Books for Kids in Foster Care



    My Lifebook Journal

    My Lifebook Journal: A Workbook for Children in Foster Care by Therese Accinelli, LMFT (ages 6-12) – Foster care forces children to deal with difficult changes over which they have little or no control. They have to learn how to quickly adjust to a different family, a new set of rules, and possibly a new school and community–almost an entirely new life. These changes can be overwhelming for kids, and cause sadness, fear and anger. My Lifebook Journal offers simple activities and worksheets geared towards teaching foster children to identify the people they can rely on and learn coping skills for dealing with feelings of anger and sadness.

    The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess

    The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess (ages 12+) – Victoria’s father hasn’t been kind to her, and Victoria has accepted that abuse as normal until he locks her out of the house. Suddenly she’s plunged into foster care, trying to navigate life in a foster home while dealing with the usual stressors of senior year. However, Victoria can’t leave her past behind. Unwanted memories make Victoria freeze up at random moments and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Even worse, she can’t stop worrying about her stepsister Sarah, left behind with her father. All she wants is to move forward, but how do you focus on the future when the past won’t leave you alone? The Quiet You Carry isn’t an easy read, and deals with serious topics like physical and sexual abuse and self harm, and it won’t be for everyone, but it’s leaves readers with hope that honesty and kindness will prevail.

    Far From the Tree

    Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (ages 13+) – A captivating young adult fiction novel about the story of three teen siblings who were separated from each other in the foster system and, through a series of events, find each other. It’s obvious that the author has some depth of experience in the field of foster care, evidenced by her poignant portrayals of the teens’ sense of loss, abandonment, identity questions and even ambivalence about their individual stories. In addition to building relationships with each other once reunited, the teens have to navigate pretty difficult home-life situations. The conversations between the siblings have a ring of authenticity that is often very moving for the reader. Far From the Tree is a quick easy read and a great peek into an adolescent perspective on the twists and turns of foster care, foster to adopt, and the added layer of family dynamics that many teens are facing both in and out of the system.

    Zachary's New Home

    Zachary’s New Home: A Story for Foster and Adopted Children by Geraldine M. Blomquist & Paul B. Blomquist (ages 4-8) – Children in foster care have usually suffered painful separations from their families for reasons they may not understand, and are often very confused, angry, and sad. The story of Zachary the kitten’s journey through foster care and eventual adoption by a family of geese allows children to explore their experiences, problems, and emotions.

    Kinda Like Brothers

    Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth (ages 8-12) – Eleven-year-old Jarrett’s fine with his mom taking care of foster babies, but not like this. The baby has an older brother named Kevon, who won’t stop acting all superior around Jarrett. To make matters worse, Jarrett has to share his room with him. As much as they dislike each other, the boys have to find a way to live in harmony. Booth offers candid insight into racism, poverty, and the foster care system without becoming heavy-handed. This is a good book for both children in foster care and children with foster siblings living at home.

    The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

    The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (ages 9-12) – Crippled by an untreated clubfoot and imprisoned at home by Mam, Ada has survived, but she hasn’t thrived. The evacuation of London’s children during the German Blitz provide Ada and her younger brother Jamie the chance to escape. Malnourished and filthy, the siblings are housed with Susan, a reluctant guardian grieving the death of her friend Becky, who claims she isn’t “nice.” Nonetheless, she offers Ada and Jamie food, clothing and their first glimpse of security. The children begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. Ada and Jamie aren’t in foster care in the modern sense–they’re removed from home due to the Blitz, not the intervention of the social welfare system, and it takes Susan a long time to realize the extent of their abuse–but their story parallels the foster care experience. Bradley doesn’t sugarcoat the effects of trauma on the children, especially Ada, and her anger and mistrust will be familiar to any child in the foster care system. However, proving that her courage and compassion carry far more power than her disability and her past trauma, Ada earns self-respect, emerges a hero, and learns the meaning of home in this poignant story set during WWII. We also recommend the sequel The War I Finally Won.

    Stellaluna by Jenell Cannon

    Stellaluna by Jenell Cannon (ages 2-8) – While out searching for food, fruit bat Stellaluna and her mother are attacked by a vicious owl. Stellaluna is separated from Mother Bat and taken in by a family of birds where she must put aside her bat habits to fit in with her new family. But one fateful flight when she is separated from her adoptive siblings, Stellaluna is reunited with her bat family and learns that even though we’re different, we’re very much the same. A classic children’s book, Stellaluna is delightful story about temporary family.

    Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter

    Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter (ages 8-12) – Flora and Julian are a team. They have to be: after moving from foster home to foster home, the only permanence is in each other. Now living with their new mom and dad, Flora struggles to accept that forever can happen to them. When Julian sneaks food or Flora forgets her words, she wonders if they will be sent to another home. Struggling to pass fourth grade and accepting changes in her family, Flora must learn to believe in forever and herself. The book highlights the cracks in the foster-care system without dictating a solution. Instead it focuses on the complex effects of an unstable environment on young children. Ultimately, it’s a hopeful and endearing look at the bond between siblings and what it truly means to be part of a family.

    WISE Up Powerbook

    W.I.S.E. Up! Powerbook (ages 6-16) – Created by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) in 2009, the W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook is designed to help adopted children and children in foster care learn how to confidently handle their story and answer questions from others on their own terms. The book presents realistic situations that adopted and foster kids are likely to encounter, and guides parents and kids through different approaches to answering. Organized around the acrostic W.I.S.E., kids learn that they can Walk away, reply that It’s private, choose to Share something, or Educate others.

    A Different Home

    A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story by Kelly DeGarmo (age 5-10) – A picture book telling the story of a young girl named Jessie as she adjusts to being placed in foster care and her new home. Written in simple language with beautiful illustrations, A Different Home is designed to help children in foster care, or moving to foster care, settle in and answer some of the questions they may have. It is accompanied by notes for adults on how to use the story with children.

    Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

    Free Verse by Sarah Dooley (10-14) – When her brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left, and nowhere to turn. After her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, he was her last caretaker. They’d always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she’s in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever. Her foster mother attempts to provide stability, but Sasha suffers from anxiety and violent outbursts when overcome by disturbing emotions, especially when grief “blows through me like a cold wind, thundering for me to go, to get out, to move.” Sasha remains intent on leaving town until she’s exposed to poetry in English class and begins to find “something about the shortness of haiku feels good.” In this sensitive and poignant portrayal, Dooley shows us that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend.

    Under His Wing

    Under His Wings: Truths to Heal Adopted, Orphaned, and Waiting Children’s Hearts by Sherrie Eldridge & Beth Willis Miller (ages 10+) – This religious curriculum is meant for children 9 and older. Written by adult adoptees, it uses the story of Moses to help adoptees work through issues surrounding their relinquishment and adoption. The comparisons to the best known biblical adoptee are designed to give kids hope and helps them to realize that there is a way to get through seemingly impossible sadness, depression, and anger.

    Murphy's Three Homes

    Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman and Kathy O’Malley (ages 3-8) – This book tells the story of a puppy named Murphy who is moved from place to place until he ends up at a home where he is loved and cared for. It is written for foster children, but it could also be used to introduce siblings to the concept of foster care adoption.

    One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (ages 10-14) – At just 12 years old, Carley has gone through a lot of turmoil. Headstrong, angry and deeply hurt, Carley is torn between her love for her mother and her memory of the fight that sent her to the hospital, when her mother caught and held her down while her stepfather beat her. At first her foster-care family, the Murphys, seems equally terrifying. The Murphy’s eldest son doesn’t want her there, and Carley doesn’t know how to deal with the new family dynamics after growing up with a mother who often dismantled her confidence. One for the Murphys is a heartwarming story of Carley’s struggle against the ingrained belief that she is undeserving of kindness and generosity.

    A Foster-Adoption Story

    A Foster-Adoption Story: Angela and Michael’s Journey – A Therapeutic Workbook for Traumatized Children by Regina M. Kupecky and Christine Mitchell (ages 5-11) – A Foster-Adoption Story tells the story of Angela and Michael, a brother and sister, from their abusive birth family through the foster care system to their eventual adoption. They experience abuse, neglect, multiple foster care moves and sibling separation before eventually being adopted. The workbook is designed to foster discussions about the child’s time in the foster care system, multiple moves, separation issues, loyalty issues and siblings. A useful therapeutic tool to help children process their experiences and grief along the path to healing.

