Growing Up in the Care of Strangers: A Book Review

This insightful book explores the foster care experience from the perspective of former foster children.

Jamie Schwandt March 12, 2018
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This is a review I have been meaning to write for a while now. Waln K. Brown and John R. Seita sent me a copy of their book a few years ago and it had an immediate impact on me. In their book Growing up in the Care of Strangers: The Experiences, Insights and Recommendations of Eleven Former Foster Kids, Brown and Seita uncover the professional insights from former foster children who grew up in juvenile justice, foster care, orphanage, and adoptive and mental health placements. They remark on what it is that makes this book special,

“What makes this book particularly instructive derives from the authors’ credentials. They are all college-educated adults who masterfully intertwine their childhood stories with mature perspectives and their own professional expertise.”

Let’s quickly examine a few statements made by some of the former foster children in the book.

“Changing my life was not easy. It took years of hard work to beat the odds and fix my problems. There were times when life got the best of me and I fell backwards. When that happened, I dug deeper and did not quit. There was too much at stake. As the years slipped by, the pain and problems of the past gave way to the promise of the future. Life became what I made of it.” – Waln Brown

I found the next passage particularly interesting. It is in the form of an analogy comparing placement of a foster child to that of grafting an organ to the body.

“Placing a child in a foster or adoptive home is similar to grafting an organ to the body. One of two things will typically occur: the body will accept the grafted organ and it will thrive, or the body will reject the organ and it will die.” – Phil Quinn

The next passage provides blunt advice for the child welfare system.

“Foster care disempowers children by silencing their voice, withholding information and giving control over the most important decisions of their lives to strangers. This obvious neglect of children’s human right to have some say in what is to become of them instills a sense of helplessness and dependency, which takes a toll when youth age out and try to make it on their own.” – Rosalind Folman

Brown and Seita do a phenomenal job in this book and I highly recommend it to anyone working with children in the child welfare system. It is also a great book for any looking for an inspirational read.

Lastly, let’s take a look at another review of the book. Judge Ernestine Gray remarked of the book,

“This book is a must read for all persons charged with the responsibility of ensuring the best interests of children in the foster care system. The stories provide valuable insights that can form the basis of a much-needed restructuring of the child welfare, juvenile justice and mental health systems. The question is, will the ‘experts’ have the courage to listen and act on this information?”

For more information about this book or to purchase a copy, click here.

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Jamie Schwandt

Dr. Jamie Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an author and former foster child. He is a TV show host, motivational speaker, lean six sigma master black belt, statistics professor, and a major in the U.S. Army. Dr. Schwandt is the author of the books Finding Your Hero (2015) and Succeeding as a Foster Child (2014). He is the host of the inspiring TV show Dreaming Big and is a fitness expert with a unique mindset for positive growth. You can find his published work here, his website, Facebook, and Twitter.


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