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home : features : palo verde people October 4, 2015

10/30/2013 6:00:00 AM
Foster care mother shares insight into the foster care world
Rosita Smith
Palo Verde District Library

BLYTHE - Who are the children of foster care? What, as a country, do we owe them? Cris Beam, herself a foster mother, has spent five long years looking into these questions and tracing firsthand stories among participating families.

Foster care programs are run individually by each state. Therefore, there can be a wide deviation in policy among the states. The one thing the states usually agree on in is that the family unit be kept intact if at all possible.

Another commonality is that kids get bounced around with short stays in inappropriate settings. Cris Beam lives in New York, and so she speaks from a New Yorkers' experience and frustrations with the system of compliance whereby the social worker has to report for up to five different government entities when making decisions, and wait for weeks to implicate those decisions. Then another wait for payment for services, which come from four or five different government agents. The basic laws are good, Beam says, it's the waiting for implementation that is frustrating.

For five years Beam has studied the placement dynamics, interviewed families and children alike, and come up with some observations of her own on how the system could be improved.

Once the child is old enough to remember his/her parents the child becomes harder to place because the child is searching for his birth parents, not a substitute caretaker. In working with older children the search goes on with each move a hope to find his/her lost family.

Older children in New York get an allowance that they can spend as they please. After 15 or 16 the child can move into his own apartment subsidized by the state. But there is no training on how to manage their money or establish goals for earning a living once they age out of the system.

That's when they get into trouble with no skills to offer or education to fall back on. It is estimated that 50 percent of the homeless were once in foster care.

In her research Beam kept close contact with a core of foster children, visiting often and keeping copious notes. She shares with the reader their frustrations, dreams, wishes, and outcomes.

And you will meet Mary who has parented eleven kids from the system, all over the age of eighteen and still desperately in need of a sense of home and belonging.

Focusing intensely on a few foster families, Beam, in her book To the End of June, followed and interviewed in depth a few different families who are deeply invested in the system's success. It 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.

If you have ever considered becoming a foster parent, this is must reading. If you ever wondered what to expect from a foster child, read on. You can find the End of June, The Intimate Life of American Foster Care at the Palo Verde Valley Library on the new non-friction bookshelf under 362.733 BEAM.

The Palo Verde Valley Library is at the corner of Broadway and Chanslorway in Blythe. The library opens each day at 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday the library opens as 10 and closes at 4 p.m. The library is closed on Sunday.

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