cover image To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

Cris Beam. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-15-101412-5

Castaway kids and adult caretakers piece together fragile bonds in this heart-wrenching panorama of American foster families. Beam (Transparent: Love, Family and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers), herself a former teen runaway and sometime foster parent, paints sympathetic but clear-eyed portraits of everyone impacted by the foster-care system: biological parents who lose their children because they are deemed unfit to care for them, or because they have issues with drug abuse, poverty, or are incarcerated; inexperienced, overworked case workers who determine the fate of their charges based on fuzzy and clashing guidelines; and foster parents and the kids they shelter, both sides wary of the strangers who come into their lives but hopeful of forming nurturing homes. Beam analyzes how foster-care systems seesaw between draconian child-removal policies and initiatives to keep families intact, and dissects the contradictory laws and regulations that keep kids shuttling for years among different homes with little chance to form stable attachments. The core of the book is Beam’s subtle, evocative reportage on the emotional travails of foster homes, especially the mixed feelings of anxiety, hope, resentment, and guilt that roil kids when transferring their affections from dysfunctional biological relatives to provisional foster parents. Beam presents both a sharp critique of foster-care policies and a searching exploration of the meaning of family. Agent: Amy Williams, McCormick & Williams. (Aug.)