What constitutes a family? Biological connections that are severed early on? Or the strangers who provide a kind of care for years, with no connection other than the physical proximity of living in the same house?

The author describes her journey through the foster care system in Fresno County in the 1970s and 1980s, and as she mentioned streets and places within the city and its surrounding areas, it all resonated with me. I had spent almost those same years as a social worker for Fresno County, and while I had not crossed paths with her or her sisters, Teresa and Penny, I could relate to much of what she wrote. However, my perspective came from the “other side” of the story. The side that represented the system, which I can readily acknowledge to be broken. Or at least severely damaged.

I had heard similar stories from the children in care, but in this author’s case, she kept most things secret. She did mention telling a neighbor some of her experiences, only to be dismissed.

As the years passed, there were good times for the sisters, and there were seemingly ordinary coming-of-age moments, but the lack of an emotional connection to a parent was keenly absent.

The sisters did share a strong bond with each other that lasted through their time in care…and afterwards, when they finally reconnected with their biological mother. But again, physical proximity seemed to be the main connection between the long absent mother and the sisters.

Like Family was an all too familiar tale to those of us who have worked in the system. Reading this story from a real life “graduate” of that system was inspirational. It is a testament to the author’s strength and resilience that she made it through to the other side, and can now share what she has learned along the way. 5 stars.


  1. How interesting you were in the same area as the author at the same time & sort of in the same field on opposite sides. How bad was the system for McLain? Did she fall through the cracks? Seems rough to have been in foster care, and yet here she is quite a splendid writer all these years later. Persevere she must have. 5 stars makes me want to get it. thanks.


    • When I read the blurb on this book and saw how our paths “almost” crossed (I even recognized the name of her social worker, if she used the real name!), I had to buy this book.

      Actually, her situation was luckier than some in that she and her sisters stayed in the same foster homes. That doesn’t happen enough, even though the workers try.

      Thanks for stopping by, Susan.


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