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Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care

By Jan Levinson Gilman; illustrated by Kathy O’Malley
Magination Press: 2009

Clinical psychologist Jan Levinson Gilman combines her experience working with the adoption and foster care community with her love of animals while telling the story of a dog named Murphy. In an extensive note to caregivers and other adults, the author discusses the emotional experience of children who are in foster care and provides information on how to help children cope with the difficulties of being placed in multiple homes.

Children who have been in many foster homes will relate to Murphy’s experiences. As the Tibetan terrier passes from home to home, the dog expresses the same kind of anxiety, self-blame and low esteem as children do when acclimating themselves. Feeling that he is a “bad dog,” Murphy acts as if he doesn’t care, although at heart he hopes for a permanent home. Ultimately, Murphy finds a family which accepts him unconditionally, providing children a new basis for hope and trust.

Book Club

Children's Books 

The Robbie Rabbit book series

 By Adam Robe; illustrated by Nathalie Gavet

This collection of educational and dialogue-opening books is designed particularly for children 5–10 years of age. The series, written by a former foster child and current child welfare professional, helps children in foster care and adoption-eligible children learn how to adjust to changes in life. Because the author went through the system, he writes in a way that children can respond to quickly, relating to Robbie Rabbit and identifying with his feelings and situation. With animals starring in the traditional human roles including child, caseworker and foster parent, children quickly find themselves immersed in the storyline.

Stories are similar to what happens in real life: birthparent visits, caseworker visits, new foster parents, court hearings and moments of uncertainty. But they also contain moments which can make children laugh. Foster/adoptive parents and caseworkers alike gain insight into these children’s unique perspectives on life by understanding what Robbie thinks and seeing how he responds to tough life changes. Adults will also pick up several tips from their animal counterparts that can help them better communicate with children.

Both Robbie’s Trail Through Foster Care and Robbie’s Trail Through Adoption come with several children’s activities, which cover important issues such as control, grief and loss, feelings, communication and self-identity. Accompanying these books are adult guides containing tips and support for foster/adoptive parents and other adults who want to help a child better adjust to changes.

The three Robbie Readers—Meeting My CASA, Moving to Another Foster Home and Wanting to Belong—are quick reads with activities or games in the back of each book. Meeting My CASA offers a good description of how the CASA volunteer works on behalf of the foster child and is the one consistent person who makes sure that the child thrives in a safe and permanent home.

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