Child advocates release book for youngsters in foster care
| Book characters Rachel and Gilbert meet their advocate - illustration by Tony Sansevero
having to pack your things and leave home for an unfamiliar place,
family and school without knowing if or when you will be able to return
This is the experience of many children who enter the foster care system every year.
happens is life changes in an instant,” said Kimberly Morris, author of
the new children’s book “Just for Now: kids and the people of the
“Someone comes in, packs up their stuff and they are
taken on this bewildering journey, and they really don’t know whose job
Jackie Crowley saw the effects often experienced by
children entering the foster care system first hand when she took on
her first case as a volunteer court appointed special advocate or child
She was assigned to a case with three children, ages
3, 5 and 7, who were very upset and having difficulty grasping what was
happening to them and the roles of all of the people handling their
wished there was a simple tool she could use to ease their fears and
explain what was going on in terms they could understand.
did research and found books about adoption and foster care, but
nothing that explained all of the situations and legal terms kids would
need to know.
“I kept thinking, wouldn’t it be great if we had some kind of communication tool?” she said.
So she set to making one.
| Barbara Abell and Jackie Crowley
retired Galleria-area resident teamed up with her friend, Barbara
Abell, and the pair began drawing up plans for a children’s book about
the foster care system. They met at Abell’s West University house over
coffee every Tuesday, no matter what for about three years. Their
research led them to children’s writer Kimberly Morris, who they saw
speaking at a children’s conference, and the result is being published
The book, “Just for Now: kids and the people of the
court” is about a brother and sister, Rachel and Gilbert, who are sent
to live with a foster family while their mother deals with substance
Along the way they meet foster brothers and
sisters who are in their own unique situations. One is there until his
parents get out of jail, another because her parents hit her and a pair
of twins who don’t really know why they are there.
The foster siblings bond when Gilbert finds a stray dog and decides to keep him, unbeknownst to his foster parents.
The children take turns checking up on the dog, who they keep in a backyard shed until he runs away one day.
Gilbert tells Mrs. Hart, his court appointed special advocate, and she helps him tell their foster parents.
dog becomes a way of telling a parallel story about neglect,” Morris
said. The kids realize that even though they love the dog, they can’t
properly take care of him.
“They learn that taking care of anything is a full-time responsibility or commitment,” Morris said.
of people had a hand in creating the book’s storyline. Kathleen Burke,
a former teacher with knowledge of Children’s Protective Services, came
up with the original concept and gathered feedback from advocates and
other people involved in the foster care system to tweak it into
something that would be applicable to the largest audience. And the
results have been promising.
“When I gave the book to the last
case I just finished, the children wanted to paste their pictures on
the cover,” Crowley said. “A lot of times when children hear someone
else’s story it helps them tell their own.”
The book also breaks
down legal terms like “guardian,” “supervised visit” and “permanency
placement team” into concepts children can understand, and can even be
useful for adults. The pages have colorful break-out boxes that define
the terms in simple language, complete with a comprehensive glossary in
the back. Lifelike watercolor illustrations by Tony Sansevero adorn the
pages of the book, which is geared toward children between the ages of
6 and 12.
“This project was probably the highlight of my career;
it was the most worthwhile and most rewarding,” Morris said. “The
project coordinators were just so un-endingly dedicated and supportive.”
To learn more court appointed special advocates
or order a copy of the book in English or Spanish,