What Is Child Endangerment?

When my children were very young, I used to worry that some rather innocent parental choice might cause us to lose custody of them. There was a memorable episode of The Simpsons – LINK>Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily – the third episode of the seventh season. Homer and Marge lose custody of their children to the state. The kids end up in foster care at Ned and Maude Flanders’ house. Marge and Homer were spending the day at a spa, while the children were in school. Baby Maggie was left in the care of her elderly grandfather, Abe Simpson. This caused the parents to be accused of negligence after Bart was sent home from school with head lice and Lisa was found shoe less. Child Protective Services agents arrived at the Simpson house and judged it to be under incompetent care.

This was much less likely when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I do remember getting in trouble for going too far from home on my bicycle. I also remember wandering in wild and remote spaces and never feeling concern from my parents, though in adulthood I learned they weren’t aware of the extent of my journeys LOL.

We never left our two sons alone and never even employed their grandparents (who lived next door) as overnight babysitters. I suppose we have been overprotective but they are still alive and have not gotten into any serious youthful trouble. They’ve been allowed to develop their own character absent being overly influenced by peers. So often I read in adoption related spaces how easily children have been removed from their natural parents for no more than poverty, which this country does pitifully little to address and probably will do even less in the next 2 years with extremist Republicans in charge of the federal government.

Two recent events have gotten my attention. This country has a serious double standard depending on one’s race and class status. One event is alluded to in the image I chose for today’s blog (more on that below). The other I just read about in The Huffington Post – LINK>What Is Child Endangerment? When Leaving Your Child Alone Becomes A Crime. I remember hearing a similar story from my own mother. She left two of us alone to run to the grocery store, I believe. We were discovered by a neighbor. My mom learned her lesson and the police and/or Child Protective Services were never involved.

The Huffington Post story was about two children, ages 2 years and 5 months, who were left alone in a New York City hotel room, sleeping and under camera surveillance, so that their parents could go out to dinner about a block and a half away. Life is what happens next. The father had a sudden heart attack at the restaurant and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The mother accompanied her husband in the ambulance. In the midst of this crisis, she asked both a close friend and her parents to rush to her children’s hotel room and attend to them (as she continued to monitor them by camera). However, the hotel denied entry to her friend (which actually is policy, I remember being with my dad but in a separate room in a hotel and he asked the front desk what room I was in and they would not tell him). In the case of these children, the hotel called NYPD.

The issue of a double standard comes up in this case, though the mother does face two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child” and is scheduled to appear in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday. One commenter noted – “If she was a poor woman in an inner city she would’ve been arrested.” In fact, some children are left alone in inadequate circumstances by single mothers due to a lack of affordable child care options, while that mother must work to feed, house and clothe her children. Any individual can make a call to the police or to Child Protective Services, triggering a process leading to state involvement, which can include the parent’s loss of custody. New York’s juvenile court has defined such neglect with this example – “A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.”

This case gets attention because the parents are wealthy and well-known. As I have already noted – most other cases involve disproportionately poor and working-class parents who leave children alone when faced with a need to go to work or on a job interview, when they don’t have accessible, affordable child care. Families living in poverty or near poverty are judged far more harshly than wealthy parents. Parents who are taken to family court are at very high risk of having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care. More often than you may think possible, this leads to the permanent termination of their parental rights.

The Guardian had an update this morning, LINK>No fight or warning before six-year-old boy shot teacher, say Virginia police, regarding the case of the Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6 year old who brought a loaded handgun to school. The 9mm handgun used by the boy was bought legally by his mother and kept in the family’s home. It remains unclear whether the mother will face any legal charges. Virginia does not have a law that requires unattended guns to be stored in a particular way or a law that requires gun owners to affirmatively lock their weapons. The issue will be whether it can be proven that the mother’s actions violated a Virginia law that prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under 14. It could be argued by gun advocates that the child was never in danger – but certainly his teacher was.

Adoption, Foster Care or Guardianship

Came across some thoughts. Just passing them along.

