Book by: Cris Beam
Review by: Matthew Jeffries
College of Education, Undergraduate Student Services
Washington State University- Pullman
In To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care, author Cris Beam illuminates the complex issues facing America’s foster care system. Drawing from her own experiences with a dysfunctional mother, Beam questions how America’s foster care system has gotten to a point where children are taken from their families and placed in either foster homes or group homes. Beam weaves an intricate story where race and poverty undergird this complicated system.
The foster care system operates in a seemingly linear manner. After someone files a complaint of abuse or negligence, an investigation takes place and if the authorities deem the home unsafe and/or the parents’ neglectful or abusive (which can include drug use around children), the authorities then take the children. Depending on their age and available space, they will be placed in either a foster home or a group home. The goal is to reunite the children with their parents (or guardian from whom they were removed) unless the parents have given up rights to the children; then, the goal is to have the children adopted. Unfortunately, many of the older children do not get adopted as they are believed to have behavioral issues. Other scenarios include parents who are in and out of jail and parents who lose their children and then regain custody just to lose custody again, therefore the children are pulled from their parents’ home and placed into a foster or group home. Nearly 70 percent of children who have been in foster care for more than two years have been moved to more than 3 foster care homes (p. 89). This trauma inducing cycle leads to children being disenfranchised with the next foster family and their education, which leads many children to act out.
Thus with little support from the foster care system, only between 3 and 11 percent of children in the foster care system will go on to get their bachelor’s degree, in comparison to the national average of 28 percent (p.98). When children age out of the system, few resources exist to assist them in the transition to adulthood. Additionally, little outreach from colleges and universities is done to support former foster youth in applying and matriculating. Advisors can assist former foster care youth by being patient and following through with everything they say they will do. From the foster care youth with whom Beam interviewed, Beam gleans that trust is broken after children have been moved multiple times between different types of homes and facilities.
Overall, this book was an eye-opening read. Advisors work with multitudes of diverse students; however, former foster youth are rarely a part of these discussions. Beam gives insight into a gloomy and unknown reality for over 400,000 children in the United States (p. xi); of which, few will have the cultural or financial capital to succeed in college. This is where this book can help by giving advisors a glimpse into the world of former foster care youth so that advisors can begin to understand this lived experience.
To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care. (2013). Book by Cris Beam. Review by Matthew Jeffries. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 336 pp. $26.00. ISBN 978-0-15-101412-5