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The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2002

    Heartbreaking and Honest

    This book is full of fascinating and horrible details about New York's foster care system. Despite the incredible amount of information to digest, it is well well-written and easy to read. This book exploded my naive perception that children in foster care were cared for and treated well. It seems that most children (unless white, Catholic, or Jewish) were stuffed wherever there was a bed--or just an agency willing to take a child for money. Children who are removed from abusive homes seem to be worse off in the foster care system: they are still abused, neglected, misunderstood, and have no permanent caretakers. This book shows that more than ever that the color of a child's skin determines the worth of the child and the type of care he will receive. The other theme in the book is the idea that poverty is still a crime, and the people who know the least about poverty are the ones trying to fix it. Poverty is what keeps the child foster system in business.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2001

    Non-fiction Dickens That You Can't Put Down

    First there's the story -- a gripping tale that puts you in the shoes of Shirley Wilder, an abused girl sent to a harsh reform school in 1973 not because she committed a crime, but because she was a black Protestant. The New York foster care system let Jewish and Catholic agencies, which controlled most of the public money for care, give preference to kids of their own religion. Shirley runs away, becomes pregnant at 14, and must leave her son to the same system. His story is heartwrenching -- you'll need tissues. At one point he is sent to be adopted by a white couple in Minnesota who give him up less than a year later, passing him on at 6 to another white family who soon send him back to New York. But the human story is intercut with a fascinating account of the lawsuit challenging this system, a battle between a civil liberties lawyer, Marcia Lowry, and the New York establishment, including the well-meaning board members of the religious charities, the arrogant partners of the biggest law firms, and the politicians who rely on ethnic/religious patronage to stay in office. Finally, woven into the story, there's eye-opening history, like the fact that nuns at New York Foundling used to carry babies to the Museum of Natural History for an anthropololgist to decide whether they had black blood. If they did, they stayed in the institution instead of being adopted -- and this went on through the 1960s! The narrative reaches 2000, with a twist that brings home how much is wrong with the way we treat poor families today. You don't have to be a lawyer or a social worker to appreciate this masterfully written book, but for anyone working with children or in civil liberties, it is a must.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2001

    A must read

    This is an incredible book. Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, it seamlessly weaves the story of a family trapped in New York City's foster care system, the history of foster care in New York, and the struggle of a small group of dedicated lawyers who wanted to make a difference. It should be required reading for anyone who works with kids, especially in a legal context. Bernstein provides an objective but devastating critique of the City's failed efforts to help the neediest children in New York, as well as a moving story about the people behind the statistics. I've recommended it to many friends.

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