To the thought that adoption equals indentured servitude, one adoptee said – It started as permanent indentured servitude and nothing has changed except the marketing. In answer to that, someone else said – Until the law changes, hopeful adopters can choose guardianship or (not quite as good) choose NOT to amend the birth certificate per this LINK>google doc on State Laws.

The perspective from an adoptive parent, who adopted from foster care, and who is also the sister of an adoptee – The problem with guardianship is it varies so much on what it provides and how it functions. Part of me wonders if that is by design – make it so onerous that it’s the less desirable option.

Washington state recently passed a law that forbids children to be removed from a placement – if that placement is willing to provide LINK>minor guardianship but not adoption. This was specifically done with kinship in mind – apparently children used to be removed from willing kin placements to be put up for adoption, if a grandmother didn’t want to make her grandchild, her child, on paper.

Under a guardianship, the youth loses the benefits they would keep if they had been adopted or remained in foster care, including medical benefits. Guardians can apply for cash support but it is SUCH a complex process and many people don’t qualify. Her perspective is that it makes guardianship only possible for a specific socioeconomic group – and less possible for kin. Like with adoption, a teen must consent. The system leaves many teens frightened that guardianship means no more stability than foster care – with less oversight.

This adoptive parent would love to see a streamlined guardianship process that is a federal/legal mechanism. One that conveys the same parental rights and responsibilities towards minors that adoption does, while simultaneously banning any birth certificate amendments, legal name changes and still preserves legal ties to all genetic family members.

From the daughter of an orphan and an anti-adoption activist – someone saying that “in guardianship the youth lose benefits that they would keep in foster care” – that is the whole point of guardianship and adoption – to transfer financial responsibility from the state to the guardian or adopter! The adopter or guardian puts the child on their medical plan, feeds them, clothes them etc. The government does provide adoption incentive payments and tax credits and sometimes Medicaid for children with complex medical needs because its still cheaper than having the kid remain in foster care. If guardians or adopters ever lose their jobs and can’t support the kids they took in, they can go on welfare, just like the families the kids were taken away from.

The federal government is betting that won’t happen. The federal government has started offering states Title IV funding for achieving ‘permanency’ through guardianship but it is a relatively new development. Title IV refers to federal student aid in which there is a demonstrable financial need to be able to attend public, private nonprofit and proprietary schools. Attendees of these colleges can receive student loans, grants or enter a work-study program.

Hopefully, guardianship would help stop the bullying of people into adoption. Some persons make guardianship sound like it is not as good as adoption for money related reasons. It is outrageous that ‘the system’ is manipulating teens into believing that adoption offers them more stability and oversight than foster care. Foster care meets their needs until they reach the age of 18. They have a right to facilitated visitation with their family. They can’t be moved out of the county where their family resides. They can’t be homeschooled or forced to participate in their caregiver’s religion. They don’t have to call their caregivers “mom” or “dad” and their care givers are not legally allowed to refer to them as their son or daughter. Their caregivers have to take them to mainstream doctors and dentists. They are assigned a caseworker to monitor the safety and appropriateness of the placement. If they are abused in a foster home, they can sue the state and be awarded damages. They always have the right to be returned to live with their family – if it ever becomes safe and however possible – even after their parents rights have been terminated – ONLY if they have NOT been adopted.

Child Protective Services pushes for adoption in order to meet quotas. They receive bounty payments when the meet federal government requirements for completing placements into adoptions. When kids age out of foster care, they age out with their rights intact and there are many programs and scholarships available to them as former foster youth. These would not be available to them, if they are adopted or obtain a guardian. With both guardianship and adoption, the child loses the oversight of the state. The state is freed from the liability related to what happens to the person in the adoptive home or at the hands of the guardian, if any abuse occurs.

