A Christian author (Around Our Town, 2011) recounts her career as a child-protective social worker in this memoir.
Skinner—a wife and mother, a former teacher, and a former foster parent—learned in the 1990s that there was a need for mentors of inexperienced parents, and she decided that she could help. She was ultimately hired as a full-time social worker, and she spent 23 years, in the states of Texas and Arkansas, specializing in foster and adoptive placements; along the way, she investigated physical and sexual abuse cases and led group-therapy sessions for male sex offenders. Skinner calls her memories her “cleansing breaths,” and as she recounts them, she describes how her own personality quirks and reliance on prayer guided and complicated her job. Her career took her in unexpected directions and often placed her at odds with the bureaucracy of child protective services and the attorneys appointed to represent the children. She recounts many triumphs, however, such as taking underfed children to McDonald’s for the first time, getting a violent child to trust her, and urging a mother to face the truth about a stepfather’s abuse. But the deeply religious author also admits that she “struggled” with the notion of placing children in non-Christian homes—which, for her, even included those of Mormons; even so, she still managed to form a good working relationship with a Wiccan group facilitator. Black-and-white drawings by Skinner’s daughter accompany most of the 12 chapters, and sidebars delve deeper into professional jargon and on-the-job observations. Skinner, a conservative Christian, emerges in the text as a compassionate, fair-minded professional who made placements based on what she thought was the best possible outcome for the children. She also has much to say about what she sees as counterproductive policies and bureaucratic red tape and also how TV programs, such as Judging Amy, have misled the public about her profession. At times, her folksy style moves at a slow pace, and she occasionally unnecessarily repeats herself. However, she’s scrupulous to admit her personal biases and acknowledge the times when her sympathies affected her judgments.
A moving, valuable inside view of an often misunderstood profession.