Thursday, December 29, 2011

Annotated Bibliography For Children In Foster Care

Hi everyone! My classes for the semester are over, and I'm waiting to start student teaching on the 17th of January. In the mean time, I've been working on my portfolio! I found a project I did back in 2007 for a children's literature class. We were supposed to create an annotated bibliography of books that could help children deal with a certain issue of our choice. Having worked a lot with children in foster care, I did mine on foster care. It got an A+ ! I thought I'd share it with you. I am working on updating it, since the last books listed here were published in 2007. Please let me know about any other children's books (especially newer ones) that you may be aware of that could be helpful to kids in foster care! Feel free to use this list for your own reference.

  • "Entering foster care is a crisis for children. Separated from everything they have ever known, most children do not look at this experience as a positive change for their own safety, but as a frightening and sad event in their lives.
Reading, and being read to, about foster care, can help children to understand why this is happening and what will happen next. It can help them understand the feelings they are going through, and help them talk about these feelings with the adults in their lives.
The following is an annotated bibliography of books about foster care, for children of different ages. If you are a foster parent or work with children in foster care, please pick out a few of these books to share with them.
Older children and teens may be more reluctant to read these books, but leaving them around in accessible places almost guarantees that the books will at least be peeked at!
Please note that, instead of listing these books alphabetically, I have listed them in order of age-appropriateness, starting with books for younger children. It is also important to realize that some children may be at a different level, emotionally or developmentally, than their chronilogical age would suggest. Older kids and teenagers may benefit from seeing some of the books on this list that are meant for much younger children. It may be a good idea to expose children to a variety of these books, and let them choose which ones they are most comfortable with.
Kitze, Carrie A. I Don't Have Your Eyes. Warren, NJ: EMK Press, 2003.
(ages 2-5)
This picture book may have originally been written for children who were adopted, but it can also be understood by young children in foster care. The book explains how, even though they may not look like the other people in their family, things like kindness, faith, patience, pride, etc, are things that children get from their family members, whether or not they share physical characteristics or the same DNA.

Goldsmith, Diedre O'Gorman. How Micah Helped Build A Family: A Story For Foster And Adopted Children. Victoria, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2003.
(ages 2-8)
Micah, a little boy who is living with his foster parents, has trouble understanding why he cannot stay with them forever. He wonders if he has done something wrong to make them send him away. The foster parents explain to him over and over that they are only caring for him until just the right family is found for him. Later, after just the right family does get found, Micah wonders if this family will send him away also... After all, he was "sent away" by his birth parents and then his foster parents already! His new parents must help him understand that they will be his parents forever.
This book will be helpful for parents who are adopting children from foster care, to reinforce the idea that although a child's birth parents were unable to care for him, and his foster families were only temporary, thisfamily is going to be around for a long, long time!

Lovell, Cynthia Miller. The Star: A Story To Help Young Children Understand Foster Care. Battle Creek, MI: Roger Owen Rossman, 1999.
(ages 3-6)
When young Kit is brought to a foster home for the first time, a star outside her window helps her to deal with the emotions she's going through, and accompanies her throughout her foster care journey.

Gordon, Michael. I'd Rather Be With A Real Mom Who Loves Me: A Story For Foster Children. DeWitt, NY: GSI Publications, 1995.
(ages 4-9)
This story is about a little boy in foster care, who is dealing with a lot of anger and sadness about his separation from his "real" family. Although he knows that his mother didn't take care of him and his father hurt him, he feels that he'd still rather be with them, because he knows they are his family. He is also upset about having to be in therapy. The little boy feels that nobody understands him. This is a great book for children who feel that nobody understands them, and who perhaps feel that they are the only ones who feel the way they do. As the little boy in the story works through his feelings, real-life children can work through theirs.
This story is considered a little bit controversial, because of the title, and the fact that there is no "happy" ending, In many books about foster care, the children ultimately go home, or get adopted, but at the end of this story, the little guy is still in foster care.

