I can’t recommend “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care” strongly enough. Author Cris Beam’s in depth research and beautiful storytelling reveal honest pictures of the reality kids and families face.
She gives no easy answers, but raises powerful questions. Often directly quoting survivors of the broken system.
The words that stuck with me most were from a woman named Kecia, who grew up bouncing from group home to group home and now found herself in prison:
“‘Why do we get away from the humanness of things? How do we get away from it and then expect it to work?’ Kecia said, playing with a crease in her state-issued jeans. The trouble with group homes, or with any institutionalized care, she said, is that kids feel they’re being thrown away. But a person, she believed, inside that institution could change that perception. ‘I do believe love conquers all. But that means you’ve gotta rock with the kid – whether it’s a little baby or an older child – rock with whatever they get into, no matter how bad they get.’…
She looked at the bare walls, the barred windows, at me. Healing could happen anyplace, she said: a group home, a foster home, a bio home. ‘It’s very simple – it’s just the way life is. You don’t leave people,’ she said. ‘You stay.'”
You stay. I’d heard it before but missed its power.
I find myself trying to complicate it. Add to it. With therapies and best practices and and and.
I know those things certainly can help. But sometimes all the answers are more of a problem than a solution.
A counselor once told us the best thing we were doing for the kids was being present. At the time, we felt deeply discouraged. We were trying so hard but it felt like we were failing drastically. Dramatically. Like being alive was the only thing we could offer these hurting souls.
But now I see what he was trying to say. That in fact, that was the most important thing.
That those kids needed us to “rock” with them even if we said the wrong things or gave the wrong consequences.
That nothing was going to make the pain of foster care okay. And so the bar wasn’t to try. It was to stay.
Some days that can still feel high. So I can remember that I don’t need to make it higher, I need to stay.