Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

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TITLE: Hope’s Boy
AUTHOR: Andrew Bridge
PUBLISHER: Hyperion
PUBLISH DATE: 2008
ISBN: 9781401303228

My mother… wrapped her arms around me tightly, and whispered fircely several times, “You are my boy. Remember, you are my boy.”

-page 164, Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

 

This is an emotionally difficult book to read. It is the story of a boy who leaves the loving stability of his grandmother’s care in Chicago to fly across country to live with his mother Hope, whom he barely knows. In the two years he lived with her he was beaten by his mother’s boyfriend, was taken on a burglary run by his mom and her best friend, watched Hope be raped and was powerless to stop it, evicted from an apartment and forced to live with strangers who looked at the two of them like something they’d scrape off their shoe, and finally to the motel where he was taken by the county from her. Of all the things she did and didn’t do, she DID give him love and made sure he knew he belonged to her.

Hope’s Boytears back the curtain of the life of a child trapped in a system that does little to help reunite families, explains little to nothing to the child in its care, and abandons him with empty promises of return with a family that is free to go unchecked in their abuse of the intruder in their home. A system that abandons those who age out to the winds, where thirty to fifty percent are homeless within two years. The majority of the nations 500 thousand plus foster children never graduate high school, and possibly as few as 3% graduate college. It is a broken system of hopelessness, in which children are wharehoused instead of cared for. This book is a clarion call to change.

My heart broke for young Andy. He endured helplessly watching his mother’s descent into madness, paranoid schizophrenia the most likely diagnosis. He is ripped from her arms by a social worker as a police officer shoves Hope to the ground and holds her there with his knee in her back. Wharehoused in a huge county orphanage that feels more like a criminal detention facility, he is placed with a family only after he has completely withdrawn into himself. He spends the remaining ten years of his childhood with an abusive, tyrant foster mother, whose rare kindnesses are few and far between.

Throughout it all, he hangs onto the few messages of encouragement like “You are my boy”, “Do not allow the world’s injustices define you”, and “You are my little genius”. Despite all this, and defying all statistics and odds, Andy, now Andrew Bridge, succeeds to become a Harvard Law graduate and Fulbright scholar.

This book is a must-read for anyone working with or within the foster care system. How we treat these children, children who have no control of the events of their lives, is an indicator of our civility as a nation.  Throughout the process, it must be remembered that LOVE is one of the most essential nutrients a child can receive.  Without it he will fail to thrive, slip through the cracks, and become just another statistic.

Love may not be enough to wake a child in the morning, dress him, and get him to school, then to feed him at night, bathe him, and put him to bed.  Still, can any of us imagine a childhood without it?

-page 295, Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

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