Hope’s Boy


  “My mother loved me more than she could care for me…”

 

REVIEWS FROM AMAZON.com

“Hope’s Boy,” Andrew Bridge’s haunting elegy of a childhood that seemed to be lost forever when the author, at age 7, became a ward of the State after being taken from the arms of his young mother on a street corner in North Hollywood, California. Mr. Bridge’s unsparing chronicle of his experiences on the front lines of our nation’s foster care system — including his time in a facility that seemed more like a prison camp, and his rearing by a sadistic foster mother, who herself was a prison camp survivor — opened my eyes more widely to the system’s endemic problems than any piece of investigative journalism on the subject ever could. But, at its core, Mr. Bridge’s book is a heartbreaking, unforgettable love story about a mother and her son. Even though Mr. Bridge’s mother, Hope, appears intermittently throughout his memoir, I felt her presence, even in her absence, on every single page of his book. I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything more powerful about love and loss than Mr. Bridge’s searing prose about his mother’s embrace as she struggled to hold onto him when he was being pried from her arms. And ultimately, I was inspired by how Hope’s love gave the boy, Andy, the strength to pursue, and, ultimately, achieve his goals. The adult Andrew has given a proud, defiant voice to the boy and his mother. I, for one, am glad to have heard them and hope that many others will too.

 
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Perseverance and Resilience, February 5, 2008

I was delighted to read Hope’s Boy. It reminds me why I’m a social worker. Connections with others, and the need for them, are at our core. They are powerful and enduring, as is the sense of loss when they are broken. In Bridge’s case, social workers and the foster care system broke his physical connections to his mother and grandmother. As social workers, our role is to support, honor and do everything we can to sustain the core bond between parent and child. We failed to do that for Bridge. Despite our failures, Bridge held close his memories of Hope, developing his own extraordinary capacity for resilience. He lends a powerful voice to so many foster children who have learned to “be still,” who continue to long for their own enduring bond with a forever parent. We can and must do better for them. I try to do that each day, for every youngster and family with whom I work. And I’m trying to teach that to the next generation of social workers, as well, who face a whole new set of challenges to keep children safe while they support and sustain the forever bonds they have with their parents. Thanks again for a wonderful reminder of our responsibility to nurture resilience and hope in all children.

 
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopes Boy – A strong call to action! – a must read, March 31, 2008

Hopes Boy shows us the nice side of Foster Care being able to stay in 1 home throughout his childhood even though he received very little nurturing – how did he become what he is today? Shows Andrew was born for a greater good so his childhood was not something to be victimized by. He has done so much for other foster kids and this book is a great read that does not go too deep into the worst of foster care but definitely gives you a glimpse and creates awareness for this ever growing epidemic. Andrew is a true inspiration for others who feel trapped or victimized by their past – this book is definite must read for people who need to be inspired to change and make a difference in the lives of others.

 
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and heartwrenching, March 14, 2008
By  Karen Lausa (Littleton, CO USA) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   

This book held my interest to the very last page, but only when I read the epilogue did I shed a few tears of rage.
All the loneliness, the cruelty and chronic absence of nurturing and support in Andrew Bridge’s life did not fill me with despair as much as the description of his fight as an adult, and an accomplished lawyer, to fight back against the very system that held him in bondage for his entire adolescence.
As a former court appointed special advocate in Colorado (CASA), and now a legal assistant for a Guardian ad litem specializing in family and juvenile law, I see on a daily basis how crippled and inadequate are our bureacracies in regard to foster care and all the children held in its limbo.
The courts are crowded, there aren’t enough good homes, and the cases just keep coming…
I know from firsthand experience that children long for their parents, even when neglect feels like the norm and things at home are substandard.The system too often removes the kids, lets them languish too long in foster placements, and fails to provide appropriate support to the parents. ( An eight week class for meth addiction, or a six week workshop to end a life’s cycle of domestic violence, etc.) We put band-aids on these families and heal very few of them. Emancipation at 18 is a frightening step for kids who have never had what the average child needs and has provided for him until the age of 26. Andrew Bridge was a victim of our inadequate system, but survived to become a voice to reckon with. His is a story that should not have happened, but the world is better for his courage and honesty in writing this book.
I will allow Andrew Bridge’s words to inform my approach to working with the foster kids in Colorado.I also know now that to mention an absent parent’s love and struggles should not be a taboo.It might be the very thing that is missing, regardless of the outcome for a family. Thank you, Andrew Bridge.

