Kathy Harrison deserves a medal for taking more than 120 foster children into her Massachusetts home over a 15-year period. Her bustling family life is a joyous respite from the horrors faced by many of the abused and neglected boys and girls who find their way into state foster care, as recounted in Harrison's first memoir, Another Place at the Table. Under her loving oversight, many of these lost children blossom into happy kids.
One Small Boat: The Story of a Little Girl, Lost Then Found is Harrison's follow-up account of a particular child, six-year-old Daisy, whose violent, bizarre behavior spinning, flapping her arms and refusing to speak or eat has her mother and grandmother at their wits' end. Daisy is not the usual foster child, though. She comes from a family of highly educated professionals who should have had the resources and skills to care for her. Daisy begins to thrive in Harrison's patient, safe care. Then the tragic and all-too-familiar tale of Daisy's abuse begins to emerge. The aftermath and the Harrisons' emotional involvement in Daisy's life are heartbreaking. Harrison and her family can't help another set of siblings, Ruth and Mary Margaret, whose Christian fundamentalist parents have beaten and neglected them. The stories of the sisters and other vulnerable children serve as a powerful account of the enormously good work that foster parents everywhere do. One Small Boat is ultimately a hopeful recounting of Daisy's tale, showing that Harrison and individuals like her are modern-day heroes, quietly and without fanfare shaping the futures of children whose parents and families are unable, unwilling or unschooled in how to provide nurturing environments. As Harrison writes, It isn't usually about the big hurrahs. It's about moments for kids when they can remember clean sheets and hot chocolate and that somebody was nice to them. Kelly Koepke is a freelance writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.