Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Effort at Foster Child Advocacy

For the Love of Children

I've been reading a lot of blog posts as well as comments from foster parents (some who have adopted their foster kids) and birth parents who have lost their kids but funny enough, I don't see anything being written by people like myself; people who specifically sought to adopt (not foster) a child who needed a home.

I have the utmost respect for foster parents because that is a really hard, often thankless job. You're caring for someone else's broken children and you're the one left to pick up the pieces and put them back together again. These kids are often angry at their situation and suffering either physically or emotionally (or both) from the abuse that they suffered at way too young an age. In addition, you're dealing with over-worked social workers and a system that is horribly broken and in my humble opinion, heavily weighted in favor of the birth parents who have caused all this pain in the first place. I tip my hat to you foster parents. You are true angels walking on this earth.

I have read the birth parents' perspectives and I try to feel sorry for them...but I just can't. I can't be anything but angry at what they have done to their children; at the utter selfishness they exhibit on a near constant basis. They hurt their children in horribly inexplicable ways and then blame everyone else but themselves for the outcome.

Case in point, Christopher's mother called DCF "Baby Snatchers" and would scream at and even assault social workers because they took her child away. Christopher's mom's social worker had a protective order in place because the bio mom had indeed attacked her. We also had to have our court-mandated visits with a security guard in the room in case she attacked the workers during a visit. Yeah, it was that bad.

However the bio mom failed to recognize the extreme danger she put her son in when she robbed a chain store with him in tow. Nor does she acknowledge the fact that she put his life at risk when she took police on a high speed car chase through crowded city streets in an effort to escape capture. She literally could have killed them both. But yeah, let's blame DCF.

In my early adoption journey, I got to hear about and meet so many children who have been through hell and back, all at the hands of the people who are supposed to love them and protect them. My heart breaks for these children and I am so angry at the people who hurt them. I just can't have sympathy for them.

One day I met a beautiful 15-year-old girl who had a little toddler sister, to be adopted together. I inquired with my social worker about them and was told how the older girl had been raped and impregnated by her own father and that the toddler was the offspring. The girls were still a legal risk, meaning the birth parents continued to fight to maintain their parental rights. Yep that's can rape your daughter and still get to keep your kid until the state jumps through years' worth of expensive hoops to terminate rights. Meanwhile, the kids get victimized over and over again and all you can do is sit by and watch. It's horrible and it's just not right.

My own social worker used to work in the foster side of care and she told us stories about having to bring kids to visit parents in jail for molesting them. Often times, the parents are in jail for a year or two and then they get their kids back and start the abuse all over again. The social workers see what's going on but their hands are tied by laws that heavily favor birth parents and all they can do is watch it unfold. The well-trained social workers see the signs of abuse but these kids are too young to verbalize what's going on so a credible claim can't be made against the parents. So the courts side with the birth parents and the abuser gets to continue victimizing their kids without consequence. I asked my social worker how she handled watching that and she said that's the reason she switched over to foster adoption. At least these kids have a chance at a happily ever after. The kids in foster care have years of physical and emotional pain to look forward to and she just couldn't stomach it anymore.

I have a friend who was a foster parent initially but then switched over to adoption track for the same reason. She and her husband cared for a little girl and totally fell in love with the adorable toddler. The mother eventually got the little girl back and my friends cried over the loss, as any normal parent would. She cried even harder after the little girl died in her mother's care and she wasn't even allowed to attend the funeral. According to the mom, the child had a high fever and then had a seizure and died. The mother claims she called 911 but that an ambulance never came. (Um yeah right.) These are poor people so no autopsy was ever performed so who knows what really happened. My guess is the baby got a hold of some of mom's drugs, OD'd and died. That's just speculation but considering the scenario, not an unlikely one. The sad thing is, this child had been in a safe, loving home but the state wanted her reunited with her bio mom because that was supposedly in the best interests of the child. How dying on your living room floor is in anyone's best interest is really beyond me. But that's the mindset right now.

The same friend now has a toddler boy in her care. Wow he is a cutie! They are trying to adopt him but are fighting his birth mom, who wants to retain parental rights. Birth mom is a drug-addicted, homeless prostitute but all she has to do is show up to monthly visits (that her social worker escorts her to) and occasionally look presentable in court and her rights are maintained; for now at least. Meanwhile it's my friend and her husband giving this child a safe and loving home. The happy, safe, loving little guy could end up losing everything he has to go live in a homeless shelter with a woman he barely knows, if the bio mom chooses to make that effort. My friend and her husband live in fear every day that the child they adore could be taken away from them by a system that heavily favors birth parents, no matter how horribly unstable they may be. Unfortunately, their experiences have some historical merit so I certainly can't tell them their fears are unfounded. All I can do is support them best I can.

In theory, I feel sorry for the parents because they're so obviously damaged themselves. Maybe they're mentally ill, drug addicted or have been horribly abused as children themselves. But that sympathy ends when I see what they are doing to their kids because of their own personal demons. God has entrusted these people with beautiful, trusting, adoring gifts and they are abusing that trust over and over again. At some point the cycle needs to stop! And we as a compassionate Christian society need to find a way to stop it. I wish I knew how to enact change but I'm just an over-worked single career mom doing what I can to get by. Besides blogging about it during my one free hour a week, what can I do?

The only comfort I'm able to derive in all of this is that my own little boy is safe and loved and wants for nothing. Right now he is playing in his room with his new Angry Birds Jenga game, without a care in the world. Yesterday he played soccer in the town's youth league and then had swim class at the YMCA and after that we met some friends at the Science Museum for an afternoon of fun learning. He is a happy little boy! This is a far cry from the scared and lonely two year old, who in intensive foster care, banged his head against walls so badly that his caregivers were afraid he was giving himself a concussion. Thankfully he has very few memories of his past life and that's exactly how I want it to be.

And now I need to go play Angry Birds Jenga with this happy little boy who has been begging me for the last hour to get off of my computer and go play with him. So I am off to enjoy a rainy Sunday with my little family.

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