Reviewed by Cassandra Colson, November, 2002
Parents Wanted, by George Harrar, is one of the best-written fiction stories I have ever read. I would strongly recommend that all prospective foster and adoptive parents read this book. Even though it is not a real account of a person’s life, it could be. Why? Because the majority of foster and adopted children and teens feel their parents should be the ones to suffer for their consequences.
I have never read a fictional account of someone’s life that seemed so real. In the book, the main character, Andy, has a birth mother who is just no good. His birth father, whose “only occupation was a thief,” puts Andy into DSS custody.
Andy, like many children in DSS custody, has learned how to manipulate the system and his guardians. And, thanks to his father, he knows how to steal. Andy has learned one set of rules from his birth parents and he has to learn another from his foster and adoptive parents.
When Andy goes to live with his adoptive parents he carries all of these misguided behaviors with him. He tells his adoptive parents, Jeff and Laurie, anything they want to hear. He also decides that they are like all of his past foster parents. So he begins to get into trouble so he can get sent back to “The Home” (the group home he used to live in) before he begins to like his new home. Andy is a very confused young man who really needs the help of someone who can take the time to listen to him and show him that he is worth fighting for.
What I really have in common with Andy is the reason he wanted to be adopted. At first he was interested in adoption simply because he was ready to get out of the “stinking” group home he was living in, since it was no fun. Eventually, though, he starts wanting parents who are cool and who would love him for who he is, faults and all.
To find out if this is really the kind of parents Jeff and Laurie are, Andy decides to push them to the limit to test their patience and love. I think that a lot of children in foster care feel this way. By the time Andy discovers his testing tactics didn’t work, it seems too late. So Andy decides to falsely accuse Jeff of inappropriately touching him. As a result, Andy must move back to The Home until things get straightened out.
Andy really learns a lesson about friendship and integrity when he gets back to The Home. There he finds that his old friend, José, has a new roommate and a new friend. This leaves Andy to really think about where he wants his life to go now that he might not get a second chance.
The ending of Parents Wanted is so true. Stories don’t always have to have a fairy tale ending when it comes to foster and adoptive families. But things do get better and the people involved do become a family. That’s what this story says — that adoptive families aren’t perfect and they definitely aren’t going to be peachy keen to start off, but with time they can overcome their struggles and differences.
Cassandra Chavis Colson is a former foster youth and a board member for the youth advocacy group SaySo (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out).
Reprinted, with permission, from Fostering Perspectives, a newsletter published by the N.C. Division of Social Services and the Jordan Insitute for Families at the UNC-CH School of Social Work