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Orphans of the Living

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The substitute, or foster, child-care system does more harm than good, the author was told by a number of caseworkers and social workers she interviewed for this report. And according to Toth (The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City), a "code of silence" keeps most workers in the system from discussing their cases. According to Toth, 40% of the half-million children in the foster-care system eventually will wind up on welfare rolls or in prison because of the lack of loving adults in their lives. Toth spent two years researching systems in North Carolina, Chicago and Los Angeles responsible for providing parenting for children whose parents cannot, or will not, care for them. In this eloquent and harrowing study, she focuses on five children who grew up in substitute care, describing the original dysfunctional families the children came from as well as the ways that foster care made things worse for them. Angel was sexually abused by, and eventually married and had children (now in foster care) with her 69-year-old foster father. The inappropriate institutions in which Bryan was placed led to juvenile detention and incarceration. Although Jamie has become a self-sufficient college student, she hasn't overcome her mother's desertion. Toth has written an excellent exposé of a system that hurts those it is charged to help. (May)

Like John Hubner and Jill Wolfson in Somebody Else's Children (LJ 11/15/96), journalist Toth (The Mole People, LJ 9/15/93) is critical of the "welfare" system that results in troubled children from troubled families being abandoned to foster care. She focuses in depth on the lives of five youngsters in foster family and institutional settings, where lack of nurturing, counseling, and therapeutic support is the norm. Toth gleaned these disturbing stories from two years of interviewing social workers, administrators, parents, and the children themselves, finding that the child who breaks out to have some success in life does so despite, rather than because of, the foster care system. These are powerful narratives; Toth's concern for these virtual orphans, ill served by a construct ostensibly in place to help them, is palpable. Recommended for all who care about the treatment and future of some of our most disadvantaged children.‘Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred

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