Last July, my wife and I attended New York City’s 30-hour MAPP training (Model Approach to Partnerships and Parenting) to find out if we were ready to become foster parents. We love children and have discussed the possibility of fostering for a few years.
Through the training and other conversations with our foster care agency as well as current foster parents, we learned so much about the system. Mainly we learned that foster care is much more complicated, flawed, and messy than we ever thought. Don’t get me wrong—that doesn’t mean that it’s not an important and good thing to become a foster home. But doing so requires a LOT of research. Thankfully, there are plenty of great books about foster care that can help you make the best decision for your family and the children that may come into your life.
The books about foster care on this list will help everyone from foster parents to children in care to biological children in a foster family navigate the tricky aspects and emotions of becoming a foster home.
Honestly, building this list was challenging. Too many books about foster care can paint fostering as a sort of “heroism” while vilifying the parents—more often than not parents of color—who have their children taken from them, often unjustly. I’m not saying this is always the case, but we need books that give us a clear-eyed view of the realities of the foster care system.
It’s also hard to find books that focus on fostering more than, or as much as, adoption. The two are inextricably linked, to be sure, but they are not the same thing. The goal of fostering is always to see a child reunited with their family. Many children in care do get adopted by foster families, but that is always a last resort.
For that reason, I’ve tried to focus on books that center on foster care rather than adoption. You can find more children’s books about adoption here.
Books About Foster Care For Foster Parents
This book is a thorough, no-frills look at the complexities of a deeply broken system. Even though she’s a foster mother herself, Beam doesn’t write solely from her own perspective. Instead, she follows the traces the life cycle of the foster process, from initial placement in a home all the way through “aging out.” Beam doesn’t shy away from the racist roots of the foster care system while simultaneously hoping for a better way forward.
Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin
This memoir about a single Black mother adopting a Black child out of the foster care system came about when Austin realized that every book on adoption she came across was by a white person. By exposing the racism and sexism that she experienced on her journey (like being routinely asked why she wanted a “crack baby,”) Austin sets out to change our perception of motherhood as purely a white phenomenon.
Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Who better to explain the pitfalls of the foster care system than someone who spent nine years of her life shuffled between 14 different homes? Rhodes-Courter was placed into care in Florida when she was three, and suffered abuse and neglect from several foster families before finally being adopted. She published this memoir when she was just 22 and it went on to be a New York Times Best Seller. Today, Rhodes-Courter is an MSW, a philanthropist for child welfare causes, and an adoptive and foster mother herself.
Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare by Dorothy Roberts
If you really want to know the truth behind the racial inequities of the foster care system, check out Shattered Bonds. Roberts, the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society, delivers an unflinching exposé on the child welfare state. A legal theoretician, Roberts utilizes original interviews with Chicago foster families to reveal how the system so often fails families of color.
Books About Foster Care For Children In Care
N.B. In MAPP training, we learned that “child/children in care” is a more inclusive term than “foster child.” This may not be everyone’s experience, and foster families in different parts of the countries may use different terms. But for the purposes of this article, I have used the term “child in care” to refer to children who are placed in foster homes.
The Who Loves Series
This series of faith-based books is written for different ages. There’s Who Loves Baby? for ages 0–3, Who Loves Me? for ages 3–7, and I Am Loved for ages 7–10. Each book is an age-appropriate reminder for children in care that they are loved by all of the different adults that are in their lives. Each book can be purchased separately, or all three come as a set—a good idea if you plan to have a foster child for several years.
Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson and Jon Muth
Jacqueline Woodson is a prolific author and her books for young readers are not to be missed. This children’s book depicts kinship foster care—when children get placed in the care of a close relative or family friend—in a way that is both realistic and sensitive. On her website, Woodson says, “There are all kinds of families in the world and I wanted to write a book about this. What makes a family isn’t about who you live with but how much they love you.”
Far From The Tree by Robin Benway
Far From the Tree is a YA novel about foster care and adoption that won both the National Book Award and the Pen America Award in 2017. It is the story of three siblings—Grace, Maya, and Joaquin, all of whom are in separate families after being adopted or living in the foster care system. When a circumstance in Grace’s life leads her to search out her biological family, these three siblings learn what it means to really be a family.
Maybe Days by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright and Alissa Imre Geis
Explaining foster care is tough enough for adults; we can only imagine how hard it is to explain all of the facets involved to children. Thankfully, Maybe Days helps put all of these factors into a way that is easy to explain, and it’s meant specifically for children entering the foster care system. It lays out the responsibilities of the foster parents, the social worker, and even the court system. Most importantly, it encourages children to continue doing what they do best:being children.
What I Carry by Jennifer Longo
Another YA book that depicts a teenager—this one named Muriel, or Muir for short—as she is ready to age out of the foster care system. Having spent her entire life going from foster home to foster home, Muir has learned not to let herself get too attached to anyone or anything. But at 17, when she is put into her last placement with Francine in a tiny island community, Muir begins to get attached—against her better judgment.
Books About Foster Care For Biological Children In The Foster Family
It’s Okay To Wonder by Rhonda Wagner and Jim Lutz
One of the most difficult relationships to navigate in foster care can be that of your biological children, if you have any. This children’s book is about Avery, a young girl whose parents have decided to foster. With the help of her grandparents, she learns that its okay to have conflicting emotions about the new family dynamic that might come about. This book has a personal touch—Wagner wrote it for her own granddaughter when her daughter and son-in-law decided to become foster parents.