A counselor recounts her time running a Texas children’s home, focusing on one case involving three Russian children.
After earning a master’s degree in counseling, debut author Black took a job at a center for abused children. Seeing firsthand the dilapidated state of the facility, she decided to open her own home. The Roosevelt House, finally realized in 2008, was a chance to help numerous children in need of care. But the author’s life took an unexpected turn, starting with a simple request from Child Protective Services to perform a psychosocial evaluation on a father and his adopted children in a nearby town. At the time, there were abuse claims against the man’s wife. But the oldest of the three kids, 12-year-old Alexey, who asserted the woman regularly abused him, was contradicted by the husband and the boy’s younger sisters, Anastasia and Svetlana. The father was initially happy for Alexey, a habitual runaway, to stay at the Roosevelt House but changed his mind after believing he would have to pay child support. So began a relentless struggle by the author to get Alexey, and later the girls, out of the couple’s house—especially demanding, as CPS concluded no abuse had been taking place. Black’s straightforward prose is effective, clearly presenting her perspective: She firmly believed the parents were abusive but received no assistance from CPS or even law enforcement. Still, some of the literal imagery doubles as potent metaphors. For example, the author spotted a barbed-wire fence before checking on the three children, who had just run away from home, and dubbed the father, with a trash bag of Alexey’s belongings over his shoulder, a “bizarre Santa.” The abuse, as described by the kids, is disturbing. But the illuminating story is frequently uplifting, as neither Black nor Alexey surrenders, and occasionally comical: The boy believed that stonewashed, holey jeans at a clothing store were definitely used.
An enlightening account of the burdens facing both the abused and the people coming to their aid.