At least with guardianship, the youth remains a member of their family with all kinship rights intact – permanently. The guardian has to do the job of a parent without the title. Legally a child is entitled to the same level of care and support from a guardian that they would receive from an adoptive parent, only they won’t lose their kinship in their family and they can return to their parents, if the situation improves. The guardian does not have a right to keep the person permanently. A guardian also is not allowed to exploit a child in their care, the way an adopter can (such as putting them on Youtube and profiting off filming their every move, as so many adopters and parents do these days). Adopting without changing the birth certificate is not as good as guardianship but it is vastly better than adopting and changing the birth certificate for those who are forced to adopt their kin, rather than serve as guardians.

Childcare Boxing Day

A foundational backbone for financially challenged families to keep the wolf of Child Protective Services away from their doors and children is access to affordable child care – 24/7 regardless of holidays.

Not as often celebrated in the United States, today is Boxing Day – a holiday celebrated after Christmas Day. Originating as a day to remember, by gifting, those people who support our everyday lives. In the 1800s, the rich in Britain used to “box up” gifts for people, especially their servants and helpers, and present these gifts to them on the day after Christmas, thus earning the day its name, “Boxing Day”. 

In addition, during that time, churches used to collect money from their congregations throughout the year in a box, and then “un-box” the money after Christmas Day and hand it out to the poor as alms and charity. Thus, the day after Christmas got this identity. Daycare may not be a charity but it is a kind of charity for all those people who must continue to work throughout the holidays. Nurses, store clerks, law enforcement (by the way, most of these people are NOT highly paid) etc.

An interesting point to note about Boxing Day is that it coincides with St Stephen’s Day, a day that honors the death of a Christian martyr. One of my favorite Christmas carols is Good King Wenceslas which tells a story of a Bohemian king who goes on a journey, braving harsh winter weather, to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26). Blogger’s note – my husband’s name is Stephen and that is probably the whole reason I became enamored with this song. Anyway, during the journey, the king’s page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (907–935). Good King Wenceslas has a rich history, appealing medieval feel, and bone-chilling winter imagery.

Romanticized Christmas Adoption

It’s everywhere, not only at this time of year but throughout the year. One adoptee wrote – be aware of your Christmas movie viewing. The orphan/adoption plot line is strong this time of year! you may be looking for Christmas movies to view with your children. I have personally decided to use this as an opportunity to teach my kids about my adoption status, and help empower them to be educated non-adopted members of society, and hopefully avoid their desensitization/romanticized experience of others’ adoptive storylines. Join me in my campaign to keep the trauma-aware population growing! (Yes, I am part of such a campaign !!)

Regarding Christmas Princess on Amazon Prime: a former foster care youth adoptee whose adoptee status is her vehicle to position herself as a Rose Bowl Parade princess. There are flashback scenes to her addicted first mother’s neglect, their home removal, and some overt/horrifically blatant guilt tripping from her adoptive parents. (The adoptee says – I’m not being sensitive…when she is wrestling with her attachment issues and then *surprise* is approached by her birth mother, she tells her adoptive parents about it. Her adoptive dad says “it’s like you don’t appreciate everything we’ve done for you! When will you learn we’re you’re family!” Pretty tough to watch for me and they just gloss over it like that was excellent parenting and she’s the one with the problem. Needless to say, I was triggered – which doesn’t happen all that often for me.)

The adoptee adds this side note – as a kid I had an obsession with orphan stories. (Blogger’s note – it is interesting that I was too but I thought my adoptee parents were orphans when in reality they were not – there were families out there living lives we were unaware of.) I read every tragic book I could find, and was not triggered—only intrigued—by the plethora of stories I found (in my desire to romanticize my situation.) So, I’m not saying don’t let them watch potentially triggering material. I mean, by all means, if you know they have a trigger, for the love of everything, please respect that. Not all kids are able to articulate their reactions, so I’m just saying, as in all good parenting: be alert, be aware, be available to talk it out. Literally pause the movie and say “that was completely out of bounds for him to be guilting her like that. It really rubbed me the wrong way. What do you think?” and follow it up with intentional discussion “why do movie makers seem to gravitate toward adoption stories? What do you think that’s about? How do you feel about that?” or “do you like movies that involve adoption? Do you ever relate to the characters? I find myself sympathetic to the adoptive mom, I don’t want her to feel rejected, but even more so, I find myself feeling protective of the kid. The top priority should be their well-being, right?” Engage engage engage! If they happen to open up to you, please please be encouraging and sympathetic in your response!!! If I had felt free to express all of my curiosity, emotion, feelings of rejection without dismissive “How could you not feel lovable?! We love you SO much!” I would have processed much of my adoption better along the way.

