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The Lost Children of Wilder. (Book Reviews).

by Nina Bernstein

Reading Bernstein's book, I could not stop thinking about my brief enounters with the child welfare system in New York City. The most painful one came in my fourth and best year of teaching. Three of my students, cousins living under the same roof, disappeared into the foster care system overnight. The social worker had interviewed them the day before, but I was shocked at how swift and extreme the response was. I had known the primary caretaker to be a loving and sincere man who was battling manic depression. But, he lacked the support necessary to keep his family and his health together. This was clearly a case of neglect, burl had seen graver cases of outright abuse, of suspected molestation even, that were dismissed by the Bureau of Child Welfare. In the rest of my time as a teacher, watching more children taken into foster care and hearing more stories from veteran teachers, at best I concluded that the system is arbitrary, and at worst, that it is racist.

The Lost Children of Wilder gives a history of this system through the story of an ACLU class action lawsuit and its main plaintiff, Shirley Wilder. Bernstein gives detail after frustrating detail of the evolution of this case, which challenged the way the child welfare system is funded. Until recently, Catholic and Jewish organizations got most of the public funding in New York City to place needy children, leaving black Protestant children to languish in foster care or in prison-like group homes and reform schools. Shirley Wilder's harrowing journey is indicative of how this system would rather criminalize black children than nurture them. Her story is well-told and moving. On the other hand, the story of the legal case, bogged down in bureaucracy for 26 years, bogs down the book as well. Despite that, or because of it, this is an informative book for anyone interested in the child welfare and foster care system.
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Author:Sen, Chaiti
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2002
Previous Article:Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past. (Book Reviews).
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