Book Reviews

by Sally Shank

Listen and Make Room by Harold Shank
ACU Press, 2020.
255 pages, $21.99. Paperback, Kindle, ebook.
Available at or

The way of Jesus seems upside down in our broken world.
Listening to and making room for the vulnerable is not the way to get ahead in this life. Yet, this is the way Jesus lived, and it is exactly what our world needs. Jesus’ example shows us that children are at the core of God’s mission.

You can read the review of this book that is in the May issue of the Christian Chronicle by clicking here.

They Cage the Animals at Night

Author:  Jennings Michael Burch                                             Publisher:  Signet.  Originally published 1984

One misty evening, Jennings Michael Burch’s mother, too sick to care for him, left her eight-year-old son at an orphanage with the words, “I’ll be right back.” But she did not.

The book is a true story about a child that suddenly finds himself in and out of orphanages, institutions, and foster homes over for four years.  He did not know his alcoholic father who had no part in his life.  His mother was in and out of hospitals battling physical and mental illness.  Jennings deals with abandonment, loneliness, and abuse, from some who were supposed to be caring for him

This takes place during the early 1950’s.   Things are much different today. We do not put bars on the windows or barbed wire around the top of the fence to keep children in.  We do not let one person supervise 30 kids, assign them numbers like prisoners, or make them live in dormitories with 30 or 40 other kids. 

This book does show the kinds of people that work as house parents and foster parents. Some were gruff, rough, abusive and did not like their work or children.  Others were compassionate and concerned with a child’s emotional and physical wellbeing.

The strong points of the books are:

1.   Realizing the resilience and strength Jennings had and how just a few key people made a difference in his life.

2.   Reading this book helps all realize what an influence we have on others. Even if we do not work directly with children, the book shows that some of the greatest and most positive influences for Jennings were people he did not live with, (teachers, a bus driver, and a night watchman).

3.  Seeing the foster system from a child’s point of view.  Even though the book is dated, children in care today can have the same feelings of loneliness, fear, pain, shame abandonment, and depression.

You will experience all kinds of emotions as you read this book. They Cage the Animals at Night might be especially helpful to house parents and those fostering or thinking about fostering.  Anybody reading the book will grow in their understanding of others, both children and adults.

Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate

Ballantine Books 2019, 292 pages.  Hardback from Amazon $9.25.

Judy Christie – an award-winning journalist and the author of eighteen books both fiction and nonfiction. She holds a master’s degree from Louisiana State University.

Lisa Wingate the author of numerous novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller “Before We were Yours” and the national bestseller ’Tending Roses.” 

The incredible, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal--some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate's bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach.  Before We Were Yours is also reviewed on this website. As stated in that review, these books dealing with the Tennessee Children’s Home Society has nothing to do with our current Tennessee Children’s Home in Nashville, Tenn.

The publication of Lisa Wingate's novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann's lucrative career in child trafficking from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories, as Wingate and  Christie document the stories of fifteen adoptees in Before and After.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives.  The stories that Wingate and Christie share are full of both heartache and hope.

If there is a weakness in the book, it is keeping the fifteen adoptees straight as one reads their stories. I found some of their stories so similar it became confusing.

The real strength of the book is learning the sad truth of what happened at this point in our country’s history and the effect it had for years.

For those working with Network 1:27 and involved in childcare Before and After reveals the long-term effect that not knowing one’s roots and past family can have.  Some wonder why their mothers would not want them, others mourn the fact that they have no siblings, and others fear being abandoned again.  These real life stories give us insight into the children we serve and the circumstances some may have experienced. 

“No One Ever Asked” by Katie Ganshert

Publisher:  Waterbrook, 2018
Hardback $32.95, paperback $11.37 on Amazon

KATIE GANSHERT is the author of several novels and works of short fiction. She has won both the Christy and Carol Awards for her writing.

Have you ever had conflict with someone of another race?  Or have you made an assumption without knowing the facts?

