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.
Courageous and deeply disturbing... DeParle challenges the nation. (The New York Times Book Review/I>) A book about welfare reform that is fun to read. (Detroit Free Press)
A New York Times
Notable Book A Boston Globe Best Book of 2013 A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013 "A triumph of narrative reporting and storytelling, as well as a thorough and nuanced analysis of an American institution deeply in need of reform. . . . Beam writes about social outcasts without stereotyping them. She gives them 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 Reivew
"Beam invites the reader inside the system for sometimes uncomfortably close but always compassionate visits with parents, children and workers. . . .She takes comfort in the 'countless academics and organizers and families with countless good ideas.' Its this conclusion -- rather than the admission that she doesnt have the answer, even with her many lenses on the system both inside and out -- that makes this a challenging and refreshing read." --Chicago Tribune "In this compassionate, rigorous book, Cris Beam describes the failures of foster care, often by way of the moments of light and hope that are inscribed in its brokenness. It is her largeness of heart, manifest on every page, that makes her arguments impossible to ignore, and that informs the deeply engaging stories she so eloquently narrates." —Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree
"Packed with messy humanity, To the End of June is an urgent and necessary book. It would break your heart were it not for the recurring tales of good people trying to do the right thing, and an undercurrent of rage at what life has served up these kids. Cris Beam brings careful listening, unflinching poise, and her own experience as a foster mother to this account of how the state tries to step up when parents can't." —Ted Conover, author of Pulitzer-finalist Newjack and Coyotes
"To the End of June is a clear-eyed and heartfelt look at foster care in America. It will astound you and appall you. Cris Beam has written an extraordinary book about ordinary people trying to save kids' lives. She has cast a ray of light into a dark and hidden place." —Tim Weiner, National Book Award-winning author of Legacy of Ashes
"Heart-rending and tentatively hopeful" -- Laura Miller, Salon
"Informative, poignant, passionate, and persuasive . . . Almost certain to generate a sense of urgency in readers to fix a broken system that has sometimes managed to fly beneath the radar." -- The Huffington Post
"Beam's intimate immersion into this system, as both a parent and an author, has brought great empathy and insight into a world most people never contemplate. Beam's book will likely change hearts and minds, and hopefully social policy." -- The Bay Area Reporter
Bill Clinton vowed to end welfare as we know it in his first run for president in 1992. Four years later, Congress translated a catchy slogan into a law that sent nine million women and children streaming from the rolls. Did it work? In his definitive book on this unprecedented upheaval in social policy, New York Times reporter and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Jason DeParle follows three women in one extended family to a set of surprising answers. Cutting between the corridors of Washington and the meanest streets of Milwaukee, DeParle tracks the story from the White House to the local crack house. After twelve years on welfare, Angie, a truculent mother of three, finds a job and a 401(k)--and a boyfriend who tries to shoot her. Her cousin Jewell, glamorous even in sweatpants, adores the children she struggles to support. Opal combines an antic wit with an appetite for cocaine while the welfare agency that is supposed to help her squanders its millions. Drawing on more than a decade of reporting, DeParle traces their story back six generations to a common ancestor--a Mississippi slave--and adds politicians, case workers, reformers, and rogues to an epic exploration of America's struggle with poverty and dependency. Probing the law's unlikely successes--and haunting failures--American Dream provides a startling expose in this election year.
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.
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
About the Author
Jason DeParle, a reporter for The New York Times, has also written for The New Republic, the Washington Monthly, and The New Orleans Times-Picayune. A former Henry Luce Scholar, DeParle was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 and 1998 for his reporting on the welfare system.
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