Other themed Christmas movies – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer – the island of misfits, Santa Paws (note – my wife watched it and was surprised it has a foster care theme, with it showing the foster mom as mean and evil.), Elf (Buddy is a late discovery adoptee who learns he is not in fact an elf like he had always believed, despite it being very obvious because of his physical size. The whole movie is about reunion with his father and there are some hard rejection moments in there.), Annabelle’s Christmas Wish (is about a boy who is orphaned and lives with his grandfather. There is holiday magic but also an entire plot about how his wealthy aunt is weaponizing Child Protective Services to take the boy away). There are probably others, this is just a short list offered so far.

From an adoptive parent who adopted from foster care – I’m pretty sensitive when adoption is part of a story line, and always concerned about how my adopted child will feel upon watching movies centered around adoption. But yes, my daughter is very intrigued by adoption stories and it gives us a chance to discuss healthy vs. non-healthy relationships and how no two families are the same. She doesn’t yet know everything that happened to put her into foster care. I appreciate hearing adoptees’ perspectives to know how to better navigate parenting her.

Beyond Cruel

Sometimes it is unbelievable –

Would it be good or bad to acknowledge to the young adoptees or the natural mom the day they got separated? Not a celebration at all, but like acknowledge a death date? I don’t think either one is consciously aware of the date, but I know their bodies remember. We have done nothing throughout the years, but we are in a much better place with the natural mom now and the children are older, and just wondering if reminding them would be cruel or like recognizing the elephant in the room.

Some replies –

Would YOU want to be forcefully reminded of your relinquishment/choice to relinquish every year?? No. This seems cruel to think of and remember. 

Seems an odd thing celebrate. I lost 4 kids to child protective services. I have two of those I am now able to parent and am in reunion with the 2 oldest, who are now mature. No one among any of us has ever mentioned the date they were taken, or the last good bye visit date etc and I certainly do not know it, People don’t tend to want to remember/celebrate negative events. If someone dies, you may remember their birthdate openly but not the death of their date (other than perhaps privately in the sorrow of your heart – definitely not as a celebration). My daughter had our reunion date tattooed on her arm, Find something positive to celebrate, if you must.

Being forced to surrender my newborn was the worst, most traumatic day of my life. I have C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) in part because of the experience. The last thing I would want is some sort of remembrance or it made into an occasion.

I remember that day as if a national tragedy occurred (for me and my child it was). I remember the last day I held him, I remember the day the adoptive parents cut contact. Now it is a season of deep depression and sorrow every single year when it rolls around.

Beyond cruel. Borderline evil. This is the damned problem with y’all (y’all being adopters). Y’all are so out of touch and lack a drop of understanding of anyone else. It was a happy day for you. You got to steal someone’s child, erase their identity and claim to be their mom. You aren’t, btw. They have a mom. It’s not you. But what on earth would make you think they want to be reminded of the day their family was permanently destroyed and that some random stranger decided they were now mom?

You’re trying to make the mom acknowledge the date too ? Its a very traumatic time for both and referring to it as a time of their bonding death is just …..I’m not sure I have words in my vocabulary for what that is. It’s like you’re saying they are dead to each other now and you would like to remind them both of that.

Have this information written down for the children because they may want to have that information some day, if they have an interest in piecing together what happened to them. That is all. If you happen to see that the kids or their mother is struggling around this time give them space for their grief. I’m not sure that poking this wound would be beneficial for anyone – however well intended.

It got through and she said –  I will back off. I will definitely not be bringing it up.

Being forced to surrender my newborn was the worst, most traumatic day of my life. I have CPTSD in part because of the experience. The last thing I would want is some sort of remembrance or it made into an occasion.