    Finding the Right Spot

    Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can’t Live With Their Parents by Janice Levy (ages 6-10) – The story of a young girl living with her foster parent, Finding the Right Spot poignantly captures the emotional ups and downs of being separated from her mother and living in unfamiliar surroundings. A great story about disappointment and reconciliation for all kids who can’t live with their parents, regardless of the circumstances. An afterward by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright elaborates on the emotional experience of children who are in foster care, kinship care, or otherwise not living with their parents, and the vital support that the adults in their lives can offer.

    Families Change

    Families Change: A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights (Kids Are Important series) by Julie Nelson (ages 4-7) – All families change over time. Sometimes a baby is born, or a grown-up gets married. And sometimes a child gets a new foster parent or a new adopted mom or dad. Children need to know that when this happens, it’s not their fault. They need to understand that they can remember and value their birth family and love their new family, too. Straightforward words and full-color illustrations offer hope and support for children facing or experiencing change. Includes resources and information for birth parents, foster parents, social workers, counselors, and teachers.

    Kids Need to be Safe

    Kids Need to Be Safe: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Julie Nelson (ages 4-7) – Kids need safe places to live which, for some kids, means living with foster parents. In simple words and pictures, this book explains why some kids move to foster homes, what foster parents do and ways kids might feel during foster care. It also addresses the common fear that children are in foster care because of their bad behavior, making clear that the troubles in their lives are not their fault.

    A Family Is a Family Is a Family

    A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary (ages 4-7) – A heartwarming and whimsical story about accepting all types of family. The story starts with a kindergarten teacher asking her students to think about what makes their family special, a nerve-wracking assignment for a young girl in foster care who worries that her family is too different from her classmates. However, she soon learns that all her classmates’ families are different. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One is full of step-siblings, and another has a new baby. As her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them, the girl realizes that as long as her family is full of caring people, her family is special. A wonderful book to introduce children to families that look different from their own, and to reassure adopted and foster children that there’s nothing wrong with their family looking different from others.

    My Foster Care Journey

    My Foster Care Journey by Beth O’Malley (ages 2-8) – A “ready-made” lifebook suitable for any child who has spent time in foster care. It captures essential information of the child’s journey and helps them make sense of their life. My Foster Care Journey is spiral bound and has 27 fill-in-the-blank pages, allowing foster parents to work quickly, and can complement any permanent goal (i.e.guardianship, runification, adoption).

    For When I'm Famous

    For When I’m Famous: A Foster/Adopt Teen LifeBook by Beth O’Malley (10+) – A workbook designed for the teen or tween who is tired of talk therapy, yet needs help with their complicated history of abuse/multiple moves. It has 31 fill-in-the-blank pages, starting with their birthday party invite list and ending with dreams for the future, and includes space for 14 different moves. This lifebook is geared towards older kids who are thinking about their future, their friends, school, activities, and their interests.

    The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

    The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (ages 8-12) – Eleven-year-old Gilly has been stuck in more foster families than she can remember, and she’s disliked them all. She has a county-wide reputation for being brash, brilliant, and completely unmanageable. So when she’s sent to live with the Trotters — by far the strangest family yet — Gilly decides to put her sharp mind to work. Before long she’s devised an elaborate scheme to get her real mother to come rescue her. But the rescue doesn’t work out, and Gilly finds her life changed forever. A classic book about the foster care system.

    Elliot by Julie Pearson

    Elliot by Julie Pearson (ages 5-8) – Elliot’s parents love him very much, but all is not well. One day a social worker named Thomas comes to visit, and Elliot’s world turns upside-down. The new families that care for the little boy are kind, but everything is strange and new, and the sudden changes make him want to cry and yell AND misbehave. Then, when it becomes clear that Elliot’s parents will never be able to take him back, Thomas sets out to find Elliot one last home – a forever, forever home with a family that will love and care for him no matter what. A sweet book to explain the foster care system to a kid, especially the transition to foster-to-adopt.

    Three Little Words

    Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter (age 13+) – The inspiring true story of the tumultuous nine years Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent in the foster care system, and how she triumphed over painful memories and real-life horrors to ultimately find her own voice. Ashley was removed from her mother at the age of four and spent the next nine years bouncing between fourteen different foster homes before finally finding her forever family. Three Little Words chronicles the trauma of being removed from her mother through the difficulties of foster care and the horror of an abusive foster family while also showing the need for compassion from everyone involved in foster care.