How well do we really know someone of a different race than our own? This book will help us understand one another and avoid the problems and misunderstandings that often occur between races today.

“No One Ever Asked” touched on a major topic that is relevant today. Reading this book helped me understand the heads and hearts of both the Black and White characters.  Ganshert takes on the issues of race, social injustice, adoption and infidelity. I finished the book feeling like I better understood the hurts and misunderstandings between races and cultures. Forgiveness is also a theme woven throughout the book.

This book follows the stories of three women as both their communities and personal lives go through a pivotal time.

Camille is supposed to be the perfect woman. Yet her marriage isn’t what others think it is. With the relationship between her and her husband falling apart, Camille’s world is turning into a chaotic mess.

Jen has wanted to be a mother all her life. Now she is finally getting the chance, adopting a beautiful little girl from Africa.  Jen soon finds out, though, that motherhood isn’t what she thought it would be. Jen starts to ask herself a terrifying question: is she cut out to be a mother?

Anaya has always wanted to be a teacher, but she didn’t want to teach at a fancy school. She wanted to teach African American students in her own poverty ridden community. The only position she can get, though, is at an upper-class white school, where she becomes a black teacher in a sea of white students.

The thread that ties each of the three main characters together is one of integrating students from a failing school district—one that’s student majority is black—with the state’s top, predominantly white district. There is some backlash, racism, and heated conversations around this.

This is a book that should cause all of us to ask some difficult questions, about topics some try to ignore. This is a novel designed to make you think and ask hard questions, including how you can, "be the change where you're at." (one of my favorite quotes in the book).

The strength of the book is the characters.  The characters are authentic and reveal how we really see one another and perhaps even some of the lies we tell ourselves.

This novel is powerful and can help all of us involved in Network1:27, as we interact and work with children and adults from different cultures, backgrounds, and races.

What Does It Mean to Be Welcoming?
Navigating LGBT Questions in Your Church, by Travis Collins
IVP Books, Downer Grove, Illinois, 2018. Paperback, $11.89 from Amazon

Travis Collins holds a PhD in Christian mission and is a member of the Fresh Expressions US Team. He has ministered as an international missionary and pastor for three decades. He is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Is your congregation or childcare agency wrestling with LGBT questions?

Travis Collins has walked congregations through the complex issues surrounding gay Christians and knows the confusion and hurt that often follow. He is working from a traditional perspective but offers insights from both sides of the debate. Collins calls readers to both grace and truth, with humility. This book considers how we might welcome everyone into the church while calling for all to be transformed.

This book can be a resource for church (or childcare) leaders who are trying to navigate the LGBT conversations. There are many questions surrounding the LGBT topic and Collins is pastoral in tone as he guides the reader through the maze that is the current divide over same-sex sexual relations.

Some of the issues addressed in the book are: The affirming position, the traditional position, what does the Bible say, when your child is gay, what should a same sex attracted Christian do? He includes testimonials from a lesbian Christian and a gay Christian.

He has two appendixes at the back of the book which may be helpful if your church or agency is discussing this issue. Appendix A is the process that his church followed in formulating and adopting a position statement. Appendix B is their position statement.

I found this book helpful in addressing both sides of the LGBT issue, and think it would be worth your time to read it.

Karyn B. Purvis, Ph.D., David R. Cross, Ph.D. and Wendy Lyons Sunshine

McGraw Hill, New York, 2007. Paperback $6.74 on Amazon

Karen Purvis – Director of Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development of Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development.
David Cross – Associate Director of Development and professor in TCU’s Psychology department.
Wendy Lyons Sunshine – award winning journalist

Are you a parent, or do you know a parent at the end of their rope? Frustrated and confused by their child’s behavior and realizing everything they have tried doesn’t seem to work, they don’t know where to turn.

Written by two research Psychologists specializing in adoptive and attachment, "The Connected Child" uses a holistic approach in dealing with children. This book will help you build bonds with your child, deal with learning and behavioral disorders and discipline your child with love.