Tragic

Angel and her Grandmother

Hers is a clear case of all that is wrong with foster care and the family court system. Monica Dunning, Angel’s grandmother, had successfully completed the foster parenting classes and background checks to become a licensed kinship foster care home. Dunning was seeking to be named her granddaughter’s guardian.

Angel’s mother died in a car crash on Halloween 2016. Dunning said that Angel was placed into child protective services in Tennessee the very next day because of a “no contact” order with her father. Dunning said her daughter was divorced from Ahearn at the time of her death. Allegations of domestic violence led to the court order that prevented him from seeing Angel. The girl passed through eight to ten foster homes in Tennessee over the next few years. Instead of being placed with her grandmother, Angel’s father was awarded custody of her on May 3, 2021.

“It’s heartbreaking that I feel like me and my family were absolutely robbed from the time that my daughter passed away. We just, we had very, very limited contact. And there was absolutely no reason why she couldn’t have come here,” Dunning said. After her father gained custody, she was no longer aware of Angel’s whereabouts until she got the call on October 18th that let her know that her granddaughter was dead. 

A third-party caller claiming to be Rachel Hollifield’s aunt said in the 911 call that for the past year her niece had repeatedly tried to run away from Leonard. She was not sure what triggered the shooting incident. The woman’s aunt told the dispatcher – she heard a scream in the house followed by gunshots and then it got silent while she was on the phone.

In his Georgia home, Leonard Ahearn first killed his daughter, Angel Ahearn, who had just turned 12. Then he shot Rachel Hollifield, his girlfriend, in the hand. Finally, he turned the gun on himself. Angel died at the scene. Leonard and Hollifield were transported to a hospital. Leonard later died from his injuries. Hollifield is expected to recover. 

Dunning was particularly frustrated because she had invested time and money to undergo the process to authorize her to care for Angel, in a home where Angel would have been safe. She said it seemed as if the officials in charge of Angel’s case “would place [Angel] with anybody” but her maternal grandmother.

Fathers And Custody

One of the cultural changes that has come to pass is fathers asserting their rights when faced with the loss of custody for their child. I am happy today because one battle has finally been hard won. It had been a 6 month battle that cost over $35,000 in legal fees. The judge awarded sole custody of the baby girl to her dad. Everyone is over the moon happy for him.

Today, I read about another father who was lied to about his child. I wonder how often this might happen, more often than I once thought. The way his father found out his daughter was alive was when an adoption agency lawyer called him to ask if he knew about his daughter’s birth. His ex had told him the babies (she had been expecting twins) were stillborn. DNA test results were that 99.9999% she is his daughter. The judge sided with the hopeful adoptive parents who have a 5 bedroom house with a pool, backyard and front yard plus grandma and grandpa living there too. His parental rights are due to be stripped and he will never get to meet his daughter. He mourned the death of twins he thought were stillborn for a year. Now he will lose his daughter again, after never even meeting her.

In more conventional custody situations, as of 2018, nearly 4 in 5 custodial parents were mothers (79.9%). But the statistics go deeper than that: Not only does the mother get custody of the children more often, the parents agree in more than half the cases (51%) that the mother should have custody. However, the number of children living with their father has more than quadrupled from 1% in 1968 to 4.5% in 2020. Many divorced fathers would prefer to have custody of their children but are not actually awarded custody. 65% of the time the female parent is awarded custody.

Personal confession – I was awarded custody of my daughter in my divorce case. However, due to financial hardship (with no child support asked for nor rendered), my daughter was raised by her dad and a step-mother. It was simply an agreement that to the best of my knowledge was never court ordered. It was not an easy role in the 1970s to be an absentee mother. Thankfully, I continue to have a good relationship with my daughter and her assistance to me when my parents were dying can never be adequately repaid but continues a source of deep gratitude for me.

Within the legal family court system, women are viewed as generous, trustworthy and friendly and there is a belief that they will have more time to spend with their children but this is not the reality in either single mother families or in families where both parents work. As of 2015, joint-custody arrangements were more common than sole paternal custody but less common than sole maternal custody. With regard to joint-custody arrangements: occurrences of domestic violence on the part of husbands was reduced.