    A List of Cages by Robin Roe

    A List of Cages by Robin Roe (ages 14+) – Adam’s senior year of high school is going pretty well, helping the school psychologist in one of the chillest electives ever. But then the psychologist instructs him to escort a reluctant freshman who turns out to be his foster brother, Julian. Adam’s family took Julian in after his parents were killed in a car crash, but then his uncle stepped forward as his legal guardian, and Julian was taken away. After five years apart, everything seems to fall back into place for the two, but Adam soon begins to suspect that things are not right at Julian’s new home. Many scenes of abuse will challenge readers with authentic detail; Julian suffers regular beatings and is, at one point, locked in a chest without food. Roe, a social worker, has written a stunning novel about loss, friendship, and the power of family.

    Succeeding as a Foster Child

    Succeeding as a Foster Child: A Roadmap to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Success by Jamie Schwandt, Ed.D. (ages 13+) – Author Jamie Schwandt grew up in and out of foster care, and witnessed firsthand the dangerous and destructive challenges foster children must contend with. In Succeeding as a Foster Child, he uses those first-hand experiences, as well as in-depth research, to outline the steps foster children must take to overcome the stigma of foster care and achieve success. The book provides practical tools for overcoming common challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities of being in foster care. Highly recommended for foster youth and youth who have recently aged out of the system.

    Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

    Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (ages 9-13) – December Lee Morgan is almost 12, solitary and a survivor, when she arrives at her latest foster home. The scars on her back—the result of an injury inflicted years ago by her mother, never fully detailed—become the place where December believes her wings will emerge when they are ready. Her current foster mom, Eleanor, works with birds as an animal rehabilitator and a taxidermist, which fascinates and disquiets December in equal measure. As December helps Eleanor rehabilitate a red-tailed hawk and finds a new friend in her classmate Cheryllynn (whose gender fluidity is mocked and rejected by their classmates), she cautiously begins to honestly acknowledge her past while contemplating what “belonging to a place” might mean. December begins to see that her story could end a different way – but could she ever be happy down on the ground?

    Sometimes...

    Sometimes… A Story of Transition For Foster and Adopted Children by Keri Vellis (ages 4-7) – Author Keri Vellis, a mother of six by birth and foster care adoption, wrote Sometimes… after she was unable to find age-appropriate books about foster care to read to her own children. Sometimes… follows the story of a timid foster child and a teddy bear as they learn about their new home. The book acknowledges that this transition can be frightening and is designed to help children understand and feel safe along their journey, all while providing comfort and acceptance into their new environment.

    When I was Little

    When I Was Little… A Child’s Journey in Overcoming Abuse & Trauma by Keri Vellis (ages 4-7) – Keri Vellis’s second book is written for children who have suffered from abuse or trauma. It tells the story of a child who struggles with emotions and learns to share difficult feelings and experiences with trusted individuals, eventually finding comfort and security in a safe and loving environment. An excellent tool for discussing difficult life experiences with young foster children.

    Waiting to Forget

    Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch (ages 10+) – T.J. has always looked out for his little sister, Angela. At their foster homes, T.J. was the only one who knew how to coax his little sister out of her bad moods. The only one who understood why she made origami paper cranes and threw them out the window. But now T.J. is sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, wondering if Angela, unconscious after a fall, will ever wake up. Wondering, too, if he will ever feel at home with his and Angela’s new parents—Marlene, who insists on calling him Timothy, and Dan, who seems to want a different son. The story is told from eleven-year old T.J.’s point of view, shifting between his memories of neglect and abuse and the uncertainty and struggles of the present day. A poignant story about two siblings who have been adopted from foster care but have not let go of their difficult past.

    Maybe Days

    Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright (ages 4-7) – For many kids in the foster system, the answer to their questions is often maybe. Maybe Days is a straightforward look at the issues of foster care, the questions that children ask, and the feelings that they confront. The book also explains in simple terms the responsibilities of everyone involved – parents, social workers, lawyers and judges.

    Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

    Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 10+) – When Lonnie was seven years old, his parents died in a fire. Now he’s eleven, and he still misses them terribly. And he misses his little sister, Lili, who was put into a different foster home because “not a lot of people want boys-not foster boys that ain’t babies.” But Lonnie hasn’t given up. His foster mother, Miss Edna, is growing on him. She’s already raised two sons and she seems to know what makes them tick. And his teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. Told entirely through Lonnie’s poetry, we see his heartbreak over his lost family, his thoughtful perspective on the world around him, and most of all his love for Lili and his determination to one day put at least half of their family back together.

