Jamarr's Promise

A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare

Non-Fiction - Social Issues
162 Pages
Reviewed on 06/20/2017
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Author Biography

Kristin I. Morris is a devoted wife and mother of four children. She has been with her husband Benny since age nineteen. She is a devout Catholic and tries to live in a Christian manner. She always wanted to help people, by working with the church teaching CCD, pro-life club, soup kitchen, and doing charity work.

Kristin earned her bachelor’s in Psychology from Rowan University. After school, she began to work as a social worker for the State of New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency, formerly Division of Youth and Family Services. As part of the child welfare system, she found herself watching over New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens: abused children. She was extremely excited and naïve, wanting to save the world. Working in the city of Camden among the people that needed the most help was extremely eye opening, but revealed the corruption of the inner systems of the Division. Jamarr’s Promise is the true story of Kristin’s battle with the State over the murder of a child she tried desperately to save..

Kristin’s dream is to open and run a foster care organization as a safety net for abused children, and to eliminate the politics and hidden agendas of larger organizations.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite

Jamarr’s Promise is a heart-wrenching true story. It is more than just a memoir; it is a story of death, sorrow, and government conspiracy. Kristin I. Morris and Dr. Joseph J. Zielinski share the tragic story of Jamarr Cruz. Jamarr was a bright young boy whose life ended horrifically; he was beaten to death. He was an innocent child caught up in the system. Jamarr was one of many case files for the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency to process. But for Kristin Morris, his case worker, he was more than a case; he was a child in danger and she promised to protect him. Kristin knew when she chose this career that she would see the “worst of the worst.” But no amount of preparation, training or education prepared her for what she would experience working for the DCPP of New Jersey. Kristin dedicated her life to her profession; however, she is not thanked or rewarded. Instead, her employer, the State of New Jersey, betrays her by making her the scapegoat for the death of Jamarr Cruz.

Jamarr’s Promise is written with a purpose. Kristin I. Morris and Dr. Joseph J. Zielinski wrote this book hoping to create change in the child welfare system of New Jersey. By exposing the faults and corruptions of the system, their goal is to “protect innocent children from the fate of Jamarr Cruz.” Morris openly tells her story; she expresses her personal pain and how this event dramatically changed her life and the future of her family. Dr. Zielinski’s influence and professionalism are seen throughout the text. Both authors were impacted by Jamarr’s death and it is revealed in their writing. The facts are told, and the emotions are felt. Kristin I Morris and Dr. Joseph Zielinski were compelled to tell this story. I was reminded as I read, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). Disgraced, betrayed, and against all odds, Kristin refuses to sit back and do nothing; she seeks justice. “The guilty parties in this bureaucracy need to be exposed, tried in court and punished.”

Caitlin Lyle Farley

Jamarr’s Promise is the account of how malpractice in the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency led to the murder of a child. When Jamarr tells his case worker, Kristin, that he’s afraid of his step-father and doesn’t want to return to his mother’s home, she immediately acts to ensure his safety. She finds her efforts blocked at all turns by a Hispanic faction with the department that’s determined to keep Latino families together at all costs. This attitude leads to Jamarr’s wishes being ignored and Kristin’s recommendations overlooked. Later, Kristin receives a call informing her that Jamarr is dead, having been beaten to death by his step-father. The following morning, she also receives an official notice accusing her of negligence in her handling of the case.

Jamarr’s Promise is a moving story that highlights the far-reaching effects of that most toxic shadow plaguing governments worldwide; corruption. It’s almost unbelievable to think that what one imagines to be a compassionate bias at its core, the concept of keeping Hispanic families together, could be so blind to the dangers it poses for helpless children. While it is difficult for a memoir to describe events with complete impartiality, especially with the focus on such a dramatic event, Kristin I. Morris and Joseph J. Zielinski write with a clarity that’s undeniable. The narrative occasionally lacked depth and the dialogue was stilted at times in conveying information to the reader, but the subject matter remains intriguing throughout. All in all, Jamarr’s Promise is a stirring book.

Jack Magnus

Jamarr's Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare is a nonfiction memoir written by Kristin I. Morris and Joseph J. Zielinski, Ph.D. Jamarr Cruz didn’t want to go home to his mother and Vince, her boyfriend. Morris had been the young boy’s caseworker for over a year, and she could tell from his body language and panic-filled eyes, that he desperately wanted to stay with his maternal grandparents. Vince had severely beaten the boy in the past and had been sentenced to jail time for excessive corporal punishment, and there was no guarantee that that behavior wouldn’t resume once the boy was back in his mother’s custody. After speaking with Jamarr, who plainly expressed his fear of Vince, Morris began the procedures implemented by her employer, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, for a Dodd Removal to allow Jamarr to remain with his grandparents. Her urgent requests for this intervention fell on deaf ears, however, due to an agency policy aimed at keeping families intact. The boy’s case was removed from her responsibility, and he was returned to his mother. Jamarr died not long after as a result of a series of brutal beatings, and the blame was placed upon Morris, as his caseworker, and on her immediate supervisors.

Kristin I. Morris and Joseph J. Zielinski’s nonfiction memoir, Jamarr's Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare, is a stunning indictment of a bureaucratic system that failed to prevent the brutal murder of a child under its care and attempted to pass off the blame on the caseworker who had tried to avert the catastrophe. Morris’s story is a compelling and a sad one, particularly as the author had cared so much about that young boy and was helpless in the face of a system that failed the one it was supposed to help. She shares the personal toll of fighting to clear her name, taken on by herself and her family, as she challenged the state which had infinitely more power and resources than she had. In doing so, she highlighted an essential weakness in our justice system, where money and legal resources can tilt the scales of justice unfairly in the favor of the wealthy or more powerful. Morris explains how even the Governor seemed to have an interest in suppressing the truth, and she raises some provocative questions about the retaliation experienced by coauthor, Zielinski, after he apprised Governor Christie, by letter, of Morris’s situation. Jamarr’s Promise is a sobering read that shines a light on one boy’s needless suffering and death, but it also may help protect the many other kids who find themselves in Jamarr’s situation. Jamarr's Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare is most highly recommended.