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American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfareby Jason Deparle
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.
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.
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
In this definitive work, two-time Pulitzer finalist Jason DeParle cuts between the mean streets of Milwaukee and the corridors of Washington to produce a masterpiece of literary journalism. At the heart of the story are three cousins whose different lives follow similar trajectories. Leaving welfare, Angie puts her heart in her work. Jewell bets on an imprisoned man. Opal guards a tragic secret that threatens her kids and her life. DeParle traces their family history back six generations to slavery and weaves poor people, politicians, reformers, and rogues into a spellbinding epic.
With a vivid sense of humanity, DeParle demonstrates that although we live in a country where anyone can make it, generation after generation some families don’t. To read American Dream is to understand why.
About the Author
Jason DeParle is a senior writer for the New York Times and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. He won a George Polk Award in 1999 and was a two- time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the welfare system. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and their two sons.
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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