Stanek, Muriel. My Little Foster Sister. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman and Co, 1982.
(ages 4-7)
The young narrator is upset and jealous when Penny, a foster child whose parents have died, moves in with the family. But after the narrator defends Penny from a "big bully", the two become very close... so close that the narrator is very sad when Penny leaves to go to an adoptive home in another state!
This may be a good book to help birth children in foster families understand the comings and goings of children in foster care... although it seems to be sort of an overly simplified look at foster care!

Blomquist, Geraldine. Zachary's New Home: A Story For Foster And Adopted Children. Washington, DC: Magination Press, 1990.
(ages 4-7)
Life becomes rough for Zachary, who is a kitten, when his dad disappears and his mom stops playing with him and taking care of him. A social worker, who happens to be a kangaroo, takes Zachary to a foster home, where he cohabits with many other animals until he ends up being adopted by some ducks.
This is another oversimplified story about foster care and adoption, but it does deal with realistic feelings about abandonment and changes... and the animal pictures are adorable!

Herbert, Stefon. I Miss My Foster Parents. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1991.
(ages 4-8)
This book is written (and illustrated, with the help of a big brother) by a 7-year-old boy who lived with a foster family for three years, before being adopted by a different family at the age of 6. Both he and his sister Latisha, who is being adopted by the same family, go through feelings of fear and anxiety about having new parents, and they miss the foster parents that they've grown to love over the past few years. However, as they begin to get to know their new parents, they learn that they can love their adoptive parents, yet miss their foster parents at the same time. They plan to keep their foster parents as part of their extended family.

Julie Nelson. Kids Need To Be Safe: A Book For Children In Foster Care. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc, 2006.
(ages 4-10)
Going into foster care is extremely confusing for children. What may seem to be dangerous, troubled or sad lives to us, are the only lives these children know... and when they are taken away from those lives, all they know is, Mom and Dad are gone, brothers and sisters may be gone, my bed is gone, my toys are gone, and where am I?
Kids Need To Be Safe is a beautiful and gentle attempt to explain to children what is going on. The book ex plains that while usually parents take care of children, sometimes parents need help... whether that help is from relatives, or caring people whose jobs are to help children. Over and over, this story reiterates one concept: "Kids are important. Kids need to be safe."
The story goes through different feelings children might have while in foster care, including feeling angry at their parents. It points out that, even when parents have big problems, they still love their children.
The illustrations are beautifully vivid. One unforgettable image shows a homeless family sitting on a park bench, the father feeding a toddler in a stroller, two little boys crying, and a mother looking sad. Another shows a diaper-clad toddler screaming, and a young girl staring out the window, while their mother nurses a beer in their garbage-littered house. These illustrations may seem intense to the average person, but because young readers may have been in the same situations, illustrating them seems to say, "Its okay. This happens to many people. We know. We understand."
This book should be the first one read aloud to young children entering foster care!

Nelson, Julie. Families Change: A Book For Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc, 2007.
(ages 4-10)
The usual goal of foster care is to provide care for children until their parents are able to meet the requirements needed to continue raising them safely. But sometimes this does not seem likely to happen. In these cases, a parent's parental rights may be terminated, either possibly freeing the child to be adopted or to be appointed a permanent guardian.
Families Change, by the same author as Kids Need To Be Safe, is a book that explains the many, many ways that families can go through changes. It explains that someone may join a family through marriage, birth, or adoption... and someone may leave a family by moving away, going off to college, going to jail, or going to treatment. Children get bigger, people move, people encounter big problems, people lose their parental rights... All of these changes are calmly related as part of life.
The book talks about how families come in many different ways. A child may have a mother who he lived with when he was a baby, a foster mother who helped care for him when he was a little bigger, and a new adoptive mother who will be there forever. All of these mothers are part of the child's family.
It touches upon how birth parents might be upset when they lose their parental rights, but underneath it all birth parents really just want their children to be happy. The story encourages children to remember the good and bad times with their birth families, and shows that it is okay for children to keep on loving their birth families, even as they grow to love the people in their new everyday families.
This book is yet another wonderful resource for children going through changes that may be very confusing to them.

