The Forgotten Children

One of the better known adoption failure stories is that of the Harts.  Since I grew up with the surname Hart, I suppose this really caught my attention.  One may remember that a same sex couple drove their SUV off a cliff with the children inside.

Less known is the sadly typical story of their older brother.  The biological older sibling spent eight years in the Texas foster care system.  He had acted out violently when the state removed him and his siblings from their home in 2005.  He became a victim of the foster care-to-prison pipeline: separated from his brothers and sister, heavily medicated, shuffled between foster homes and shelters, institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital and placed for years in a restrictive treatment center. By age 19, he was in a Texas prison serving three years for robbery.

Sadly, “Once they get diagnosed with something like this, it’ll stay on their record and show up on their permanency reports, and it’s assumed to be true.”

He never gave up on reuniting with his siblings.  He didn’t learn of his siblings deaths until he was released from prison in October 2018, more than six months after their fate had been widely reported in the news.

“That was the last little hope I had in my life, you know? I had that hope that I was gonna see my little brothers again; one day we gonna kick it,” he said. “I used to cry sometimes thinking what we could be doing, growing up.”

Days after he was separated from his siblings for the last time, the 10-year-old tried to commit suicide by strangling himself with a belt at a therapeutic foster home.

Siblings placed together have fewer “non-progress” placement disruptions for reasons such as incompatibility with the caregiver.  Research has linked changes in caregivers to child delinquency, even for children not in foster care.  Those who experience two or more changes in their primary caregiver before age 10 are significantly more likely to engage in serious violence during adolescence — including homicide, robbery and aggravated assault — than those who do not experience multiple caregiver changes.

There’s no real sustained public awareness about these child welfare systems — how broken they are, and what they do to kids.  Sharing this story is my attempt to raise awareness a little more.

You’ve Come A Long Way

Until very recently, a woman would not chose to be a single mother.  A lot depends on her financial resources or ability to access available resources which does vary a lot.  I know more than one woman who made the choice to parent without an “official” father (though every baby has a father, somehow, even if that father was a sperm donor).

From the dawn of the adoption business (and it is a business), single mothers were no longer encouraged to parent their child but instead to surrender the child to adoption.  I know this was already happening as early as the 1930s.  Babies ended up adopted because “Unmarried women didn’t raise their children back then.” said by one original mother after reunion.

Unmarried women were treated with contempt for doing what nature intended.  I remember running up against this belief unbelievably in today’s modern times.  My paternal grandfather’s step-granddaughter (he had married her grandmother as a second wife) said my grandmother was a “Scarlet” because she was unwed. In effect, she was judging my grandmother as morally deficient.  I didn’t appreciate the contempt she expressed.

I suspect that my grandmother didn’t know he was married when she first started dating him but I am certain she did know by the time she knew she was pregnant.

The sad fact was – If you were unmarried and pregnant, you weren’t valued.  A “Baby Daddy” was valued even less.  It is interesting I only ran up against that derogatory label for a father recently at a writer’s conference.

Anyway, adoption is changing.  As I explored my dad’s origins with the Salvation Army, they told me they had to shut down their unwed mother’s homes because of Roe v Wade.  I’m certain that has played a role but I suspect an equal or greater role in that demise is that single moms are treated with less derision today.