It is surprisingly easy to find stories of fathers having to fight for custody against adoptive or foster parents. In a case I had looked at before, which was ruled just this 2022 year, the father had sought custody in a divorce petition filed in Iowa before his then-estranged wife gave birth. A judge ordered DNA testing and prohibited the child’s permanent placement or adoption. She gave birth in Michigan and a judge terminated parental rights of the birth mother and father, who was considered a non-surrendering party because he failed to respond to a generic legal notice published in a newspaper. The Michigan Supreme Court justices said the case presented challenging legal issues, with some concerned about the father’s due-process rights. Even so, the state’s Supreme Court sided with the adoptive parents of the nearly 4-year-old boy whose birth father had sought custody. That court reversed a decision by a state Court of Appeals panel that said the birth father’s parental rights were wrongly terminated, which provided the birth father with a chance at gaining custody.

If the topic interests you, you may wish to read this analysis – LINK>The Strange Life of Stanley v. Illinois: A Case Study in Parent Representation and Law Reform provided by the NYU Review of Law & Social Change – Legal Scholarship for Systemic Change. Thankfully, there has been dramatic and important growth of parent representation in child protection cases. In Stanley, the Supreme Court addressed Peter Stanley’s efforts to regain custody of his children from the Illinois foster care system after the death of his partner, Joan Stanley, to whom he was not married. Stanley became a canonical case regarding the rights of unwed fathers, and, crucially for the child protection field, it included a broader holding that only parental fitness can justify state action to remove children from their parents’ custody.

Reproductive Justice

And Reproductive Justice MUST include adoptee voices because adoptees are intimately familiar with the same systems of white supremacist violence that make reproductive justice necessary. Today’s blog is thanks to an op-ed by Tina Vasquez in LINK>Prism. The goal of this series about reproductive justice and adoption was simple – disrupt the adoption storytelling that has become the norm in mainstream media. These feel-good stories from the perspective of adoptive parents rarely include the voices of adoptees or question the preponderance of “cheap, easy, and fast” transracial and international adoptions by evangelicals that amount to little more than child trafficking.

No more salvation narratives. No more narratives of gratitude. No more framing adoption as a “win-win.” No more white saviors. We will question adoption as a system—its power dynamics, its economics, and its privileging of certain “reproductive destinies.” “Out of the Fog” is a phrase adoptees often use to describe facing the reality of their adoptions.

LINK>Operation Stop Child Protective Services (CPS) was founded by Amanda Wallace. She spent 10 years as a child abuse investigator before realizing that “she had become the silent enforcer for an oppressive system.” She now lends her insider knowledge to families navigating the system and trying to regain custody of their children.

About 27% of adoptions are transracial, according to a recent survey from the Department of Health and Human Services: birth mothers are disproportionately women of color, and adoptive parents are overwhelmingly white. Low-income Black and Native American children are the most likely to be separated from their families. Poverty is often interpreted as neglect when applied to these people.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, white evangelicals wasted no time communicating their desire to take the babies that result from forced pregnancies. Never mind that most people denied abortion care simply become parents and that there is little evidence linking abortion bans to increases in adoption.

Time and time again, the solution offered to state violence is adoption, yet we fail to center adoptees whose lived experiences and areas of expertise touch every injustice and systemic problem our movements battle against. This is especially true when it comes to reproductive justice. While efforts are being made to explicitly discuss adoption as a reproductive justice issue, adoptees’ voices are still not being uplifted in these conversations. Adoptees are building their own movements—including Facebook groups like LINK>Adoptees for Choice—but will movements for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice invite them into the fold?

It’s The Insecurity

Two people talk about seeing their daughter but the adoptive parents won’t let them now, even though they agreed to an open adoption. If you are an expectant mom being given promises of an open adoption, I would caution you not to believe them. It is so common for an adoption that starts out “open” to quickly become closed. Some adoptive parents are so insecure. It seems like they are afraid that when the real parents are in the picture, the kid will love them too much and that it’ll just remind the child that the adoptive parents aren’t the real parents.

