The Divine Fire of Youth

As Ysette said, I am very excited to share a few posts while she is enjoying her vacation. I will get to Paul Tough later this week, but wanted to start out with a new release about foster care that has been getting plenty of attention.

I bought Cris Beam’s new book “To the End of June,” last Thursday, right before Labor Day weekend. I was intrigued by the book, partially because I felt like everyone was talking about it. At first I couldn’t quite tell if “everyone” might just include people like me who have google news alerts for New York City foster care. At this point, it seems the book’s publicity has reached well beyond the child welfare world. It is a pleasant change to hear people talking about foster care without an outrageous news story sparking the conversation.

I was hesitant about picking up this book the day before a holiday weekend. Did I really want to read about foster care while lying on the beach, getting in some much needed relaxation? I am so glad that I did. The book includes stories of those trying to support young people in foster care, as well as plenty of times when things fall apart. It does not have many happy endings but it does provide a real picture of the challenges in foster care, especially for older youth. I found myself sighing deeply as placements were changed, adoptions fell through, and behaviors were repeated throughout generations for the youth profiled.

What I valued most from this book is that it reminded the importance of looking at each individual story. Working with youth in foster care, I have encountered stories that have shocked me, saddened me, and in the best of times, overwhelmed me with joy. But each of these stories have required a different approach and a different type of support. As much as we are looking for what works for young people in foster care, the reality is that we cannot do anything effectively until we listen to what the young person is asking for and stick it out through the tough times. “We may either smother the divine fire of youth or we may feed it,” Jane Addams (p. 189). How will we encourage the fire within these young people as they overcome the challenges that they have faced?

Reading this book also made me feel really lucky to work in this field. I am grateful that I get to work with incredible young adults and do something that I am truly passionate about. I am grateful that a book about foster care is a beach read that excites me, even though it reminds me of how far we have to go as a child welfare system.

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