Sunday, March 12, 2023

A new book unsettles assumptions about “child welfare” foster care and adoption


You probably remember the story: White adoptive parents of six black children drive themselves and the children off a cliff, killing them all.  That may be all you remember, and perhaps wondering what would drive such a noble couple to such despair.  After all, they rescued these children from their terrible parents, didn’t they? 

That was the story most reporters told, without asking any tough questions. 

But one reporter explored the lives of the children and their families.  She found children who not only never should have been placed with the adoptive parents who killed them; they never needed to be placed with strangers at all. 

Reporter Roxanna Asgarian tells the full story in what the Washington Post calls “[a] bracing gut punch of a book,” We Were Once a Family.  It is a book likely to be talked about in the same breath as masterpieces such as Nina Bernstein’s The Lost Children of Wilder and Andrea Elliott’s Invisible Child.

The best testament to this book’s power comes in a review by Jennifer Szalai in The New York Times:

 "[Asgarian] knows that abolishing #fostercare as it’s currently practiced might sound not only undesirable but almost inconceivable to many people — myself among them, at least before the book unsettled some of my assumptions ..." [Emphasis added.] 

See also: 

The review in The New Yorker 

The review in Publisher’s Weekly 

The review on NPR.

The review in The Imprint

Asgarian’s interview with the Los Angeles Times

Asgarian's interview with The Imprint podcast.

An excerpt from the book in The Texas Tribune.

 And after that, you can sign up for Asgarian’s April 6 book talk with the upEND Movement at the University of Houston (it’s both in person and livestreamed). 

But only if you’re ready to have some of your assumptions unsettled.