“The Connected Child” is written to adoptive parents, especially those who have adopted children that have been wounded or are at risk. Although the adoptive family is the target audience, this book is an excellent resource for all families striving to connect with their children.
Some of the issues addressed are compassion, risks, attachment, dealing with defiance, misbehavior, proactive strategies, stress, life values, and dealing with setbacks.

A strength of this book is the concrete suggestions that are proven and give parents guidance in dealing with many issues they face, whether they are foster parents, adoptive parents or biological parents. A second strong point is helping parents see and understand why the child is acting and responding like he does.

A weakness of “The Connected Child” is wondering if one can implement the hundreds of suggestions discussed. Yet, focusing on one area at a time, and following the practical suggestions given, one can certainly improve any parent child relationship. This straight forward book will be beneficial to parents, child care workers, teachers and anyone working with children. For those who are a part of Network 1:27, I believe it would be especially useful for houseparent’s and families who are fostering and adopting.

Have you ever had challenging moments with a child? Perhaps it included a meltdown, conflict, anger or negative feelings. “The Whole-Brain Child”, by Doctor David J. Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson is a book written to help adults influence children in a positive direction as their brains grow and develop.

Daniel J. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.  He served as a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow at UCLA, studying family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions, behavior, autobiographical memory and narrative.

Tina Payne Bryson is a psychotherapist and the Founder/Executive Director of The Center for Connection and Play Strong Institute in California, where she offers parenting consultations and provides therapy to children and adolescents.  She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, where her research explored attachment science, childrearing theory, and the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology.  Dr. Bryson has an unusual knack for taking research and theory from various fields of science, and offering it in a way that’s clear, realistic, humorous, and immediately helpful.

The book can be purchased from Amazon. Hardcover, $18.75, paperback, $12.89, Audio CD $19.99, Kindle $13.99, or check one of these out from your local library. Random House, 2011 is the publisher.

The book is organized around 12 strategies that will help you understand your own brain and your child’s developing brain, and use that knowledge to raise a happier, more resilient child. Written for anyone who spends time around kids, it’s a great guide on how to use all your interactions to help them develop into the kind of people we want them to be. This is down-to-earth parenting, using everyday moments and interactions – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The back of the book has a refrigerator sheet, that outlines the important points from the book. And further back in the book is a reference chart that is broken down by ages and stages of development, with specific tools for you to use for each of the twelve strategies for helping to integrate children’s brains.

Complete with clear explanations, age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles, and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that your children can lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives.

I have listened to the audio twice, and highly recommend the book to parents, grandparents, teachers, house parents in our agencies or anyone working with children.

Download The Whole-Brain Child Refrigerator Sheet >>

Leaving a Legacy:  Sustaining Family Unity, Faith, and Wealth

Authors:  Dan T.  Garrett and Tim Woodroof
Abilene Christian University Press, 2014
Paperback, $10.68 on Amazon

Dan T. Garrett is a popular speaker and coach on matters of stewardship, faith, values and wealth.  Tim Woodruff has been a pastor for over 30 years.  He now serves as a church consultant and has authored 10 books.

Have you thought about the legacy you will leave?

Whether by design or default you will leave a legacy.  Whatever survives you when you are gone will be your legacy.

The underlying premise of the book is that the values you live by are your most important asset, and the greatest inheritance your heirs will receive has less to do with valuables than with wisdom.

If you are a parent, grandparent, or house parent, consider what you are leaving to those you love most.  This book gives guidance beyond leaving just our valuables.  Perhaps more importantly, it helps us in passing on our values.

Highlights of the book.