    Zachary's New Home

    Zachary’s New Home: A Story for Foster and Adopted Children by Geraldine M. Blomquist & Paul B. Blomquist (ages 4-8) – Children in foster care have usually suffered painful separations from their families for reasons they may not understand, and are often very confused, angry, and sad. The story of Zachary the kitten’s journey through foster care and eventual adoption by a family of geese allows children to explore their experiences, problems, and emotions.

    Stellaluna by Jenell Cannon

    Stellaluna by Jenell Cannon (ages 2-8) – While out searching for food, fruit bat Stellaluna and her mother are attacked by a vicious owl. Stellaluna is separated from Mother Bat and taken in by a family of birds where she must put aside her bat habits to fit in with her new family. But one fateful flight when she is separated from her adoptive siblings, Stellaluna is reunited with her bat family and learns that even though we’re different, we’re very much the same. A classic children’s book, Stellaluna is delightful story about temporary family.

    Murphy's Three Homes

    Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman and Kathy O’Malley (ages 3-8) – This book tells the story of a puppy named Murphy who is moved from place to place until he ends up at a home where he is loved and cared for. It is written for foster children, but it could also be used to introduce siblings to the concept of foster care adoption.

    Families Change

    Families Change: A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights (Kids Are Important series) by Julie Nelson (ages 4-7) – All families change over time. Sometimes a baby is born, or a grown-up gets married. And sometimes a child gets a new foster parent or a new adopted mom or dad. Children need to know that when this happens, it’s not their fault. They need to understand that they can remember and value their birth family and love their new family, too. Straightforward words and full-color illustrations offer hope and support for children facing or experiencing change. Includes resources and information for birth parents, foster parents, social workers, counselors, and teachers.

    Kids Need to be Safe

    Kids Need to Be Safe: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Julie Nelson (ages 4-7) – Kids need safe places to live which, for some kids, means living with foster parents. In simple words and pictures, this book explains why some kids move to foster homes, what foster parents do and ways kids might feel during foster care. It also addresses the common fear that children are in foster care because of their bad behavior, making clear that the troubles in their lives are not their fault.

    Sometimes...

    Sometimes… A Story of Transition For Foster and Adopted Children by Keri Vellis (ages 4-7) – Author Keri Vellis, a mother of six by birth and foster care adoption, wrote Sometimes… after she was unable to find age-appropriate books about foster care to read to her own children. Sometimes… follows the story of a timid foster child and a teddy bear as they learn about their new home. The book acknowledges that this transition can be frightening and is designed to help children understand and feel safe along their journey, all while providing comfort and acceptance into their new environment.

    When I was Little

    When I Was Little… A Child’s Journey in Overcoming Abuse & Trauma by Keri Vellis (ages 4-7) – Keri Vellis’s second book is written for children who have suffered from abuse or trauma. It tells the story of a child who struggles with emotions and learns to share difficult feelings and experiences with trusted individuals, eventually finding comfort and security in a safe and loving environment. An excellent tool for discussing difficult life experiences with young foster children.

    Maybe Days

    Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright (ages 4-7) – For many kids in the foster system, the answer to their questions is often maybe. Maybe Days is a straightforward look at the issues of foster care, the questions that children ask, and the feelings that they confront. The book also explains in simple terms the responsibilities of everyone involved – parents, social workers, lawyers and judges.

    Stellaluna by Jenell Cannon

    Stellaluna by Jenell Cannon (ages 2-8) – While out searching for food, fruit bat Stellaluna and her mother are attacked by a vicious owl. Stellaluna is separated from Mother Bat and taken in by a family of birds where she must put aside her bat habits to fit in with her new family. But one fateful flight when she is separated from her adoptive siblings, Stellaluna is reunited with her bat family and learns that even though we’re different, we’re very much the same. A classic children’s book, Stellaluna is delightful story about temporary family.

    A Different Home

    A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story by Kelly DeGarmo (age 5-10) – A picture book telling the story of a young girl named Jessie as she adjusts to being placed in foster care and her new home. Written in simple language with beautiful illustrations, A Different Home is designed to help children in foster care, or moving to foster care, settle in and answer some of the questions they may have. It is accompanied by notes for adults on how to use the story with children.

