Foster care: Book resources


Literature / Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

A few months ago, I shared with you a list of books for children in foster care. Today I have another short list for you, of supportive resources that branch a bit farther afield.

I just discovered Kathy Harrison’s nonfiction stories of her experiences as a foster mother. (Where has she been all my life?) Plus, I found a couple more books for children that, while not overtly branded as foster care literature, still really strike the right cord for me and my children.

I look forward to using and recommending these books often. What ties the set together in my mind is their powerful imagery and empathy, building a bridge between those-who-have-firsthand-experience and those-who-need-a-window-in.


Another Place at the Table
by Kathy Harrison
2003
Adults only

Mrs. Harrison has fostered hundreds of children in the state of Massachusetts. She knows how to tell a good story, but more than that, I’ve never read a fostering book that so accurately depicted my own experiences, feelings, conflicts, reservations, and intoxication with the foster care community. In the reading, I felt reassured and supported. She made me want to hand this book to everyone in my non-fostering circle of friends and family and say, “Here. This is what it’s like.” (If I haven’t handed it to you yet – you’re next. My copy has been in circulation since I finished it myself.)

I also read and recommend One Small Boat, further stories of the Harrison family and a girl who caught their hearts.

Two warnings:

  1. Though I do not find Harrison’s stories sensationalized, she writes honest accounts of childish suffering and abuse. You may find it disturbing. I would not have you feel otherwise.
  2. If you are hovering on the edge of becoming a foster parent, trying to make up your mind or find the right time, I’m pretty sure this book will tip you right over.


One For the Murphys
Linda Mullaly Hunt
2012
Young adult

This fictional story is also realistic in its portrayal of what life in foster care is like, this time from the child’s point of view – from one’s own raw memories to others people’s easy perceptions; from petty adjustments integrating with foster siblings to the conflicted emotion of belonging to two different lives, and two separate families. The plot follows Carley, a girl who feels strong loyalty to her mother and guilt for her own removal from home. Her encounters with her new foster family, the Murphys, are not at all what Carley expected.

I imagine this book would be therapeutic for an adolescent or teen in care. Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not the only one.

Thanks to commenter Ohio Mom for this recommendation a few months ago!


The Feelings Book
Todd Parr
2000
Children’s literature

This is a resource book, not a book on the subject of fostering.

Todd Parr writes a lot of books for children, helping them understand their lives and feelings. (I am sure I would find some of them over-modern and accepting of all human choices.) I found The Feelings Book helpful as a way to get children started talking about their emotions, as a way of looking inside and finding words for what is hidden. The ability to verbalize what’s in the heart takes time and encouragement – especially for children who are doing their best not to be vulnerable again.

It’s a silly, happy book, with colorful line drawings and unexpected phrases for lots of giggles.


South
Patrick McDonnell
2008
Children’s literature

South is a nearly wordless book, about a tiny bird who gets left behind when his family migrates for the winter.

Once again, it is not explicitly about foster care, but I’ve not found a better portrayal of a child in need, and a non-family caregiver who offers love, light, and a path to reunification… though both characters are changed along the way.

I am so happy to have found this story. My children (both bio and foster) deeply connect to the emotion in the illustrations, and to the vision: walking together as long as we are needed, letting go when the time is right, loving always. I plan to use it in future with new children who come to our home, as a way of explaining who we are, our goal for their stay in our home, and the love and safety we have to share.


I love being a foster parent. And I love finding books that help me to become better. What should I read next?

7 Replies to “Foster care: Book resources”

  1. I’ve just been reading a few by Cathy Glass. Written by someone living in England, there are of course differences from the US foster care system, but the kids in need are the same. I’ve found them interesting, and thought of you when I read them, wondering what your opinion of them is if you’ve read them.

    1. Yes! A good friend shared one or two of Cathy Glass with me. They are interesting – noting the differences and similarities with our system, and sensing the British flavor:) were enjoyable to me. I didn’t find the writing itself that engaging, maybe too serial with there being so many, so similar? What did you think? But good things to say for sure.

  2. Fostering has been on our radar for quite some time. The doors just haven’t opened quite yet, but we keep thinking/talking/praying about it. I’d love to read any books you recommend.

  3. What do you think of Joey’s Story, published by Christian Light? It’s probably the main true story that I have read of a foster child’s journey.

  4. For whatever it’s worth here – doing respite care for foster parents is a real need and a ministry. Doing respite care requires the same approval process, but it (sort of) allows you to ease into the system. You can experience what it feels like to foster vulnerable children and to interact with their bio family, but it’s short-term. Our family has been blessed to do this and we would recommend respite care to anyone who is interested in foster care.

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