Wilgocki, Jennifer. Maybe Days: A Book For Children In Foster Care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2002.
(ages 4-10)
This colorful book explains the different reasons kids may go into foster care, the jobs of the different people they will encounter in foster care, and why the answers to so many of their questions are "Maybe." It also explains the choices kids will have in foster care, such as what to call their foster parents, and whether to tell other kids that they are in foster care.

MacLachlan, Patricia. Mama One, Mama Two. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.
(ages 5-7)
Little Maudie and her foster mother tell each other of how they met... When Maudie's birth mother, Mama One, began to have big problems, she called a social worker for help, and Maudie was taken into foster care so that her mother could go to the hospital.
This is a sweet story that shows Maudie's love and trust for her foster mother, whom she calls "Mama Two." It portrays foster parents and social workers as people who are working to help a child and a parent to be together again soon.

Banish, Rosalyn. A Forever Family: Stories And Pictures. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
(ages 5-8)
This is a photo-essay written by an 8-year-old girl named Jennifer, with the help of author Roslyn Banish. Jennifer describes how, when she was 3 years old, she had to go into foster care because her birth parents had big problems and couldn't care for her. Jennifer then lived with a foster family for several years. When she was seven, she met the people who would eventually adopt her. Jennifer explains how scared she was when she first met her prospective parents, and how they all slowly got to know each other before deciding for sure that they wanted to become a family.

Kuklin, Susan. Mine For A Year. New York : Coward-McCann, 1984.
(ages 6-10)
This is a true story, as told by George, a young boy in foster care. As a way of helping children connect to others, George's foster mother has all of her foster children participate in a program where they train dogs to be seeing eye dogs. Although George will only have his dog for a year, he becomes very attached to the puppy. In the end, George will learn that loving something, and letting it go, can be a wonderful thing.
This book is from the early eighties, and modern children in foster care may or may not relate, but animal lovers will definitely enjoy it!

Levy, Janice. Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can't Live With Their Parents. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2004.
(ages 6-12)
This is the story of a little girl who has been living in a homeless shelter with her alcoholic mother, and staying home from school in order to care for her mother. When a judge decides the girl must go into foster care, the little girl moves in with a wonderful foster parent called Aunt Dane, who does a beautiful job at helping the little girl work through her feelings about her mother. (At one point she allows the child to work out her anger by pounding on pizza dough!) In a subplot, the little girl slowly gets an unapproachable dog to trust her. A wonderful story that will touch hearts.

Morris, Kimberly. Just For Now: Kids And People Of the Court. Houston: Child Advocates, 2006.
(ages 6-12)
Because children's needs often get lost in the shuffle of the court system, many states use volunteers called Court Appointed Special Advocates, who work with just one or two cases of children at a time, really get to know the children, and become advocates for their needs. This book, a special project of the CASA organization, is about two children who enter foster care and encounter many people... police officers, foster parents and siblings, lawyers, judges, social workers, etc, They also meet their CASA, who guides them through their foster care journey and helps them understand what is happening.
This one is a very detailed and carefully-written book, and may be especially helpful to kids who are just entering foster care and need help keeping straight all the new people and events they come across. It is probably also the most modern book about foster care that I've encountered so far, and the one that is the most straight-forward with kids. A must-have for everyone who has or works with children in foster care.

Weitzman, Elizabeth. Lets Talk About Foster Homes. New York: PowerKids Press. 1997.
(ages 7-9)
This short book explains foster care in a simple, informational way that young kids can understand. Each "chapter" is about one page long, and topics covered are what happens to siblings in foster care, following different rules in different foster homes, dealing with feelings, what birth parents have to do, etc. Parts of it are a little preachy, though... "If your foster parents tell you to finish your spinach, be proud! They're doing it because they care about you!"