  1. A sobering statistic.  In families where new wealth is created by one generation, 70 % of that wealth has dissipated by the second generation, and 90% is lost by the third generation.  It has nothing to do with taxes, economies, or cultures.  It is the failure of families to transfer leadership and values to succeeding generations.
  2. Twelve characteristics and habits commonly found in families that pass on values as well as possessions.
  3. Four fundamental questions we need to ask:
    (1) who are my heirs?
    (2) what do I leave behind?
    (3) how will I pass on my legacy?
    (4) why do I want to leave a legacy?

4. “Leaving a Legacy” explores what you will pass on, a legacy process and possessions and people of faith.

5.  The Appendices (41 pages) are filled with exercises, ideas, questions, and tools to help in putting into practice the teachings in the book. Concepts don’t have much personal value until they are applied. This section should not be skipped over.  It is the best way to turn good intentions into reality.  It is a valuable tool for all Christians serious about leaving a legacy of faith.



Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
by Matthew Desmond

Broadway Books, New York, 2016, Amazon $11.88, paperback
Matthew Desmond is a Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.  His book “Evicted” has won several awards since publication in 2016.

In “Evicted” Matthew Desmond exposes the 10 million low income households that pay half or more of their income for rent and utilities.  “Evicted” follows 8 families (black, white, with children and without children) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who are in the process of eviction.  Losing their home sends families to shelters, abandoned houses, and the street.  This is among the most urgent and pressing issues facing America today.

Desmond’s two main points:

  1. Growing numbers of low-income households pay much of their income, some as much as 70% or more for rent.  This leaves little for food, medicine and other basic needs.
  2. Evictions aren’t just a consequence of poverty, but also a cause.

Desmond is a poverty expert who engages with the poor.  His images are vivid.  For example, Crystal who takes in Arleen, had parents on crack and she got passed around to two dozen foster homes.  She ends up homeless and prostituting herself, but never misses church!

This book is about one of the most basic human needs – a roof overhead.  The stories Desmond tells are gripping, moving, tragic and true!  This book enlightens us and serves as a call to action.

Surely some of the children in our childcare agencies come to us as a result of their family being evicted and the cascading events that follow.  The following is from the back cover of the book. 

Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of twenty-first-century America’s most devastating problems.  Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

2018 Kids Count Data Book State Trends in Child Well-Being

How are the children in your state faring in your state?

The Annie E. Casey Foundation acknowledges that contributions of many make the KIDS COUNT Data Book possible.

This publication opens by dealing with the census. The 2010 census failed to count nearly 1 million children under ag 5. Some of the reasons why this happened are:

  1. Whole families are not counted because living arrangements are complex
  2. Kids live in places traditionally that are harder to count. These include places where poverty is high and where multi-unit buildings and rental housing are more common.
  3. Some families respond to the census, but don’t include all members on the survey.

If kids facing the greatest obstacles are not counted, their needs become invisible. Their future becomes uncertain. The 2020 census will be the first one conducted primarily online.

KID COUNT has ranked states annually on overall child well-being using 4 domains as to what children need most to thrive.

  1. Economic well-being
  2. Education
  3. Health
  4. Family and Community

The value of the KID COUNT Data Book is that one can look at his own state and compare each of the domains with other states. One can see trends in certain states and parts of the country. For example, the New England states typically rate high in overall well-being. The bottom of the rankings was in states in Appalachia as well as the southeast and southwest where families have the lowest levels of household income.

The 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book is full of colored charts, graphs, maps and photos on almost every page, making it easy to compare and analyze the data.

This publication could be useful to national, state and local leaders involved with families and children, including foster care, teachers, adoption agencies, and those in healthcare and education.
The 2018 KID COUNT Data Book can be viewed, downloaded or ordered (free of charge) at

Fall or Fly: The Strangely Hopeful Story of Foster Care and Adoption in Appalachia
by Wendy Welch
Ohio University Press, 2018.
$14.34 used paperback at Amazon. Also available on kindle.

Wendy Welch works in public health and grew up in a small community near the coal mines. She divides her time between writing up observations of Appalachia and working to make it a more just and sustainable place.

