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Lost in the welfare system, but still clinging to hope

Andrew Bridge offers an insider’s look at what it means to grow up as a foster child in America.

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News reports flash a daily barrage of stories about children who fall between the cracks, abused by parents or neglected by social welfare agencies. Andrew Bridge’s memoir, Hope’s Boy, puts a face on these lost children.
Bridge, who was taken from his mentally unstable mother when he was 7, spent months in a county home before being placed with a foster mother who turned out to be emotionally and physically abusive.

Through sheer determination, he managed to earn a scholarship to Wesleyan University, a Harvard Law degree, and a Fulbright Scholarship. He now advocates for children in foster care. But even these sterling accomplishments cannot fill the early gap left by a mother’s absence.

His mother, Hope, had been raised in and out of foster homes. She married at 17 and drifted with her husband until both were arrested for bank fraud and sent to state prison in California. Their young son, Andy, was sent to his grandmother in Chicago. His grandmother loved him, and although she had very little money, managed to make a stable home for him.

After prison, Hope tried to make a new start in Los Angeles, divorcing her husband and taking a job in a beauty salon. Although she had no money and no idea how to raise a child, she wanted her boy back. Andy was returned to his mother, who was then living in seedy North Hollywood, where her desperate financial situation and worsening mental health kept them locked out of apartments and scrounging in dumpsters for clothes and food. Hope worried constantly that someone would snatch Andy away, so she kept him out of school, holed up in the closet for hours at a time. Still, she loved him and looked after him as best she could.

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