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Representing Foster Families in Children’s Books – Jen Carney

We are pleased to welcome author Jen Carney to the blog this week. Jen’s newest book – The Day My Dog Got Famous – is an illustrated comedy that celebrates different types of family, aimed at the 7-10 age group. In this blog post, Jen explains the importance of representing foster families in children’s books and tells us about the real-life blended family that provided inspiration for the books…
foster families in childrens books

foster families in childrens books

Guest Post: Jen Carney

Author of The Day My Dog Got Famous

Representing Diverse Families

It’s no secret that I’m passionate about the representation of different types of families in children’s books. Indeed, a conversation with my son about the lack of positive representation of children with same-sex parents in upbeat books was my starting point for my debut series, The Accidental Diary of B.U.G., which has been praised for its accessible, age-appropriate inclusion.

In my latest series, which starts with The Day My Dog Got Famous (released by Puffin in March 2024), I’ve represented a foster family – a blended foster family headed up by two mums – through an engaging, illustrated comedy that tells the tale of a boy trying to beat his rival in an online pet-popularity contest.

Teacher feedback: ”The Day My Dog Got Famous doesn’t just show the wonder of dogs but presents a sensitive window into the life of a foster family, as well as the emotions of a young boy who has to deal with children coming in and out of his home for varying lengths of time.”

Real-Life Inspiration

I was inspired to write this series by my sister who, in addition to having four of her own children, has fostered for over 20 years. And by my nephews and niece who, like my protagonist, Ferris, have generously opened their lives and their hearts to welcome foster children into their home for various periods of time.

Through funny capers with dogs, cartoons and comic strips, The Day My Dog Got Famous explores some of the emotions experienced by birth children who are part of blended families: frustration, connection, love and loss.

Teacher feedback: “…not just a fabulous story but one that is highly inclusive and one that balances humour with heartache to absolute perfection.”

Representing Children in Foster Care

A mother through adoption myself, and a previous panel member for a fostering agency, through the series (which will eventually consist of three books) I’ve also dipped into some of the reasons children can find themselves foster care, how they feel, and the repercussions that can ensue – all at a level that children will understand.

In The Day My Dog Got Famous, the family provides respite care for a child whose regular carer is in hospital. In book two, The Day My School Exploded, the family are fostering a child who has been removed from his mother and separated from his brother, and is soon going to be living with a relative.

Children with Additional Needs in Care

I’ve also included a long-term foster child with additional needs across all three books to represent the sad fact that such children often remain in the care system for longer than their peers. I’m an experienced parent to a wonderful child with special needs. Showing that children with additional needs are much more than just their difficulties was also important to me. The message that family is often bigger than biology is seeded through the series.

Parent feedback: “Where the book tips the line to excellent is the touches of diversity and the truths of human life…Ferris having a ‘hard to place’ foster sister, and two mums, and what that impact that has. It looks at the how and who can be in care, for respite or permanent – and what that looks like for existing children.”

Why Represent Foster Families?

  1. Representation is the key to successful reading for pleasure – a well-known indicator of a child’s future life-chances and well-being.In the UK alone, there are almost 54,000 foster families and approximately 70,000 foster children living with them.

    These children deserve to see themselves in a funny book. As do the many birth children living in blended families.

  2. To give children with little (or no) experience of foster care the opportunity to learn about other children’s lives and help them develop empathy as they broaden their understanding of the world.

The Day My Dog Got Famous is out now and available via Amazon or BookshopThe Day My School Exploded will be released in February 2025, and a third title will follow.

For more information about Jen’s books, visit:


Thank you to Jen for visiting our blog this week.

The Day My Dog Got Famous by Jen Carney is available via Amazon or Bookshop. A KS2 resource pack is also available to download from the publisher.

For more books representing families of all shapes and sizes,  you might also like our diverse families booklist. You can also explore the age group booklists in our hub of recommended diverse books for children.

Where next?
> Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub
> Browse our Topic Booklists
> View our printable year group booklists.
> See our Books of the Month.

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