A powerful verbatim play about young women’s resilience through foster care, drawn from in-depth interviews. No White Picket Fence stems from a research project conducted by social work professor Sue McKenzie-Mohr with ten individuals who, as girls, grew up in the foster-care system and now identify in their own ways as living well. The play’s dialogue is entirely verbatim, lending the play its hyperreal feel, and giving voice to typically marginalized perspectives from those at the heart of the youth-in-care system. No White Picket Fence follows the women’s unique stories in their own words, from their experiences before being taken into care through their time in the system and on into their current lives navigating the world as young adults. Their stories are raw, characterized by times of turmoil and suffering in their original family homes and later during impermanent arrangements in foster care and group homes. And yet these women’s stories also highlight their persistent efforts to move toward living well on their own terms.
Above all, these are stories about resistance, resilience, and the enduring strength of the human spirit. No White Picket Fence sheds light on the urgent need for greater and sustained efforts to improve a care system that struggles to meet the basic needs of the youth it is mandated to protect and nurture. The voices in No White Picket Fence tell stories that need to be heard, stories we all need to hear.
Before accepting a position at St. Thomas University (2003), Sue McKenzie-Mohr was a social worker for 15 years working in shelters, hospitals, and counselling centres. Her scholarly interests include youth experiences of the care system/homelessness, politicized framings of trauma, and women’s/girls’ experiences of sexualized violence. Sue co-edited Women Voicing Resistance (Routledge) with Michelle Lafrance, for which they won the 2015 Distinguished Publication Award (Association for Women in Psychology). Sue’s engagement in community focuses on supporting efforts by agencies whose purpose is to address violence and oppression in the lives of women and youth.