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To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Careby Cris Beam
Synopses & Reviews
"A triumph of narrative reporting and storytelling. . . . Beam gives [foster children] a much-needed voice and does what too many adults in the foster-care system can't, or won't: She advocates for them." -- New York Times Book Review
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 at the critical points in their search for a stable, loving family.
The book mirrors the life cycle of a foster child and so begins with the removal of babies and kids from birth families. Theres a teenage birth mother in Texas who signs away her parental rights on a napkin only to later reconsider, crushing the hopes of her babys adoptive parents. Beam then paints an unprecedented portrait of the intricacies of growing up in the system—the back-and-forth with agencies, the shuffling between pre-adoptive homes and group homes, the emotionally charged tug of prospective adoptive parents and the fundamental pull of birth parents. And then what happens as these system-reared kids become adults? Beam closely follows a group of teenagers in New York who are grappling with what aging out will mean for them and meets a woman who has parented eleven kids from the system, almost all over the age of eighteen, and all still in desperate need of a sense of home and belonging.
Focusing intensely on a few foster families who are deeply invested in the systems success, To the End of June is essential for humanizing and challenging a broken system, while at the same time it is a tribute to resiliency and offers hope for real change.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An intimate, authoritative look at the foster care system that examines why it is failing the kids it is supposed to protect and what can be done to change it.
When Cris Beam first moved to Los Angeles, she thought she might put in just a few hours volunteering at a school for transgender kids while she got settled. Instead she found herself drawn deeply into the pained and powerful group of transgirls she discovered. In Transparent she introduces four of them—Christina, Domineque, Foxxjazell, and Ariel—and shows us their world, a dizzying mix of familiar teenage cliques and crushes with far less familiar challenges like how to morph your body on a few dollars a day. Funny, heartbreaking, defiant, and sometimes defeated, the girls form a singular community. But they struggle valiantly to resolve the gap between the way they feel inside and the way the world sees them—a struggle we can all identify with.
Beams careful reporting, sensitive writing, and intimate relationship with her characters place Transparent in the ranks of the best narrative nonfiction.
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
About the Author
CRIS BEAM is a journalist who has written for several national magazines as well as for public radio. She has an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University and teaches creative writing at Columbia and the New School. She lives in New York.
Table of Contents
Part One: Catch
1. King Solomons Baby 3
2. Eye of the Beholder 18
3. Timing Is Anything 38
4. Drugs in the System 58
5. Catch as Catch Can 73
Part Two: Hold
6. Surge Control 97
7. Chutes and Ladders and Chutes 117
8. Arrested in Development 135
9. Taking Agency 157
10. Homespun 169
Part Three: Release
11. Fantasy Islands 191
12. Theres Something About Mary 205
13. Experiment 222
14. Touching the Elephant 234
15. Last Call 252
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