Book Review
The Story of Foster Care, Volume One

by Jeanne Preisler •

I initially purchased the book The Story of Foster Care Volume One by Empty Frames Initiative because of its North Carolina connection. Three of the authors were involved with the North Carolina Child Welfare Family Advisory Council and I wanted to honor them by purchasing their work. Little did I know when the book arrived a short time later just how impactful it would be. The Story of Foster Care is a unique compilation of photos, stories, poems, and quotes beautifully woven together to illustrate “the complex nature of the United States foster care system.”

Part of the book’s success is that it highlights diverse perspectives, including those of former foster youth, social workers, and foster parents. It is not for the squeamish. The first page holds a content warning: “mature content, discretion is advised.” But to authentically discuss the experience of foster care we have to hear the stories, and some of those are heartbreaking.

The book sprang out of “Storytelling Through Photography,” an Empty Frames Initiative curriculum about helping empower youth as they age out of foster care. Believing that each individual story is important, the Empty Frames Initiative team has created a truly special book. Not only did the book aid in the healing of the authors involved, but it holds enormous value as an educational tool for the child welfare community.

This book is especially timely for the theme of this issue of Fostering Perspectives: “resource parents supporting permanence.” How can we expect to truly support permanence without fully understanding all the dimensions of foster care? In the excerpt below, Sarah Chambers describes her foster mom as a “breath of restorative air,” who showed her she was “worthy of time and healing.” Is that not what supporting permanence is all about? Restoration through our time and allowing the love for the youth to prevail no matter what.

For anyone looking for a new book club option, a small group discussion within your faith community, or topics to discuss at your next foster/adoptive support group meeting, I recommend this book. Not only will you have plenty to discuss, you’ll get tangible ideas on how to take action after reading it.

Respite for My Soul

by Sarah Chambers

At 16, I went to live with my foster mom Chris after being released from juvenile detention. I had spent years running away in search of change. I’ve described Chris as a breath of restorative air, air which I had been gasping for my whole life. And then one day like an answer to a prayer that I had almost let go …there she was, a stranger opening her home to me despite knowing my chaos.

Chris wasn’t an especially emotional woman, she passed the time with me playing cards, at times validated my past hurts which I only spoke of when prompted, she gave me quiet comfort and a stability I had never known.

I know what created a shift in me; it was how she invested time in me. I vividly remember her glancing at her clock, preparing to take me to visitation, medical appointments, counseling, social activities. Her actions showed me I was worthy of time and healing.

Today, her clock hangs in my home, reminding me to be conscious of what I choose to spend time in; it is our most worthy resource.

From “The Story of Foster Care Volume One” by Empty Frames Initiative