Foster Care: Background information when reading How to Make Friends with the Dark

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How to Make Friends with the Dark

by Kathleen Glasgow

How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow X
How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2020, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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Foster Care

This article relates to How to Make Friends with the Dark

Print Review

Statistics about the number of children in foster care In Kathryn Glasgow's How to Make Friends with the Dark, 16-year-old Tiger learns that her mother is dead, and almost equally upsetting, she can't even go somewhere familiar to stay while she figures out how to adjust to being an orphan; with no known father or other relatives, she is relegated to the legal responsibility of the state of Arizona and uprooted from the life and the people she knew. Though she is given a grace period of one night in her home, she is then taken to a series of foster homes. I think most readers will find the immediate removal of any agency from the teenager just as jarring as Tiger herself does. She is thrust out of the push and pull of normal adolescent rebellion with her mother into a situation that requires great maturity to navigate, while simultaneously losing the ability to make decisions or advocate for herself.

In the U.S., generally speaking, if a minor loses both parents (or their only known parent as in the case of Tiger) the first thing that happens is that the state looks to see if any provisions have been made in terms of a designated legal guardian. If there is no will or other document with such information, the state looks for living relatives. As Thaddeus, another of the foster children who Tiger meets, says, "blood goes to blood" – even if there is not necessarily a relationship there. If there are no obvious, reachable relatives, the child is remanded to the care of the state and is placed in a foster home – or sometimes several – as the logistics of their future are worked out. This is the process even if there are friends or neighbors who are willing to take the child; if they have not been named legal guardians in the case of the parents' deaths, they cannot be given guardianship, even temporarily.

Foster homes vary greatly; while the state is meant to require training and certification, and perform checks on a regular basis, as Tiger finds out, there are many, many kinds of people and homes are managed in different ways. Foster parents have the right to set times and amounts for sleeping and eating, can lock food away, and may also decide how much or how little space the children have within their house. Both the case workers and the foster parents also have the right to search belongings. Tiger experiences both sides of the scale, and in the process sees the difficulties other children and teenagers have had to face in their lives. Should rules be broken, or the foster children get in any legal trouble or use drugs or alcohol, they can find themselves bound for juvenile detention. Based on data released in Oct 2017, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there were 437,465 children in foster care in fiscal year 2016 in the United States, with a mean age of 8.5.

In addition to exploring Tiger's grief, How to Make Friends with the Dark makes clear how overtaxed the systems that are meant to protect children are. Like the loss of her mother, her time in the foster system forces Tiger to grow up faster and grapple with previously unconsidered realities, and thus, so too must the reader.

Foster care statistics, courtesy of American SPCC

Filed under Society and Politics

This "beyond the book article" relates to How to Make Friends with the Dark. It originally ran in June 2019 and has been updated for the May 2020 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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