Anthony Albanese

Anthony and Maryanne Albanese

It is interesting that I had queried a friend in Australia about him being elected prime minister without knowing how she felt about the man and her response was very positive. “I am glad this happened and am excited at the results of the Greens and the Independents. The Independents who got in were all women. Some were given funding to run by an Australian billionaire, on the condition that they supported climate change action and making the government accountable.” and much more.

Then running late today and looking for a topic for this blog in my all things adoption group, I read this – “Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is the son of Maryanne, a woman who as a single mother in 1963, was strongly pressured to give him up for adoption. She resisted and raised him herself. He is a strong proponent of social justice and I’m so excited to see a new future for our country under his leadership.”

So I went looking for more and found this article in The Australian from 2021 titled – ‘Something wasn’t right’: Anthony Albanese’s heartbreaking Mother’s Day tribute. He said, she “sacrificed so much” for him. She had rheumatoid arthritis that “crippled her joints” and meant she couldn’t work. “She lived on a disability pension. Life wasn’t easy, and her health made things even harder but we got through because of her,” he said.

“We lived in council housing, which gave us a sense of security and stability. It was our home.” His mother taught him how to save money but the most valuable life lesson she passed on was to leave no one behind. “Truth is, mum was left behind by people who counted her out, and by governments who cut back support,” he said. “The cutbacks that happened in mum’s lifetime meant she had to justify the support she was receiving. When health funding was cut, the quality of mum’s care was cut too.”

“When they tried to sell our council house, it felt like our home was being taken from us.” It was his mother’s influence and challenge to make ends meet that inspired the Labor leader to get into politics. “Mum always gave me unconditional love. And I feel very privileged to have had that. Mums really are special,” he wrote.

I Am Sam

I just read about this movie and have added it to our Netflix list – so I can’t personally review it yet. Netflix tells me that “After fathering a child with a homeless woman, Sam (Sean Penn) — a grown man with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old — raises the baby himself until an incident at a birthday party finds the Child Protective Services deeming him an unfit guardian. With the help of yuppie lawyer Michelle Pfeiffer, Sam attempts to regain custody of his daughter and prove that, despite his handicap, he’s a truly loving father.” Certainly, the homeless issue means something to me. And thanks to a growing awareness about the dangers of the Child Protective Services via my all things adoption group, it certainly seems like a movie I should see.

The film’s title is derived from the opening lines “I am Sam / Sam I am” of the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, which is read in the movie. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times reviewed it positively as a “most inviting and accessible film that turns upon a mental condition that most people would prefer not to think about.” Maybe that is why overall it was not well liked.

The first comment in my all things adoption group was – “oh my god the foster mom is a piece of shit, typical foster parent that just wants to steal the child, it’s so disgusting and sadly it’s so freaking real.” And this – “with the proper support he will 100% be the best father for her.”

Part of it was that they didn’t take the time to understand neurodivergence. How someone interacts with the world through different fandoms. I got everything Sam was trying to say right away because I’m neurodivergent and I love the Beatles. The abled neurotypicals in I Am Sam didn’t even want to try. They just tried to force their model of the world, which in this case, means deeming the disabled parent inferior by default.

Welcome to ableism 101. Even biological parents will do this with their own kids. Hiding illness, limiting contact, and/or stifling relationships. Ableism states that the disabled parent is always inferior, and a burden to their children. A hindrance to “normalcy.”

Someone else wrote this –

I have seen it. It is actually on our state’s list for alternative training for foster parents, which okay but with alternative training you simply fill out a form writing down what you learned and no one like processes or follows up wjth you to point out that people with disabilities have a right to parent and are often preyed upon by Child Protective Services (CPS).

I am usually shocked to learn that most caseworkers in my state are so unfamiliar with any rights for parents with disabilities including the right to an adult advocate. They absolutely can parent successfully, sometimes needing education or support to meet our cultural or white definition of parenting standards. That movie is controversial for many reasons including that a non-disabled actor was chosen to play someone with a disability. And absolutely, the foster parent says what the societal thoughts are that are being held against Sean Penn’s character – that only abled bodied people in mind and body or mental health are deemed capable to parent – so not true. Even convincing the child they “deserve better” than a loving, devoted father simply because he has a disability.

Another person adds the reality check – it’s actually super unrealistic cuz in real life disabled parents never get good legal representation and almost never get their kids back.

And yet another notes – it happens in real life too. CPS targets parents with disabilities and it’s hard for them to get their kids back.

Too Old ?

It is still Foster Care Awareness Month and today, the questions was asked – Should someone in their 50s be able to adopt infants and toddlers from foster care ?