Anderson, Deborah. Jason's Story: Going To A Foster Home. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Pr, 1986.
(ages 8-10)
"Jason's Story" is a long one, that could probably be read independently by kids who are into reading "Chapter Books." Little Jason has been through a long odyssey. Put into foster care as an infant, he thought of his first foster family as his own, until his mother got him back two years later. But his mother quickly returns to her old behaviors, and after a few years Jason is back in foster care. This time he has a much harder time with dealing with his feelings... but receives help from a social worker who was also in foster care as a child. In the end, the system works as it should, and Jason and his mother are reunited safely.
This story could also be good for a child who has never been in foster care, but has a friend who is in care, or whose family is going to become a foster family. The book helps explain why kids end up in foster care, and what the goal of foster care is.

Martin, Ann M. The Babysitters Club: Kristy And The Worst Kid Ever. New York: Scholastic, Inc, 1993.
(ages 8-12)
The members of the famous Babysitters Club are excited to learn that one of their client families are becoming foster parents. But when Lou, their first foster child, arrives, she acts differently than any of the other children the babysitters have met! The babysitters slowly grow to understand why Lou acts the way she does, and they work to help her fit into the community better.
This one may be better-suited to help non-foster-children to understand what life in foster care is like.

Quattlebaum, Mary. Grover G. Graham and Me. New York: Yearling Publishers, 2003.
(ages 9-13)
Eleven-year-old Ben has been in and out of so many foster homes, he's learned to "blank" out any feelings he has for the foster parents and foster siblings he meets. But in his eighth foster home... supposedly a placement just for the summer until his social worker can find something better... Ben meets one-year-old Grover G Graham. The toddler is the only one who can break through Ben's hard shell and capture his affection... and soon Ben finds himself loving Grover so much, he's willing to do anything to protect Grover from going through what he, himself has been through.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2003.
(ages 10-12)
Lonnie once had a very happy family, but he lost them all, four years ago. His parents died in a fire, and when he and his younger sister were put in foster care, they went to separate foster homes. Lonnie is eleven now and used to going from foster home to foster home, keeping his feelings inside. But when his teacher encourages him to write his feelings into poetry, Lonnie finally has a way of connecting to people.
This book of poetry, supposedly written by young Lonnie, would be a great way to encourage children in foster care to keep their own journals as a way of expressing themselves.

Wolfson, Jill. What I Call Life. New York: Henry Holt and Co, 2005.
(ages 10-13)
11-year-old Cal is used to acting like an adult and taking care of her unpredictable mother, Betty. But when one of Betty's "episodes" lands her in a psychiatric hospital, and lands Cal in a group home for girls in foster care, Cal must learn to let go of her need to be in charge, and learn to let others care for her.
A nice book, with an interesting sub-story about the Orphan Train!

Wolfson, Jill. Home, And Other Big, Fat Lies. New York: Henry Holt and Co, LTC, 2006.
(ages 10-13)
Older kids in foster care might not be as willing to sit down and read a factual book about foster care, but they may enjoy reading novels about kids around their own age, going through similar situations. Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies is a wonderful example of a book about a kid in foster care!
Eleven-year-old Whitney (first seen in What I Call Life) had heart disease as a toddler, causing her to be very small for her age, but her heart itself is very big! She has ADHD, and has created a reputation for herself of being fearless and kind of goofy, but only the readers get to know that on the inside, a lot of this behavior is just a cover up for her insecurities.
Arriving in a small northern California logging town (her twelfth foster home!) at first Whitney makes enemies by becoming a :"tree hugger" and attempting to save the mother redwood tree in the forest... but eventually, just by being her natural self, she is able to win over the town, save the tree, and find herself a new home!
This is a story that is told with truth and humor, and can show kids in foster care that they can be important in the lives of others.

Barmat, Jeanne. Foster Families. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1991.
(ages 10-13)
This is another factual book, presenting much of the same types of information as Nancy Millichap Davies's book Foster Care, but in a simpler, thinner, more easily digestible format. 10 to 13 year olds who enjoy reading factual information may get a lot out of this one.

Falke, Joseph. Everything You Need To Know About Living In A Foster Home. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1995.
(ages 10-13)
An easy-to-read guide that tells kids what they might expect from being in foster care, shares stories of real-life kids in foster care, and gives advice on how to cope with unfamiliar rules, being separated from siblings, and preparing for the future.