 
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable, March 19, 2008
By  J. Wilkens “busy reader” (Monrovia, CA USA) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   

I saw this review in People magazine and it intrigued me. I bought the audio CD and have been hooked. I am now on the 9th CD and am in awe of Andy. Shame on LA County and the way they treated foster kids, Kudos to Andy and the way he has prevailed – his story is remarkable. I see Andrew Bridge speaks at various functions and I will make it a point to find and see him. And I’d love to find “Mrs. Leonard” and give her a piece of my mind. What a hateful woman. God bless Andy in all his future endeavors, and the work he has done for children in need.

 
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A Young Man’s Courage, February 25, 2008
By  Author “johnnybrooklyn” (Brooklyn, NY USA) – See all my reviews

Andy Bridge’s likeable childhood photo peers out from his bookjacket, but his eyes betray his face. Just slightly though. He has been trained to smile for the camera. It’s a heartbreaking photograph and it drew me to the rack upon which the book sat. I know that look. Eager to please, yet mindful of the consequence of caring.

Like a scene from a macabre Tennessee Williams play, Andy is ripped from his over-the-edge mother when she has one too many public meltdowns. “Hope’s Boy” is whisked away from the scene. And like one of Williams’ characters, from now on Andy’s survival will depend upon the kindness of strangers.

That’s what kids learn when the bottom falls out. Some folks will like you, but most won’t.

Kids remember all the stings. And some of the encouragement. You learn to become an actor, to do what you’re told, You’ve been broken young, by people who aren’t your parents. It’s just easier to go along to get along.

In his probing memoir, Andy Bridges shows us in graphic detail exactly how good an actor he can be. And it is to his credit, as this quality keeps him tied to one family, the Leonards, for most of his remaining childhood.

He learns that Mrs. Leonard, a Nazi survivor, has mood swings and he needs to stay out of her way. He overhears her gossiping with neighbors about his plight and those of the other foster children that pass through the Leonard’s household. He sees there’s a revolving door. There’s no security here. But he promises to do better.

Bridges’ writing is candid, honest, self-effacing . . . and ultimately surprising.

The touchstone of the story is young Jason, another foster child. This child’s transformation in the household is portrayed in such a heartbreaking fashion that I found myself having to put the book down at times. It is obvious that the boy had a tremendous effect on Andy. His book is a tribute to Jason.

I say the book is ultimately suprising because I didn’t see the personal transformation Andy went through coming. I have seen this in other memoirs. The subject doesn’t want to seem to be bragging perhaps. But all of a sudden this timid, introverted outcast is running for school body president, getting a scholarship to Wesleyan, wait! Now he’s a champion debater.

When did all this happen?

Well, I’m glad it did, because Andy Bridge, great name by the way, has become a “bridge” to other kids who, through no fault of their own, are cast into a bureaucratic system that strips them of their remaining dignity at just the moment they’re most vulnerable. He bookends his memoir with an example of how he has put what he learned as an adult into action.

I know a couple of people who were in the foster system in Los Angeles in the ’70’s. I’ve heard horror stories of all kinds of abuse. Bridge relates some of the tragedies pertaining to the arrival of another child into the Leonard household. What happens to the little girl in the body cast — she is brought into the Leonard’s home after being raped and attacked with a baseball bat — is truly horrifying and you begin to wonder about the balance. The mythology surrounding the evil foster mother is second only to that of the wicked stepmother.

Bridge doesn’t exactly give the parents of these battered and abandoned children a free ride but he does reserve his greatest scorn for the “system.” And for the Leonards.

Although we don’t get a very clear picture of the Leonard children, it seems that Andy has drawn away, realizing that he’s just a paycheck to these people and they get to tell him what to do. He seems perplexed at the end why he even bothers to visit them anymore at the holidays and then he stops going.

I found myself perplexed that Grandma Kate didn’t swoop back in to rescue Andy, or that she even allowed him to slip from her grasp in the first place. He mentions this in passing later in the book and blames it on the cycle of poverty. He also notes that his mother herself spent some time in foster care when she was young.

