes in on these issues in great detail, sharing facts, figures, and anecdotal stories of featured young people. How they came into the system, the experiences they had, and what happened to them during the transition out of care.

These stories were not new to me, having worked for many years in the system as a social worker; I could definitely connect with what happened to these young people, as I’d seen many of these events firsthand.

Throughout this chronicle, the authors talked about different programs that successfully helped young people transition, and also shared legislation that offers a hopeful future for children in this situation.

Most of us know from experience that children are not ready to be independent and fully functioning at eighteen, nineteen, or possibly even twenty-one. And when you factor in the scenarios experienced by children in care who are “protected” by law and not offered opportunities to experience independence, you compound the problem.

Budgetary constraints are often the obstacles that prevent more help for these children. Community support can turn these issues around when private agencies partner with governmental agencies.

The authors bring out some recent changes:

“The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is a national effort to help young people make successful transitions from foster care to adulthood. Formed by two of the nation’s leading foundations focused exclusively on child and youth well-being, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs, the Initiative strives to bring together the people and resources to help young people make the connections they need to education, employment, health care, housing, and permanent, family-like relationships.”

A probing, detailed illustrated journey that takes the reader right to the heart of the problem, I recommend this book to anyone who cares about the youth of our nation; especially those most vulnerable because of their life experiences. Five stars.

THE ACCIDENTAL MOMENTS THAT SHAPE LIVES — A REVIEW

A story of three generations of women, bound by the love they share, the dreams they refuse to surrender, and the secrets they held, Mothers and Daughters: A Novel reveals those accidental moments in life. How taking one path over another can yield such different outcomes, and how looking back with regret is an exercise in futility.

Violet, Iris, and Samantha are the women in this illuminating novel, and we meet each of them in the chapters that tell their stories.

Violet’s early life on the streets of New York led to an “orphan train” to the Midwest and another kind of life.

Iris thinks about her journey in life as she awaits the death that is coming sooner rather than later. Her accompaniment on this journey are her thoughts, her memories, the Virginia Woolf book she is reading at the end, and the joy of gazing out at the sea in the home she has chosen as her final residence. Her solitude and her secret plan help her through the days.

Samantha’s baby daughter Ella has taken over her world, replacing sad memories of a firstborn whose life was cut off before it began, and substituting for her artistic life as a potter. As she reshapes her life, a gift from the past arrives in the form of letters and treasures that belonged to her mother and grandmother. She ponders the unknown, and probes at the secrets of her grandmother Violet’s life and the answers none of them have.

These characters felt so real to me, and as I read their stories, I felt caught up in the lives they led. There was much that was not revealed to the individual characters that we, the readers, were privy to in snippets here and there. I liked this aspect of the book, and the fact that the author’s voice came through in these moments, telling us about how certain events played out. We had the answers to some of our questions, like: What happened to Violet’s mother? Did the street companions finally find homes? What was the significance of a blue piece of paper placed within the folds of Violet’s old Bible?

For anyone who enjoys reading about the connections between family members and about how life is sometimes all about making one turn over another, this book could be a favorite read of yours. I gave it five stars for the satisfaction I felt as I read, and even as I turned the last page.

SETTLING IN….

Photo by Mary Engelbreit

Images of Home

In this excerpt from An Accidental Life, a young girl tries to adjust to foster care.

Savannah sat on the ruffled bedspread in her new room, taking in the general frilliness of the space.  What little fantasyland have these people come from? she wondered, as she observed how everything coordinated, down to the last little ruffle.  All the framed prints were of Victorian images:  small children with golden hair and long, sweeping gowns; young ladies and proper gentlemen strolling along a riverbank; and sweet little babies with golden curls, swaddled in blankets.  That last was almost like a slap in the face!  What insanity had allowed these people to blithely and innocently place her in this room, as if she would be pleased by her surroundings.

Shuddering, she closed her eyes and thought about the past several hours.  She had been here for a couple of weeks, now, and because it was too late in the season to start summer school, her new idiot foster parents, Vee and Garrett Moore, had accompanied her downtown to a substance abuse evaluation, special order of Ms. Molly Atkinson.  They had told her that her “case plan” would include this “assessment,” and that it was all very important to her goal of reunifying with her baby.

She had sat there facing the young woman…A tough cookie named Sophia Vreeland…and listened to her questions.  She had tried to answer honestly, but each question aroused her suspicions and she had to wonder what answer would be the right one.  How did she know she wouldn’t be cutting her own throat?  Sophia had questioned her endlessly and sometimes she seemed to be asking the same things in different ways.  Trying to trick her.  But Savannah had persisted in trying to stay focused.  It wasn’t that easy.

Not once in the last couple of weeks had she heard from Blake.  She knew that the foster parents might be blocking his calls.  But she also remembered the last time she’d seen him, and that cold way he had driven off, leaving her in front of the A-frame cottage all alone.