Saturday, May 26, 2007

Book Review: The Lost Children of Wilder

A couple days ago I finished The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care. Although at first the writing style annoyed me, about half way through the story started to pick up some momentum and I began to get into it. The book uses the story of Shirley Wilder and her son Lamont Wilder, both of whom spent their entire childhood in foster care, to illustrate the problems with New York's foster care system and foster care generally. In addition the book follows the case bearing Shirley Wilder's name and Marcia Lowry, the lawyer who brought the case against the city and the religious foster care agencies. It is a powerful story and it really demonstrates what a difficult and emotionally charged problem the care of children who's parents are not able to care for them is.

One of the main things I got out of this book was a better understanding of how children end up in foster care. I had assumed that children in foster care came exclusively from homes where they were abused or intentionally neglected, but the author makes clear that many children end up in foster care simply because their parents cannot afford to care for them. This is a failure of our society, rather than a failure on the part of the parents and is more proof that for all our talk of "family values" we don't value families enough to take care of them. It is so odd that we would rather pay strangers to care for a child than give the child's own parents the assistance they need to raise the child themselves.

There really wasn't a happy ending and the case itself seemed to do little to really bring about change other than focusing attention on the problem (which certainly isn't nothing as the attention did bring about changes, but few changes were achieved through the law). In a way it was kind of discouraging because this issue is one I am interested in, but the book left me with the feeling that even if I dedicated my life to improving the lives of children in foster care, as Marcia Lowry did, I might, in the end, feel that I hadn't accomplished anything.


Lisa said...

I'm a former foster child and current child advocate.

I read the Lost Children of Wilder -- and was terribly depressed afterwards.

The book was written by a journalist, who was not personally involved in trying to save the children. So he neither felt the pain of watching them struggle, nor the deep joy of watching them overcome.

There are far better and more encouraging books out there, including true stories that will encourage and inspire you.

Here are some examples:

1.) I Speak for This Child: True Stories of a Child Advocate by Gay Courter

2.) True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

3.) Twilight Children: Three Voices No One Heard Until a Therapist Listened by Torey Hayden

4.) Breakfast with Tiffany: An Uncle's Memoir by Edwin John Wintle

5.) One Small Boat: The Story of a Little Girl, Lost Then Found by Kathy Harrison


saramel said...

Thanks for your comment and the book recommendations. I will definitely check those out. I have read many of Torey Hayden's books, but I hadn't heard of the one you listed.