From an adoptee and former foster care youth who is in love with someone who is a First Dad. His ex gave the baby up out of spite and religious differences. It was an open adoption and they involve his ex but not him. He has to beg for updates and has never seen his daughter. He doesn’t know what to do and feels helpless because they are lawyers with lots of money. 

This happens a lot with foster care adoptions. Sometimes it’s offered as a deal – if the parents sign away their rights, they get a say in who adopts their child, or they get to keep the older child and are promised an open adoption with the baby. Some parents don’t even bother trying to get their kids back, they just sign away their rights. Willing relinquishment is rewarded, while parents who put up a fight get punished for being uncooperative, even selfish.

One adoptee shares – I wasn’t supposed to mention being adopted to teachers, doctors, therapists etc. We lived hard in the fantasy… except for when my adoptive mom got pissed… then that fantasy was shattered and my adoption was thrown in my face. So this is how I now picture every adoptive parent who closes an open adoption. That they are being like my adoptive mom firmly trying to shame the genetics outta me and brainwash me to view her and only her as someone who cares.

A birth father who was also a former foster care youth shares his experience – my daughter’s mother is in active addiction and had been told Child Protective Services would not let her keep our baby. She had adopted out her first child, and we decided it would be best to at least have two siblings together, and the adoptive parents have been great with keeping in contact with her… but she is very low contact. She feels tremendous guilt, so she does not make contact and does not reply most of the time. I was promised throughout the entire pregnancy that it would be an open adoption and my daughter would live with them but she would have a relationship with me and with the children that I have full custody of myself, that I’d get pictures and video calls, and she would learn about my family and carry on the traditions we follow. But after they left Texas, they sent me a letter saying they would be severing communication with me because they wanted my daughter to grow up with “less confusion.” They did not go into any further reasons but did tell me they knew it wasn’t fair to me. They thanked me for all that I did to care for her during the pregnancy. I was told quite bluntly by the doctor that our baby only made it because of my involvement in caring for her and her mom. I got to hold my baby once – for an hour supervised at the adoption agency – two days before they flew out. The adoptive parents send photos to her mom, and she forwards them to me once and a while. One of the workers at the adoption said they know it’s unfair but they are powerless after the adoption is finalized. She told me that adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents cause “as much damage, if not more” than birth moms and that they are very selfish. My daughter’s mother lives in poverty and has little contact and no means to ever visit Virginia in person. They don’t see her as a threat. I’ve been sober for ten years and I work hard. They see me as a threat, even though I am not, therefore they cut me out.

An adoptee suggests – Please keep tabs on them, I wouldn’t stop reaching out either. I see dads who stop all action due to where they stand legally. But who you are biologically matters to your children, not legalities. Journal and document everything you can now, keep them included in your journey and future plans. One day you can present them with the truth vs the fairytale.

Here’s a little story for you about dads’ impact through biologies: My daughter is almost 4, her father is an addict and has not been in her life since before she was one. She knows dad is unwell and does not think like we do right now. Tonight before bed she said she wanted to see her dad. I told her I wasn’t sure where he was right now but one day she’ll see him. She asked if she would see his house. I said “maybe, but don’t you want to talk on the phone to get to know him first”. She gave a little giggle. “I do know him, it’s my dad. He’s our family.” I snuggled her tighter and told her “yes he is”. That small conversation spoke volumes to me. I could understand and relate. This was why I personally felt the way I did when I was little as I had the same longing and family feeling about relatives I’d only ever heard of. They were in fact my family. Those adoptive parents that have your baby may try to mask those feelings and reality but they are tucked inside. I hope one day you get to see you’ve never been forgotten.

I know what an enormous impact it had on me personally when I learned that my mother’s original father’s family knew about her and often longed to have contact with her. It turned my perceptions of that branch of my family totally around.