I encounter this as an older mom from time to time. I responded – Recently, visiting my primary care doctor, my youngest son came up and she asked – how old is he ? I said 16-1/2. She did the math quickly – you had him at 50 ? I said, yep. I know this is about adoption and foster care but honestly, it really depends on so many factors. My grandmothers both lost their YOUNG mothers when one of them was 3 mos old and the other one when she was 11 yrs old. The length on any life is simply not guaranteed. I do think health matters. I was put through a whole battery of tests including a heart stress test before being allowed to conceive my last son at such an advanced age. Agencies could require additional health assessments for older persons.

Just before I responded, I was happy to see someone else reply – I was 50 when I had a newborn placed with me for a weekend due to an abuse allegation on a foster parent. I adopted him at 53.

One wrote – While I don’t agree with anyone over 55 adopting (I don’t agree with adopting at all) my state allows people to foster and adopt well into 65.

And of course, it is very common these days to see grandparents raising their grandchildren. I know at least one in that category. So this answer did not surprise me – I fostered my 3 grandchildren (4 & under) at age 53 and adopted them at 56…no way I was letting them go to strangers.

And this view from experience – My parents were that old and I did fine. Only disappointment was that all of my older siblings were my biological mom’s age or older. At 28, all my siblings are old enough to be my kids grandparents. Because they are in their late 40s, early 50s now. Other than that, I still did everything – with sports, dance, went on vacations. They kept up. With me and my little sister who they adopted when she was 1. And I was 6 at the time. Maybe they should have just stopped with me. But I wanted a little sister. So, when she was literally dropped at our door and the mother terminated her rights, they adopted my little sister too.

A concern was expressed but this smacks of ableism to me – I see it every day at work, as soon as our older ladies step in with the kids (especially the toddlers), the children do not get the kind of engagement they need from the caregiver. Toddlers and kids need someone who can physically be involved in their play and in their development. From my experience, older women and men are not usually able to do that for them. That’s not to say the kids don’t love the older ladies, but they know they can’t ask them to play or help because of their limitations. I’m very old school (you know, “get over it and go play”.)

I remember my mom always sent us outside to play – without her !! Out of hair and need for giving us attention – though we knew she loved us. It was just how she was (she had me at age 16 and my youngest sister at 22, so she wasn’t old). I would add until very recently, I will be 67 later this month, there were no physical limitations on the “play” part and we did “play” with our kids. I’ll admit my knees have crapped out a bit, so I can’t do the long hikes anymore. My husband just turned 69 this year and he runs every day – so the physical stuff he can still do with his sons – and he is always willing to have fun. The older one is now 20 and not so much into “play”, actually for that matter the 16-1/2 yr old isn’t either. They are pretty independent of us for entertainment. My husband does like to joke with the youngest one that he’ll be changing his dad’s diapers some day. It really isn’t funny – experienced this stuff with my in-law’s before they died and with my dad after my mom died. It happens. It’s reality.

One commented – How embarrassing would it be at your high school graduation having to explain to your friends that the old lady with a walker is your mom? Yet, I think, would they say this about a person in a wheelchair. In this week’s Time magazine is a feature on Rebekah Taussig – a disabled mom who has paralyzed legs. And she writes about such everyday things as learning to lift him (her baby born during the pandemic) from the floor to her lap, or in and out of his crib, or up and over the baby gate on her own.

I suppose appearances matter a lot when your life is determined by your peers. Maybe we’ve avoided a lot of that comparison angst because our sons are educated at home because we have a home based business and are here all the time anyway. They have grown up with mature conversations and exposure to people of all ages – from babies to people much older than us up in their 80s or 90s.

Of course, I liked this response too –

I’m 50 and have such an issue with this. I’m going to ask that you give your age with your response. I’m tired of people implying that I am too old to do anything. I ran a half marathon in February, I work a full time job and a part time job and just hiked for 4 days straight – over 20,000 steps a day. How dare you all restrict women and what they can do at any age! I am a teacher and an owner of child care centers. I have more patience and experience and knowledge than the vast majority of 20-30 year olds.

I had my daughter when I was 19. I find this too. I may have behaved more like a child with her than I have with my sons but I have gained so much from years of living that is also an advantage over how I was when I was that young.

Another one wrote – My grandma (just found out, not even biological, through 23 & Me) started raising me when she was 60 and I had the best life and upbringing I could have ever asked for. She never missed a beat and was way cooler than all of my friend’s parents. To this day she’s my best friend.

I think I’ll just end it here. There is no one size fits all on this kind of issue. One argument the person who asked the original question made – in response to the above was – Adoptees already have so much stacked against them, that older parents just add more layers. Fair but . . . . again, no one size fits all . . . . even with the experience an adoptee has in their circumstances. I’ll make my anti-ageism stand here.

