Friday, July 8, 2011

(57) Saving Lives one child at a time

Title: Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison
Publisher: Penguin
224 Pages
Genre: non-fiction - foster care- adoption

Synopsis: It's 1988, and Harrison, a happily married mother of three, takes a job with Head Start, working with at-risk four-year-olds. Her heart goes out to the foster kids; before long, she and her husband take state training and adopt two sisters. Five children make a big family, but Harrison finds it tough to turn her back on needy children. She and her husband start accepting emergency care "hot-line" foster children, too; soon, Harrison quits her day job and becomes a full-time-overtime, really-foster parent. In addition to a stay-at-home mom's usual duties, Harrison is caring for children with serious emotional baggage and often complex medical problems. There are lawyers, therapists and social service people to meet with, plus the scheduling of visits to birth mothers, an emotional roller coaster for all parties. Birth mothers, she finds, are often "harder to hate than you might expect," and when an especially difficult child comes along, it's almost impossible to accept that even foster parents have their limitations.

Review: No one ever said parenting is easy and parenting someone else's children with emotional baggage is often overwhelming.  Kathy Harrison's account of being a foster parent is a very real no holds barred account of the heartbreak, overwhelming work and love it takes to be there for these children.  She in no way feels that she is perfect and doesn't hold herself up as some type of saint.  She readily admits her mistakes, confusion, and overwhelm at tackling the task of giving the kids who come into her care a stable and loving environment even if its just for one day.

Another Place mainly focuses on four of the foster children that Kathy took into her care.  Danny, a boy whose mentally ill mother can't care for him. Danny is mentally retarded and shows signs of being a sexual abuser and he's only eight. Sara, a sexually abuse little girl of six. She was quiet, angry and sexually inappropriate.  She would curse, throw tantrums, and act out. Lucy, a quiet girl whose mother couldn't be bothered parenting and used the foster care system as a babysitting service when she got overwhelmed until the state finally called her bluff and terminated her parental rights and placed Lucy for adoption.  Karen came to the Harrison's when she was an infant.  Kathy's home was the only home she knew and she had limited contact with her drug addicted mother.

Kathy also has 3 biological boys and 2 adopted girls but she opens her home to children who are broken, abused and have no where else to go.  Their stories are frightening, the trauma they deal with doesn't seem to end and yet Kathy keeps opening her door.  Its sometimes hard to remember how old the children are that she is describing in the book since their behaviors seem so much older and when you are reminded how young they are your heart breaks.

This book is not for the faint at heart but it is a fabulous look inside the reality of foster care.  It shows that not all foster homes are bad and that the people who put themselves out there for these children deal with a lot, more than most people can imagine.  Once I picked this book up I couldn't put it down until I was done. It was that riveting and that real.  I am in awe of Kathy Harrison and her family and I applaud those families who open their hearts to these broken children and try to heal them, by giving them love, hope and a family.

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