The foster care system in the United States has long been a subject of much negative attention. In many ways, individuals who were part of this system were regarded in a negative way, and were placed upon a great deal of stigma. The Lost Boy, a book that discusses this subject from a highly personal perspective, aims to explain both the internal and external aspects of the system and how it can affect those within it, referring not just to the children who must be part of the system, but also to the adults that knowingly involve themselves within it. The Lost Boy, just as any great book written on a little known subject thus has a great impact on the individuals who read it and on the society in affects. This novel discusses a journey, seen from the eyes of a child and from the eyes of that same child as an adult, within the foster care system. Though the book elucidates the many aspects of a boy's life, it is much more than a story. It is, in fact, a journey that must be undertaken, especially by the reader, with a very open mind and no pre-judgments. It is a journey through a world that is unknown to most of society and that is shunned by some. Yet The Lost Boy is an example of how great literature can be today and how a man can teach society about its problems, and the solutions that it may implement. The following paragraphs will give a brief summary of the book, as well as will discuss it in further detail in order to provide critique through deep understanding of the subject in question.
The Lost Boy undertakes the presentation of a child's life. The child, David Pelzer, is the author of the book. For this reason, the audience immediately realizes that the life presented in this book is something valuable and nowhere near fictional. For this reason as well, the book deserves complete attention from the part of the reader, and the author's words are evermore valued. Though the book deals with a difficult subject, the author does a fantastic job of presenting a story that is both heartfelt and objective.
The density of the subject, especially as it is presented through a child's innocent eyes, is easily understood by the reader, yet the book is also frustrating, especially since the reader is not able to do anything to help the child. The first chapter, for instance, gives an introduction of the child's living situation. The mother is immediately recognized as the root of the problem, but the author does a great job of keeping her as she would be seen by a child, namely, larger than life and omnipotent. In fact, Pelzer calls himself a "prisoner" at the hands of his own mother. Perhaps the most excruciating part of the book is the child's description of not being able to escape his mother's grip, emotionally and psychologically, even after he is placed in the foster care system. The book is that much more fascinating because of the fact that the mother is understood to be such a troubling person, yet who has a grip, despite being very, very sick, on every aspect of the child's life, at least until he grows to be a young adult. The majority of the book is, thus, focused on the problems of David's childhood.
The beginning of the story is confusing due to the fact that Pelzer mentions two families that, the reader then finds out, are the same family, but changed through time. The first time we meet the family, they are mean and ruthless to David, and the reader assumes that this is not his biological family. Yet the author soon describes that the family is his biological family, but is somehow, as mentioned above, changed for the worse. This is, again, because of the fact that the mother has begun to develop what the audience assumes are troubling psychological problems. What is hard to understand and never truly describes is what prompted this change. Though there are mentions as to why the mother is acting differently (i.e. she is sick), this is never truly analyzed and, one can assume here that the author does not truly know either.
The first few chapters of the book also focus on how David, after being punished, is prompted to run away, but how his mother 'finds him' as he always says that she does, which only prompts her to be more ruthless. Though David is encouraged by his own mother to run due to the fact that she wants him out of the house (the mother does not even call David by his name), it is not the mother who finds him in this particular instance. In fact, Dave grows so hungry that he decides on going to find food. While on his way there, however, Dave hears his mother's car and hides in a bush. After the car passes, Dave continues his quest and finally arrives at a bar, where he is seen by the owner. The owner then proceeds to offer him food in exchange for his address and Dave proceeds to give his address. The owner then, to Dave's dismay, calls an officer in who then takes Dave home. When he arrives, he understand his parents have concocted some sort of excuse and put the blame on Dave for his disappearance and the officer, to the audience's dismay, sees nothing wrong with the situation in question.
This particular incident prompts that first problem that the book examines, namely, the fact that society in the 1970's did not properly recognize the need to help remove a child from the hands of an abusive family, or in this case, an abusive mother. Such a problem in a family today would be reported to the state but, during those times, it was seen as a personal 'secret' that belonged to the family and that could be solved within the confines of the house. Yet none of David's brothers and not even his father are able to stand up to the derision and the abuse exerted by the mother.
A Change Arrives
The first monumental shift in story, and one that ultimately changes David's life, finally comes when the teachers at his school recognize that he is being abused at home. Some modern child abuse assessment tools, according to experts, include the following:
health status, quality of life, adherence, pain management,
child behavior, child development, child coping, cognitions and attitudes, and environment (Naar-King & Ellis, 2004).
Needless to say, such tools did not exist in the 1970's, and the sole reason why David's situation was reported to the authorities was because of the fact that the teachers saw signs of physical abuse. Yet, again, this situation was only reported after years of abuse, as many outside the family also believed that any problem could be solved internally, by the family.
As soon as David is taken to the hospital, he is seen by doctors who employ only some of these assessment tools presented above, and specifically only the physical ones. David's situation both pre and during his foster home experience, especially the descriptions concerning the reactions of society to the fact that he was a foster child were quite shocking by today's standards.
One of the instances in which David can feel this stigma is when he is with his third foster family who lives in a wonderful neighborhood. At some point, David decides to go speak to a neighbor's daughter. The child, who is now a new teenager is quite nervous, but his conversation with the girl goes well. That is, until the mother comes to the door and chastises David not only for speaking to the girl, but also puts him down for being a foster child stating that neither she nor the other neighbors want "his kind" living next door and essentially closes the door in David's face without giving him any chance to defend himself.
This woman is the only one who directly blames David for a situation that is not his fault. Though he does not realize it at the time, David's first therapist is another individuals who believes in the child's complete at-fault in the situation created by the mother. Today, one would expect the mental state of a child to be examined by this therapist from an objective point-of-view, but in the book, only the physical aspect is described and one sees the therapist trying to attack David, instead of help him. The audience cringes at the things that take place during two sessions, things that are mentioned by David to his foster family long after they have happened, but things that, needless to say, affect the child greatly.
After all these horrendous experiences, one would expect the child to completely collapse, but David remains strong through all…