Infant Saviors

My oldest son at age 4. There are probably baby pictures somewhere but didn’t find them easily on my hard drive. The point here is that I have often referred to him as “my savior”. That is because trying to conceive him alerted me to a danger I didn’t know was lurking in my body – hepatitis C. Had I not gone down that road and been subjected to numerous lab tests, I would have continued drinking alcohol – sometimes to excess. The genotype I have is unlikely to progress and so I have chosen not to embark upon the treatment which is expensive and would disable me for months in attempting the cure. He is now 20 years old and I am healthier than ever, though my almost 67 year old body is showing me signs of wear and tear – especially my knees.

Today, I learned about Megan Culhane Galbraith’s new book The Guild of the Infant Saviour: An Adopted Child’s Memory Book, which will be published on May 21 and can be pre-ordered now at bookshop.org. An excerpt appears in Severance magazine. As I turn to reading the article myself, I will acknowledge that some people adopt infants to save their marriage and outcomes would indicate that is more often than not – unsuccessful. Others adopt infants thinking THEY are the saviors and that without them the child would fare badly in life and that is generally NEVER true as well.

Galbraith’s book is identified as creative nonfiction. The book is described as experimental in form and structure. It is a memoir but much more. A striking visual art project, an intellectual inquiry into the nature of memory, and a frightful window on the failures and brutalities of the American system of adoption. The book is the origin story of a girl who had three mothers before she was half a year old and the experience of the woman she grew to be, who, only during her own pregnancy, was overwhelmed by the need to know her history and learn about her first mother. The author’s meditations on the nature of identity, her compulsion toward self-erasure, and her fear of abandonment likely will resonate with adoptees.

Snippets from the excerpt that you can read more fully at the Severance link above –

“It is incredible how few concrete details I needed to feel connected across time.” . . . “I began to think about who I was at nineteen—a virgin for starters—and how incomprehensible it would have been to become a mother when my own future felt like it was just beginning.” . . . “What struck me most was that my birth mother had cared enough to update my file.” “within the last ten years” to alert her that she was a DES granddaughter.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was a drug given to women during their pregnancy. DES was a synthetic form of estrogen given to women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. The daughters of women who used DES were forty times more likely to develop cancers of the cervix and vagina. Galbraith goes on to note – “The drug’s side effects were known to skip a generation, meaning, they may have affected me—or worse my unborn child. Late-onset and irregular periods were one side effect for DES granddaughters like me. I didn’t get my period until I was sixteen: my biological mother got hers at around eleven. Other risks included infertility, cancer, congenital disabilities, and fewer live births.”

Morally and Ethically Wrong

An adoptive parent disclosed that she receives $4,000 per month in adoption subsidies for 3 children.  These children do not have any physical or intellectual disabilities.  They do not have any known medical conditions.

The fact is that states can pay not only foster parents but adoptive parents as much as $4,000 per month for 3 children.  Homeless parents are often working one or more jobs and still can’t find affordable, income-based housing.  How is this fair ?

Often adoptive parents are the first ones to say that the natural parents need to be able to provide for their kids “on their own”.

How can people not see why and how this is problematic and how morally and ethically wrong this is.  Some even justify this as a fair situation. Something is terribly wrong in our society that we do not give full support to struggling families but instead take their children away from them and pay complete strangers to care for them.

I didn’t even know adoption subsidies were a thing.

And to be clear, not EVERY adoption qualifies and it varies by state law. Often, there does have to be some kind of  ‘special needs’, though that is a broad category that includes sibling groups, children over 6 years, minorities as well as physical or mental disabilities.

Sadly, many of the original parents who surrender children for adoption do so because they believe not having enough money defines them as not being good enough to parent a child.

Here is one story to highlight the unfairness –

There was a couple who adopted a sibling group. This family makes a 6 figure income.  The couple was childless for 14 years. All of the adopted children received Medicaid, the family received a substantial subsidy, and all of the children were eligible to attend a public university of their choosing free for 4 years.

The kids never had to do “without” the basics growing up (though they did not have their biological mom which is always a significant loss). All of the children are now adults.

The husband does very very well in his profession. The couple never actually “needed” a dime of assistance nor did they ever have to pay for healthcare for the children. To their credit, the couple did make trusts for the children.

It is just hard to understand why a sibling group is automatically considered “special needs” . Why is this kind of financial support not “income based”, like every natural parent would be faced with ?

And this is basically political. Universal health care, living wage, other so-called “socialist” policies would address all these issues struggling families face.  Hard core capitalist each have their own version of America.  No one would ever need to remove children from parents simply for poverty. Not doing this creates an insanely expensive, ineffective child welfare system, and a lot of suffering. And again, this is a voting issue.