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. There's a teenage birth mother in Texas who signs away her parental rights on a napkin only to later reconsider, crushing the hopes of her baby's 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 system's 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.
"Starred Review. Beam presents both a sharp critique of foster-care policies and a searching exploration of the meaning of family." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. Here she offers a very intimate look at a system little known to most people...Beam offers historical background and keen analysis of the social, political, racial, and economic factors that drive foster-care policies, noting the recent swing from massive removals to support for keeping families together. A very moving, powerful look at a system charged with caring for nearly half a million children across the U.S." - Booklist
"An engrossing, well-researched examination of important social issues" - Kirkus
"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, National Book Award-Winning author of The Noonday Demon and 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
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Cris Beam is the author of Transparent and has written for public radio's This American Life, as well as for several national magazines. She has an MFA in writing from Columbia and teaches creative writing at Columbia, NYU, and the New School. While living in LA, Cris volunteered at Eagles, a high school for gay and transgender kids. During the 2.5 years Cris taught there, she became deeply involved with a complex but marginalized tribe of transgender teens who had nowhere to go but the streets, one of whom became her foster daughter.
Cris Beam: Sounds like Chris but is quite firmly "Cris" - the author professes to detest the letter "h" because people so often mis-spell her name with an "h"
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