Published by B & H Publishing on October 18, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Adoption, Memoir
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If you’re wondering if God can truly move in the life of someone with all the odds stacked against her, look no further than Tori Hope Petersen.
Tori grew up in the foster care system, a biracial child in a confusing and volatile world. Growing up with a mentally ill mother and living in twelve different foster homes, nothing was in her favor. And yet, even with a minuscule chance of graduating college and a great risk of being homeless, jobless, and on drugs, Tori overcame every negative stereotype and assumption that attacked her identity.
However, Tori will tell you she did not overcome. Christ did. In the face of the storm, Jesus made a way for Tori to find profound hope, deep faith, renewed purpose, and a loving family, too. After so many years of being on one side of foster care as a child, Tori is now on the other side as a foster mom, adoptive mom, and biological mom. On top of that, she became a Track and Field All-American in college and now works with nonprofits, ministries, and beyond advocating for foster care reform, adoption advocacy, and help for vulnerable populations.
If you want to hear the true tale of an unlikely overcomer, this book is for you. If you want to learn more about the foster care system from a former foster youth’s perspective, this book is for you. If you want to better dwell in the reality of your own spiritual adoption by our Heavenly Father and better understand the orphan and the widow that He loves dearly, this book is for you. Ultimately, if you want to remember who God is, and what He can do through the most unlikely of people, Fostered is for you.
In this powerful memoir, Tori Hope Petersen shares about her experiences growing up in an abusive, unstable home and rotating through different foster care placements. Throughout the book, she shares about her faith in God and how grateful she is for the deliverance she has experienced from her traumatic background and the terrible odds stacked against her. The book is mainly a thematic memoir, and as she explains early on, it doesn’t always move in chronological order. At times, I found this somewhat disorienting, especially when she covered experiences from different ages in one chapter without clearly transitioning the reader in time, but this also fits with the reality of trauma memories and how the brain stores them.
Fostered: One Woman’s Powerful Story of Finding Faith and Family through Foster Care is a deeply inspiring read, and I especially admire how Petersen calls out Christian hypocrisy and flaws within the foster care system without sounding embittered or resentful. She names the realities that she sees and has experienced, but she doesn’t do this in a vindictive way, and she frequently suggests alternative policies and approaches that she hopes the government, agencies, and foster families will move to in the future. She is also very honest about her own failings, including details about embarrassing and harmful things that she has done instead of only focusing on others’ wrongdoing against her. This book is very raw and honest, and Petersen includes reflections and applications for her intended audience of other foster care survivors, other trauma survivors, and the people who want to better understand them.
This book warrants multiple trigger warnings, and Petersen addresses this near the beginning, encouraging people not to read this if they’re not in a stable or healed enough place to receive it. However, her brutal honesty about the horrible things she experienced is part of the book’s value, since she shares about family dysfunction and foster care from the perspective of a now-adult child who lived through it. Most of my occasional critiques are unimportant, since this is Petersen’s story and she can choose how to tell it, but the book has an unfortunate number of typos, and the font size is rather small. Someone with vision difficulties may want to get an ebook where they can zoom in, and I hope that the publisher will correct the typos in future printings.
I recommend Fostered to people who will relate to the author’s background and traumatic experiences, to social workers and parents who are involved with foster care, and to those who want to learn more about these issues to better support others. Petersen does a wonderful job of advocating for herself and other foster kids in this book, showing how harmful stereotypes and restrictive policies make it even more likely that kids in her situation will act out and make destructive choices. I hope that people who read this book will feel equipped to address harmful stereotypes and assumptions when they see them, to lessen the burden on the people who have survived them.