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Toth's first book, The Mole People (1993), described her descent into the tunnels beneath Manhattan, in search of the homeless, disaffected figures inhabiting that eerie netherworld. As in that earlier work, she brings to this book the same courage, perserverence, and ability to draw from people their private thoughts. Included are the sagas of teenagers and young adults abandoned in fact or in spirit by their parents, who early on entered the "system," meaning the social-services child- protective system. Each of the children caromed from caseworker to caseworker, from foster home to group home to juvenile detention center, from relatives to friends to the streets. Sometimes the relatives did more damage than the group homes, sometimes the reverse, but the damage was always compounded by rootlessness and rigidity and by the absence (or betrayal) of hope. Toth chose her subjects (Damien and Sebastian, who meet and clash in a group home in North Carolina; Jamie, also from North Carolina; Angel, from Los Angeles; and Bryan, from Chicago) both because their cases seemed representative and because they agreed to talk to her (making them, perhaps, somewhat less representative). She is able to maintain a humane objectivity in documenting their stories—being empathetic without either entirely excusing or blaming the caseworkers, the children (who have burgled, raped, and maimed, abused drugs, engaged in prostitution, and tortured animals), or even their parents, always the likeliest target. An introductory chapter sets up the social stats: increasing numbers of children in care, causes and solutions as they are best understood, mixed messages, and missed diagnoses.
There is no formula here for solving the tragic problems; there are only the problems—raw, sad, always frustrating, but sometimes with unexpectedly rewarding resolutions. Toth tells it like it is.
Posted April 26, 2000
As a social worker, youth counselor, foster parent and former DCFS foster care caseworker, I was deeply touched with the honesty and integrity that Jennifer brings to her work. Rarely has an author been able to so accurately put the reader in the shoes of these wounded kids. While some may be turned off at the bleak hopelessness that many of these kids feel, if we are going to help and heal the youth of today's foster care system, we must first be willing to honestly address the reality of their world. Jennifer does this in a highly professional yet deeply loving way. I HIGHLY recommend this to all foster parents, foster care workers and youth counselors. But mostly, I recommend this to parents of at-risk and troubled youth. It will enlighten all into how the world looks through the eyes of these kids.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.