“Fall or Fly” is a compelling, unvarnished glimpse into the complex world of foster care and adoption in modern-day Appalachia. Dr. Welch provides readers with a multifaceted view of the system through the eyes of children, foster parents, and caseworkers. It will surely become a treasured resource, not only for those interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents but for those who desire a more complete understanding of the foster care system.
Senator Bill Carrico, Virginia State Legislature

In Fall or Fly, Wendy Welch invites more than sixty social workers, foster parents, adoptees, and others to share their experiences. This book explores how love, compassion, money and fear intermingle in the complex system entrusted with our nation’s greatest asset.

The opioid epidemic sweeping our country has especially affected Appalachia. Many children have lost parents to addiction.

Fall or Fly tells the day-to-day successes and failures of families involved in the child welfare system.

Several strong points in Welch’s book are:

  • A deeper understanding of social workers and what they face
  • Insight into foster parents and what it might be like to be a foster child.
  • The five words that resonate throughout the interviews
    1) chaos
    2) frustration
    3) compassion
    4) desperation
    5) hope
  • The book is readable and engaging

A weakness in the book was keeping the names and stories straight. With so many interviews (even though the names were changed) and stories, the relationships between the people, and how it affected their lives, often became confusing.

Anyone living within the region of our country called Appalachia needs to read this book. Also, it is a book that could be useful for those in child care, foster care, adoption, social work and those wishing to gain an understanding of the reality many children are facing in Appalachia.


Before we were yours

Before We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate
New York: Published by Ballantine books, 2017,342 pages.
Cost $26.00.

When I read Proverbs 31:8, 9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the right of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy, I often wonder how I can do that? Maybe all of us ask that same question.

Lisa Wingate’s novel, Before We Were Yours, a 2017 New York Times bestseller based on a true scandal in the 1930’s involving the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, powerfully addresses the issue of those who cannot speak for themselves. (Note: Tennessee Children’s Home Society is not connected to Tennessee Children’s Home, Inc. that is part of Network 1:27).

Written from two viewpoints, both immediately captivate the reader. The first takes place in the present as Avery Stafford, the daughter of a politician considers her grandmother’s past and discovers hidden family secrets of orphans and adoptive parents. The second viewpoint comes through the eyes of twelve-year-old Rill Foss. Living on a shanty boat with their mother and father, Rill and her four younger siblings are poor but happy. One-night Rill is left in charge as her father rushes her mother to the hospital. Soon strangers arrive promising Rill and her siblings that they will see their mother and father. Instead they are thrown into the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. Although assured they will be returned to their parents, the children soon learn this is one of many lies they hear at the children’s home. The two viewpoints eventually intersect, as Avery considers her unknown past and Rill looks into her uncertain future.

Wingate reveals the injustice of children and poor families at the hands of Georgia Tann, the director of the Children’s Home. Based on a notorious real-life scandal, Before We Were Yours reminds us that we must speak up for children who cannot speak for themselves.

The book’s dedication is especially relevant to those who are part of Network 1:27 and work in childcare. It reads: “For the hundreds who vanished and for the thousands who didn’t. May your stories not be forgotten. For those who help today’s orphans find forever homes. May you always know the value of your work and your love.” This is important to keep in mind when facing daily challenges that come with working with children as part of Network 1:27. Whether the difficulties be with the children, funding, conditions, opposition, families, or lack of appreciation, helping children is valuable.

One of the strengths of the book is realizing how children in our country suffered for three decades at Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Mary Sykes, one of those children along with her infant sister, was stolen from the porch of her unmarried mother’s home when she was just four years old. Placed in the care of the TCHS Mary reflects, “I remember sitting on the floor in a room full of cribs, reaching through the bars and just patting my sister’s arm. She was too weak and dehydrated to even cry. No one would help her. Once it was clear that she was too far gone to recover, a worker put her in a cardboard box and carried her away. I never saw her again. I heard later that, if babies got too sick or cried too much, they’d set them in the sun in a carriage and leave them.”