The tragedy of course is that it wasn’t his mother’s fault. They love each other. Bridge lays out why they had to be separated. He’s very clear. He tries to cover as much as he can, praying she won’t be taken away from him, even as her condition worsens.

I wish Andy Bridge all the best in life. And he has my gratitude for being such an articulate spokesman for the cause of child welfare.

 
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring, March 1, 2008
By  William A. Bitopoulos (Lynn, MA United States) – See all my reviews
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no book has moved me more in years. the author exposes the foster care system better than it ever has been before. there is a sense that the author has only revealed pieces of his experience with his foster family, but i don’t think that was the point. I imagine out of respect he just exposed the actions that affected his experience and that would resonate with the reader. the author is a real hero. what a voice he is for the system.

 
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Moving, April 7, 2008
By  Christine Griffin (Haslett, Michigan USA) – See all my reviews
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As a teacher Hope’s Boy reminded me of one of the reasons I went into teaching. To create a safe haven for all my students, a place where they are valued, cared about and where they can achieve success. This book should be required for all people who work with children. What a wonderful memoir and love story.

 
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope’s Boy is an inspiration, March 24, 2008
By  Linda Gordon-cohen “Linda” (Massachusetts) – See all my reviews
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I loved this book. I found it inspiring that Mr. Bridge has overcome adversity to become a successful lawyer despite his childhood. But, what is so special about this book is that Mr. Bridge is so honest with his feelings. He understands and explains to the reader why he reacts to certain situations differently than others would. Mr. Bridge is so brave and honest with his complex emotions. He does not sugar coat his mother’s treatment of him. However, he is still protective of her and loves her and tries to understand why she could not raise him.

In my opinion, those that criticize Mr. Bridge because he defends his mother miss the point of his book. His mother is a flawed person who is severely mentally ill. To me, the point of the book is that there should be better options for children whose parents cannot take care of them. The foster care system should be sensitive to children’s needs and should not treat them like their situation is their fault. Our system should be empathetic to children’s needs and provide supports for children that will be the best solution for them. Mr. Bridge succeeded despite the system that raised him. It is quite telling that instead of trying to understand Mr. Bridges talents and needs for summer employment, he was given a job of picking up poop. Instead of understanding his scholastic needs, it was assumed that he would go to community college if any college at all. This is due to impossible case loads and lacking funds. However, as a society, we must think of ways to do better.

Throughout the book, Mr. Bridge provided numerous examples of how his physical needs were attended to but his emotional needs were ignored. All of us need to feel loved. We will sacrifice our basic needs, shelter and food for the need to be loved and cared for. So while the foster system Mr. Bridge describes may provide our country’s most vulnerable children with barely the basic necessities to survive, they do not even attempt to show these children any compassion or empathy much less love. Therefore, in most cases, these children wither as a result. At its worst, the foster system harms the most vulnerable children, treats them as if they are prisoners and abuses them physically and mentally.

Mr. Bridge’s novel sheds a much needed light on the foster care system and the needs of its charges. The fact that Mr. Bridge was able to succeed despite his upbringing is nothing short of a miracle. The fact that he is able to open himself up and express the deepest most hurtful events of his life with honesty and courage is amazing. I hope Mr. Bridge’s brave account of his life will contribute to a much needed national dialogue about how to help our nation’s children to receive the support and guidance that they need.

This book should be required reading for a degree in social work. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the complexities of our nation’s foster care systems.

 
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Written Deeply Moving True Story , February 6, 2008
By  Sue Fisher (Cushing, ME USA) – See all my reviews
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Hope’s son is a beautifully written deeply moving true story that violates conventional wisdom about what is in a child’s best interest and affirms the redemptive power of education. Hope loves her son and wants to raise him herself; however, poverty and mental instability undermine her ability to do so. Andrew Bridge, her son, was removed from his mother and placed in the foster care–a system that neither provided more opportunity nor a better life. The intact family he was eventually placed with was in no way an adequate substitute for his mother. Andrew is one of the lucky ones. Academic achievement led to scholarships for college and law school, giving him the skills to fight for foster children and to challenge assumptions about where society’s resources are best used–to build a better foster care system or to help parents raise their children. This is a book that speaks both to your emotions and your intellect and does so with passion, wit and first hand experience.

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