One about male domination – my children’s father signed away his rights, after intentionally getting the kids put back in foster care. He’d told me if I ever left him, he’d manipulate Child Protective Services to make sure I lost the kids forever. That they’d be brainwashed to hate me. His sister adopted the kids and has allowed him to see them. She throws a fit if I post anything about them on Facebook. I’m just hoping they’ll see through the toxic fog eventually.

“My child is confused” is the favorite justification by adoptive parents when they’re about to close the adoption.

Hasty Accusations

Syesha Mercado and Tyron Deener

I stumbled on a LINK> Change.org petition and thought – there must be a larger story here. Because of her high profile as an American Idol alumus (season 7), her story got more attention nationally than it may have otherwise. Because wrongful child/parent separations concern me, I cared to look further.

Dr Sally Smith is said to have wrongly accused more than a dozen parents of child abuse. There are hundreds of child abuse cases tied to her, where parents were proven innocent but suffered irreparable trauma and harm due too her accusations. This doctor is said to hastily diagnose child abuse which rips families apart. Dr Smith is the medical director for the Pinellas County Child Protective Services team and is a contracted child abuse Pediatrician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Syesha’s nightmare started when her 15-month-old son, Amen’Ra, was ripped from his family, and placed in foster care, following a hospital visit. Mercado and her partner, Tyron Deener, had taken their baby boy to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg on Feb. 26 for a routine check-up. The couple had become concerned about the possibility of malnutrition when Mercado’s breast milk started to run dry. She was pregnant (later delivering her newborn daughter) and her son, Amen’Ra, stopped accepting fluids. I remember the challenges of weaning my own children off breast feeding.

During their legal battle for custody of Amen’Ra, Mercado and Deener were in the car with their 10 day old daughter. They were subjected to a police conducted roadside welfare check in the middle of the highway. The result was their newborn baby was also taken away by Child Protective Services.  The couple said that they directed all communication to their attorney who had not been given a warning about the safety check.  

The Change.org petition has a summary of just a few of the other cases that Smith has been involved in, which pointed to significant inconsistencies in Smith’s medical notes. Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal said as it overturned one such removal – Smith’s conclusions were based “primarily on her assessment of the father’s credibility, not on the available medical reports.” In another case, a wrongfully accused mother committed suicide due to Smith’s trumped-up claims. One Marine Corps veteran spent 300 days in jail on Smith’s allegation that he killed his girlfriend’s son and was freed when a neuropathologist contradicted her findings.

Dr Smith has long been criticized by defense attorneys, parents and child welfare employees for her aggressive way of interrogating parents. Oftentimes, she sees injuries that other doctors do not.

Mercado said, “He wanted mama’s breast milk, like a lot of breastfeeding babies do, and I went to the hospital in the middle of this entire process, in the middle of the weaning process, which I know a lot of mothers out there experience all the time. I was met with a lot of judgment and accusations that literally just started to spiral out of control.” Deener noted that every person who has handled his child’s case has been white, from the case manager to the guardian ad litem to the judge. 

Every day in America, parents are separated from their families and mistreated, they are mishandled and they are misquoted, by a very oppressive system. Since 2004, there have been 7,425 claims of medical neglect reported in Pinellas County. Of those,1,490 were verified, representing about 20 percent, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. The agency verified 16% of medical neglect claims statewide in that time frame, with 14% of claims verified in the Suncoast Region, an area that covers Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota, among other counties. Experts say parents like Mercado and Deener are often confused about their rights, when dealing with pediatricians in cases of alleged child abuse. They are talking to the equivalent of the police without knowing their rights.

In August of 2021, the couple regained custody of their baby daughter after only a few days. It took the couple 7 months to regain custody in October 2021 of their toddler son. At that point, they were still faced with six months of supervision by the state, coming to their home to check their competency and ability to raise their own children. Their children should have never been taken from them in the first place. The couple are vegans who live holistically. They have maintained that the doctors didn’t understand their lifestyle. They also believe there is a racial element to their case. In fact, the children of people of color are more often removed from their families than the children of white people.