At the end of her novel, Wingate gives several sources for further reading and research on Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Two of the most recent books are “Alone in the World: Orphans and Orphanages in America” by Catherine Reef (2005) and “The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption” by Barbara Bisantz Raymond (2007).

While exposing a chapter in our nation’s history that involved the stealing and selling of children, this novel encourages all who work with children. The dedication reminds us that it is those who are involved in foster care and adoption, from the Board to house parents, that can make a difference in the lives of children. These are the men and women who can and must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Faith and Foster Care

Faith and Foster Care: How We Impact God’s Kingdom
Dr. John DeGarmo
2016, New Hope Publishing
Amazon: Kindle $5.58, Paper $14.99

Are you a foster parent? Have you considered being a foster parent, or do you know someone who is currently fostering children? The turnover rate of foster parents in the US is 30-50% each year. Dr. John DeGarmo, a foster parent for twelve years writes to inform and encourage those fostering or considering fostering children. At the time he wrote the book, he and his wife had 6 biological and adopted children and 5 foster children.

After a brief history of the foster care system in the US, Dr. DeGarmo tells why he and his wife decided to foster. Foremost he believes it is his responsibility as a Christian to follow through with Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35, 36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Many foster children fit this description.

The book is an easy read and gives an accurate assessment of fostering. Dr. DeGarmo recounts the positives, for example feeling one is fulfilling their purpose in life, as well as the challenges that come being a foster parent.

One of the highlights of the book is the actual stories from foster parents and foster children. For those who have never been involved in fostering these give insights from two different perspectives.

Dr. DeGarmo gives advice to foster parents about being too busy and not having time for self or one’s spouse, and the reality of burnout. I felt Dr. DeGarmo and his wife could not say “no” when asked to foster. Even when they had as many children as they felt like they could handle, when a call came they responded by taking more in. At one point they had 9 foster children and the author admits they could not even schedule a date night. It seemed he was not practicing what he advised.

A highpoint of the book is the sixteen ways one can pray for foster children. These could be used by parents, children, childcare agencies or anyone who has a heart for children and fostering.

His practical suggestions of how churches can get involved in foster care could be helpful to classes, small groups and ministries in congregations looking for a way to serve. These include:

  • prepare a mal at the building, feed foster families and then take care of the children, giving the foster parents a reprieve
  • coordinate family visitation at the church building for children in foster care
  • provide respite care -adopt foster children during the holiday season
  • provide a new or gently used suitcase for foster children
  • provide mentoring for those who have aged out of the system

The book ends with several pages of helpful resources, including (1) foster care offices by state (2) national organizations (3) faith-based organizations.

I believe the book could be used by Network 1:27 agencies as a resource for families who are fostering or considering fostering. Or perhaps, it could be used by a staff member, gaining ideas to share with foster parents or perspective foster parents.

Book Review written by Sally Shank

2019 Kids Count Data Book
State Trends in Child Well-Being

What does child well-being look like in your state?
The Annie E. Casey Foundation acknowledges that contributions of many make the KIDS COUNT Data Book possible.

Many changes have occurred since the first Kids Count Data Book was published 30 years ago in 1990. Although as a nation we have improved in some areas, we have failed in others. There are still ethnic and racial disparities among children.

The Kids Count index captures what children need most to thrive, using 4 domains.

  1. Economic well-being
  2. Education
  3. Health
  4. Family and Community

State rankings are based on the data.
The Kids Count Data Book is filled with colorful charts and graphs for comparison among the states. They are well done, and helpful. There are also many wonderful photographs of children of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds engaged in education, interaction with adults and play.

If you are interested in how your state compares to others, the Kid Count Data Book can be an asset.

There are also National and State Data Profiles online. These provide current and trend data for 16 indicators (4 in each of the 4 domains mentioned above).

For more information go to In addition the Kids Count Data Center features an interactive look at the Kids Count index at