Shaw, Susan. The Boy From The Basement. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2004.
(ages 11-14)
In this novel, 12-year-old Charlie spends most of his time locked in the basement by his seriously mentally ill, abusive father. The only time he gets out is after his parents go to bed, when he sneaks into the kitchen to get food, and goes outside to feel the fresh air. But one night, sick, feverish and confused, Charlie stumbles outside, gets lost, and ends up in the hospital. His ultimate destination turns out to be a foster home, where Charlie must learn that the whole world is not as cruel as his world was.
This book may be a little heavy for some kids in foster care, as the details of the physical and emotional abuse and neglect Charlie receives at the hands of his parents may hit a little too close to home. But the overall message of the book is that, no matter what a kid has done or how "badly" he thinks he's acted, he does not deserve to be abused.

Byars, Betsy. The Pinballs. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.
(ages 10-13)
This oldie-but-goodie is a classic that has been turned into a play and an after-schol special, and used in school curriculums. Carly, Harvey and Thomas J. are three very different kids whose lives are thrown together by fate, when they all end up entering the same foster home on the same day. Carly compares the three of them to pinballs, shot out of a machine and bouncing around randomly in the world. But as the kids begin to get to know each other, they start to become friends and help each other out. They realize that they don't necessarily have to be pinballs in the game of life, but can make decisions for themselves.
Although the story was written in, and set in, the 70's, modern readers will find that the issues Carly, Harvey and Thomas J. faced are the same types of issues faced by kids in foster care today,,, abuse, abandonment and neglect, parental substance abuse, worrying about visitation with parents, feelings of being unable to make their own decisions, etc. This is a great story for kids in foster care to read, if they sometimes feel like they're bounced around like pinballs.

Blomquist, Geraldine M. Coping As A Foster Child. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1992.
(ages 13-17)
This is a book written for teens in foster care. It covers topics such as being put in foster care, not wanting to stay in a foster home, waiting to be adopted, etc. The situations are talked about through stories and descriptions of real teenagers in foster care and what they went through. After each story, the book explores what went wrong in the teen's situation, what things were able to help each teen, what things could have helped the teen, and what the teen could have done differently for himself. This book can help teens in foster care to think about their own situations, to make good choices, and to be advocates for themselves.

Davies, Nancy Millichap. Foster Care. New York: Franklin Watts Publisher, 1994.
(ages 13+)
This book is more of a factual book that could be used by a youngster who wants to write a term paper or report about foster care. It covers the history of foster care, reasons children go into foster care both now and historically, the jobs of foster parents, case workers and the courts, etc.
While this book might be too wordy for some, it may catch the interest of kids in foster care who are comforted by doing research and learning facts about their situation.

Desetta, Al. The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices From The Foster Care System. New York: Persea Books, 1996.
(ages 14-adult)
This is a collection of writings by teenagers in foster care, who tell about their life experiences, how they've dealt with different things, what mistakes have caused them to face dire consequences, etc. Since these are real kids who have gone through many different things, every teen in foster care should be able to relate to at least one story.
These stories, which are told truthfully and without self-pity, msy inspire other kids in foster care to keep on trying and hoping for the future!

Ulch, Virginia. Love, Bandit: A Tail Of Foster Care. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2007.
(all ages)
The adorable photographs in this book will capture the attention of little animal lovers, as they follow the adventures of Bandit, a baby raccoon. His dad took off when he was just a baby, and his mother often leaves him in charge of his four younger siblings. When his mother disappears and doesn't come back, Bandit sets out to find food for his siblings, but gets captured by a hawk! Luckily the hawk drops him. Imagine Bandit's confusion when a group of humans find the injured baby raccoon, crying for his mommy! The humans decide to care for Bandit, and he experiences many things similar to things that human children experience in foster care.
Thats all I have for now, but I'd love to add any other books you know of or have found helpful. Thanks for reading! 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review of Families Change & Kids Need to Be Safe, Angel! I love your feedback. Any chance we could use a quote from you on our website? If so, please email me:

    Elena Meredith
    Free Spirit Publishing


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