    Finding the Right Spot

    Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can’t Live With Their Parents by Janice Levy (ages 6-10) – The story of a young girl living with her foster parent, Finding the Right Spot poignantly captures the emotional ups and downs of being separated from her mother and living in unfamiliar surroundings. A great story about disappointment and reconciliation for all kids who can’t live with their parents, regardless of the circumstances. An afterward by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright elaborates on the emotional experience of children who are in foster care, kinship care, or otherwise not living with their parents, and the vital support that the adults in their lives can offer.

    Elliot by Julie Pearson

    Elliot by Julie Pearson (ages 5-8) – Elliot’s parents love him very much, but all is not well. One day a social worker named Thomas comes to visit, and Elliot’s world turns upside-down. The new families that care for the little boy are kind, but everything is strange and new, and the sudden changes make him want to cry and yell AND misbehave. Then, when it becomes clear that Elliot’s parents will never be able to take him back, Thomas sets out to find Elliot one last home – a forever, forever home with a family that will love and care for him no matter what. A sweet book to explain the foster care system to a kid, especially the transition to foster-to-adopt.

    The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess

    The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess (ages 12+) – Victoria’s father hasn’t been kind to her, and Victoria has accepted that abuse as normal until he locks her out of the house. Suddenly she’s plunged into foster care, trying to navigate life in a foster home while dealing with the usual stressors of senior year. However, Victoria can’t leave her past behind. Unwanted memories make Victoria freeze up at random moments and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Even worse, she can’t stop worrying about her stepsister Sarah, left behind with her father. All she wants is to move forward, but how do you focus on the future when the past won’t leave you alone? The Quiet You Carry isn’t an easy read, and deals with serious topics like physical and sexual abuse and self harm, and it won’t be for everyone, but it’s leaves readers with hope that honesty and kindness will prevail.

    Far From the Tree

    Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (ages 13+) – A captivating young adult fiction novel about the story of three teen siblings who were separated from each other in the foster system and, through a series of events, find each other. It’s obvious that the author has some depth of experience in the field of foster care, evidenced by her poignant portrayals of the teens’ sense of loss, abandonment, identity questions and even ambivalence about their individual stories. In addition to building relationships with each other once reunited, the teens have to navigate pretty difficult home-life situations. The conversations between the siblings have a ring of authenticity that is often very moving for the reader. Far From the Tree is a quick easy read and a great peek into an adolescent perspective on the twists and turns of foster care, foster to adopt, and the added layer of family dynamics that many teens are facing both in and out of the system.

    Kinda Like Brothers

    Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth (ages 8-12) – Eleven-year-old Jarrett’s fine with his mom taking care of foster babies, but not like this. The baby has an older brother named Kevon, who won’t stop acting all superior around Jarrett. To make matters worse, Jarrett has to share his room with him. As much as they dislike each other, the boys have to find a way to live in harmony. Booth offers candid insight into racism, poverty, and the foster care system without becoming heavy-handed. This is a good book for both children in foster care and children with foster siblings living at home.

    The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

    The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (ages 9-12) – Crippled by an untreated clubfoot and imprisoned at home by Mam, Ada has survived, but she hasn’t thrived. The evacuation of London’s children during the German Blitz provide Ada and her younger brother Jamie the chance to escape. Malnourished and filthy, the siblings are housed with Susan, a reluctant guardian grieving the death of her friend Becky, who claims she isn’t “nice.” Nonetheless, she offers Ada and Jamie food, clothing and their first glimpse of security. The children begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. Ada and Jamie aren’t in foster care in the modern sense–they’re removed from home due to the Blitz, not the intervention of the social welfare system, and it takes Susan a long time to realize the extent of their abuse–but their story parallels the foster care experience. Bradley doesn’t sugarcoat the effects of trauma on the children, especially Ada, and her anger and mistrust will be familiar to any child in the foster care system. However, proving that her courage and compassion carry far more power than her disability and her past trauma, Ada earns self-respect, emerges a hero, and learns the meaning of home in this poignant story set during WWII. We also recommend the sequel The War I Finally Won.

    Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter

    Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter (ages 8-12) – Flora and Julian are a team. They have to be: after moving from foster home to foster home, the only permanence is in each other. Now living with their new mom and dad, Flora struggles to accept that forever can happen to them. When Julian sneaks food or Flora forgets her words, she wonders if they will be sent to another home. Struggling to pass fourth grade and accepting changes in her family, Flora must learn to believe in forever and herself. The book highlights the cracks in the foster-care system without dictating a solution. Instead it focuses on the complex effects of an unstable environment on young children. Ultimately, it’s a hopeful and endearing look at the bond between siblings and what it truly means to be part of a family.

    Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

    Free Verse by Sarah Dooley (10-14) – When her brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left, and nowhere to turn. After her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, he was her last caretaker. They’d always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she’s in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever. Her foster mother attempts to provide stability, but Sasha suffers from anxiety and violent outbursts when overcome by disturbing emotions, especially when grief “blows through me like a cold wind, thundering for me to go, to get out, to move.” Sasha remains intent on leaving town until she’s exposed to poetry in English class and begins to find “something about the shortness of haiku feels good.” In this sensitive and poignant portrayal, Dooley shows us that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend.

    One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (ages 10-14) – At just 12 years old, Carley has gone through a lot of turmoil. Headstrong, angry and deeply hurt, Carley is torn between her love for her mother and her memory of the fight that sent her to the hospital, when her mother caught and held her down while her stepfather beat her. At first her foster-care family, the Murphys, seems equally terrifying. The Murphy’s eldest son doesn’t want her there, and Carley doesn’t know how to deal with the new family dynamics after growing up with a mother who often dismantled her confidence. One for the Murphys is a heartwarming story of Carley’s struggle against the ingrained belief that she is undeserving of kindness and generosity.

    The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

    The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (ages 8-12) – Eleven-year-old Gilly has been stuck in more foster families than she can remember, and she’s disliked them all. She has a county-wide reputation for being brash, brilliant, and completely unmanageable. So when she’s sent to live with the Trotters — by far the strangest family yet — Gilly decides to put her sharp mind to work. Before long she’s devised an elaborate scheme to get her real mother to come rescue her. But the rescue doesn’t work out, and Gilly finds her life changed forever. A classic book about the foster care system.

    Three Little Words

    Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter (age 13+) – The inspiring true story of the tumultuous nine years Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent in the foster care system, and how she triumphed over painful memories and real-life horrors to ultimately find her own voice. Ashley was removed from her mother at the age of four and spent the next nine years bouncing between fourteen different foster homes before finally finding her forever family. Three Little Words chronicles the trauma of being removed from her mother through the difficulties of foster care and the horror of an abusive foster family while also showing the need for compassion from everyone involved in foster care.

    A List of Cages by Robin Roe

    A List of Cages by Robin Roe (ages 14+) – Adam’s senior year of high school is going pretty well, helping the school psychologist in one of the chillest electives ever. But then the psychologist instructs him to escort a reluctant freshman who turns out to be his foster brother, Julian. Adam’s family took Julian in after his parents were killed in a car crash, but then his uncle stepped forward as his legal guardian, and Julian was taken away. After five years apart, everything seems to fall back into place for the two, but Adam soon begins to suspect that things are not right at Julian’s new home. Many scenes of abuse will challenge readers with authentic detail; Julian suffers regular beatings and is, at one point, locked in a chest without food. Roe, a social worker, has written a stunning novel about loss, friendship, and the power of family.

    Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

    Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (ages 9-13) – December Lee Morgan is almost 12, solitary and a survivor, when she arrives at her latest foster home. The scars on her back—the result of an injury inflicted years ago by her mother, never fully detailed—become the place where December believes her wings will emerge when they are ready. Her current foster mom, Eleanor, works with birds as an animal rehabilitator and a taxidermist, which fascinates and disquiets December in equal measure. As December helps Eleanor rehabilitate a red-tailed hawk and finds a new friend in her classmate Cheryllynn (whose gender fluidity is mocked and rejected by their classmates), she cautiously begins to honestly acknowledge her past while contemplating what “belonging to a place” might mean. December begins to see that her story could end a different way – but could she ever be happy down on the ground?

    Waiting to Forget

    Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch (ages 10+) – T.J. has always looked out for his little sister, Angela. At their foster homes, T.J. was the only one who knew how to coax his little sister out of her bad moods. The only one who understood why she made origami paper cranes and threw them out the window. But now T.J. is sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, wondering if Angela, unconscious after a fall, will ever wake up. Wondering, too, if he will ever feel at home with his and Angela’s new parents—Marlene, who insists on calling him Timothy, and Dan, who seems to want a different son. The story is told from eleven-year old T.J.’s point of view, shifting between his memories of neglect and abuse and the uncertainty and struggles of the present day. A poignant story about two siblings who have been adopted from foster care but have not let go of their difficult past.

    Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

    Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 10+) – When Lonnie was seven years old, his parents died in a fire. Now he’s eleven, and he still misses them terribly. And he misses his little sister, Lili, who was put into a different foster home because “not a lot of people want boys-not foster boys that ain’t babies.” But Lonnie hasn’t given up. His foster mother, Miss Edna, is growing on him. She’s already raised two sons and she seems to know what makes them tick. And his teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. Told entirely through Lonnie’s poetry, we see his heartbreak over his lost family, his thoughtful perspective on the world around him, and most of all his love for Lili and his determination to one day put at least half of their family back together.

    My Lifebook Journal

    My Lifebook Journal: A Workbook for Children in Foster Care by Therese Accinelli, LMFT (ages 6-12) – Foster care forces children to deal with difficult changes over which they have little or no control. They have to learn how to quickly adjust to a different family, a new set of rules, and possibly a new school and community–almost an entirely new life. These changes can be overwhelming for kids, and cause sadness, fear and anger. My Lifebook Journal offers simple activities and worksheets geared towards teaching foster children to identify the people they can rely on and learn coping skills for dealing with feelings of anger and sadness.

    WISE Up Powerbook

    W.I.S.E. Up! Powerbook (ages 6-16) – Created by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) in 2009, the W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook is designed to help adopted children and children in foster care learn how to confidently handle their story and answer questions from others on their own terms. The book presents realistic situations that adopted and foster kids are likely to encounter, and guides parents and kids through different approaches to answering. Organized around the acrostic W.I.S.E., kids learn that they can Walk away, reply that It’s private, choose to Share something, or Educate others.

    Under His Wing

    Under His Wings: Truths to Heal Adopted, Orphaned, and Waiting Children’s Hearts by Sherrie Eldridge & Beth Willis Miller (ages 10+) – This religious curriculum is meant for children 9 and older. Written by adult adoptees, it uses the story of Moses to help adoptees work through issues surrounding their relinquishment and adoption. The comparisons to the best known biblical adoptee are designed to give kids hope and helps them to realize that there is a way to get through seemingly impossible sadness, depression, and anger.

    A Foster-Adoption Story

    A Foster-Adoption Story: Angela and Michael’s Journey – A Therapeutic Workbook for Traumatized Children by Regina M. Kupecky and Christine Mitchell (ages 5-11) – A Foster-Adoption Story tells the story of Angela and Michael, a brother and sister, from their abusive birth family through the foster care system to their eventual adoption. They experience abuse, neglect, multiple foster care moves and sibling separation before eventually being adopted. The workbook is designed to foster discussions about the child’s time in the foster care system, multiple moves, separation issues, loyalty issues and siblings. A useful therapeutic tool to help children process their experiences and grief along the path to healing.

    My Foster Care Journey

    My Foster Care Journey by Beth O’Malley (ages 2-8) – A “ready-made” lifebook suitable for any child who has spent time in foster care. It captures essential information of the child’s journey and helps them make sense of their life. My Foster Care Journey is spiral bound and has 27 fill-in-the-blank pages, allowing foster parents to work quickly, and can complement any permanent goal (i.e.guardianship, runification, adoption).

    For When I'm Famous

    For When I’m Famous: A Foster/Adopt Teen LifeBook by Beth O’Malley (10+) – A workbook designed for the teen or tween who is tired of talk therapy, yet needs help with their complicated history of abuse/multiple moves. It has 31 fill-in-the-blank pages, starting with their birthday party invite list and ending with dreams for the future, and includes space for 14 different moves. This lifebook is geared towards older kids who are thinking about their future, their friends, school, activities, and their interests.

    Succeeding as a Foster Child

    Succeeding as a Foster Child: A Roadmap to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Success by Jamie Schwandt, Ed.D. (ages 13+) – Author Jamie Schwandt grew up in and out of foster care, and witnessed firsthand the dangerous and destructive challenges foster children must contend with. In Succeeding as a Foster Child, he uses those first-hand experiences, as well as in-depth research, to outline the steps foster children must take to overcome the stigma of foster care and achieve success. The book provides practical tools for overcoming common challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities of being in foster care. Highly recommended for foster youth and youth who have recently aged out of the system.


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