It is sometimes misunderstood when a reform of adoption and foster care come up that those who support these issues don’t fully grasp the problem of child abuse. That isn’t true.
One of the books I read early on in my own effort to educate myself about such issues is Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra. You can learn more at her personal website. She lived it all – from surviving an abusive mother who often left them alone to fend for themselves with inadequate resources to foster care. It is not an easy story to read. From her website blog about the book –
“The middle of five children, Regina, and her siblings, Cherie, Camille, Norman and Rosie were born to the same mentally ill abusive and neglectful mother but all different fathers. Their mothers mental illness, and fathers abandonment, contributed to the families instability. They would constantly move quickly shifting from houses and apartments to trailers, homeless shelters, cars and the streets. Regardless of where they lived, the older siblings would work to make each place they lived a home for the younger siblings. Through Regina’s experiences Etched in Sand chronicles how the siblings lived on the fringe of society as they struggled to survive. All the while avoiding the authorities by keeping a pact that it was better to stay together on their own then be separated and placed in foster homes.Through Etched in Sand Regina shares the scrappy survival instincts, mishaps, adventures and bonds of a group of essentially parentless siblings.”
There is a lot that is broken and wrong about how society deals with cases such as hers. This morning I read a heartbreaking accusation of a group I am part of that seeks reforms –
“I see a lot of you are against adoption… as if it’s some horrible thing… I see many people in here wishing they were not adopted or wish they were with their birth family…. etc. etc. I’ve seen people say adoption isn’t love. It’s bad. It shouldn’t happen. And I even see some of you discouraging others from adopting or give up their children for adoption.”
“Why on earth would you guys want me to be with my molester/abuser. The person who poisoned me with drugs as a child… aka my birth mom… or any other children kept with their abusers? I suffered with her for 4 years of my life being sold as a child prostitute by my own mom. I was drugged by her, in poverty and beaten repeatedly by her and then another 3 years in foster care I was abused until my bones were broken…, why would you guys want this for people? Or maybe I just don’t understand. Because adoption saved my life. I was left for dead by the person who supposedly ‘loved me’.”
“So why should children be forced to remain with their abusers or left with unfit parents???”
While I’m not highly active there nor do I read there every day, I do get a lot of ideas and am exposed to important information, which I often share here in my blog – including today’s (at least I feel it is important to my general mission of educating people about adoption and foster care from those who live it). From our group administrator comes the clearest answer, with which I agree since I’ve been in this group since late 2017.
“No one here advocates for ANY child to be abused. To insinuate that we do simply because we promote family preservation first is pretty horrible. Supporting moms to parent their children, helping them with resources and helping them see the value in themselves and the value for their children is not supporting ANYONE to remain in an abusive situation. No, we do not support that and ANYONE that has read in here long enough would know this already.”
And furthermore, just as I would say my own parents had a “good” adoptive life, the administrator added this (which I share to help clarify my own stance on these issues) –
“I am glad you had a great adopted life. I too had a great adoptive life, but that does not negate that adoption is not and should not be first choice. Moms that want to parent should be able to parent with the right supports. It is not necessary nor should it ever be necessary to seek adoption when you are unsupported, financially lacking, dealing with mental health issues, etc. These are all things that can be helped and should be. I have great relationships with my natural family too. The majority of my story is what adopted parents wish for when they adopt. Still, I am against adoption without a child’s making an informed decision and most certainly when moms just need help. The overwhelming majority of moms that seek adoption do so for financial reasons, which is ridiculous.”
That was the reason my grandmothers lost my parents who were both adopted. It is definitely the reason one sister gave up her daughter to adoption. The other sister just viewed adoption as a totally natural choice for a single, unwed mother. However, in her case, severe mental illness and a period of homelessness, plus the awesome way her son has matured into a fine and upstanding person, makes us glad she did give him up.
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to the well-being of any child or family situation. The group I belong to advocates protection under guardianship because adoption is a commercial, for profit system. Better is a model of “village-care” which is natural in many societies (though not in the US which is so individualistic). On the positive side is this perspective –
“What we would want to see is that you could maintain your original birth records & medical history while being under the protection of your current guardians. What we would want to see is that your family grows, not shrinks. Instead of cutting off branches (the ENTIRETY of that side of your family for your abusive parents actions), we would want to extend your family outward. More care. More kin. A wider community of care.”