The Scourge Of Poverty

Many children end up in foster care or adopted for no more reason than poverty.  A recent suggestion was if stipends that go to foster care could be redirected to parents working hard to keep their children.

Definitely, a single mom can feel stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty, constantly worried that one financial emergency will send everything tumbling down.

In 2014 there were 46 million poor people in the U.S., and millions more hovering right above the poverty line.  A single mom may live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment and have food, furniture and toys for her child and still be very much at risk.  That apartment may not be located in a very safe place to live.  Yet subsidized housing may be all she can afford.

I was such a single mom at one time in my life.  Most of my paycheck went to rent, food, child care costs so I could work, gas and pediatrician bills.  What drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother was – so I could try and earn a higher standard of living.  I didn’t have a lot of hope for the future, if I stayed in the situation I was in.

If you’re poor, it may be in every aspect: emotionally, support-wise and family-wise.  And even when there is family support ?  As in grandparents raising several grandchildren as their own of which I do know more than a few.  Heck I turned to a grandparent myself in my own dire time of need.

And the strain on children of living with adults who are overwhelmed by life or who don’t have the skills they need to raise their children because they themselves came from troubled homes only compounds the core problem of poverty.

Poor families today are more isolated from neighbors, work, family – all of the social networks that help people through life.  There has to be a better way than the business as usual way we have now.

Then and Now

Back in the 1930s, when my parents were both adopted, they first spent as long as 6 months with their original mother.  As I have come to know more about the impacts of adoption on adoptees, I have learned about the pre-birth development and bonding that takes place in the womb but is not complete at the time a baby is born, but continues during the first year of a baby’s life.

Knowing my parents had these precious first months with their original mothers matters to me since I have learned about the importance of that to any child’s development.

By the time my sisters each gave up a baby to adoption, the adoptions occurred immediately after birth.  The adoptive mothers did not have the pre-birth preparation that my sisters had as the original mother.

However, each of these children have been supported in their need to know the families they were originally conceived within and I do think that is valuable because my parents died knowing next to nothing (perhaps some vague names and location details) about their own birth and adoption experiences.

The unmistakable fact was and is – unwed mothers need help.  My sisters needed help and my parents were not going to step in with a long-term commitment to use their financial resources supporting either of them and their children.

Many adoptive parents have been comforted by the secrecy of closed adoption and sealed birth records.  Many have felt threatened by their children’s reunion with their original parents

Social workers believed that to save children they had to deny them information about their past. To help them, they unintentionally hurt them.  Some social workers believed that keeping adoptees’ identities secret allowed the adoptee to make a clean break with their past.  Secrecy protected adoptive parents from intrusion by birth relatives.  It protected the privacy of single mothers.

Social workers believed that after surrender, the mother would simply go on with her childless life as though nothing had happened.  It was believed that “normal, healthy” adoptees would have NO curiosity about their roots.

Both of these were myths and never true.

Supporting Mothers and Children

It is not surprising that more women are delaying motherhood in our current time.  It can be difficult to find the kind of support that gives a woman confidence in becoming a mom.  In my mom’s group, we also have women who chose to have children without a spouse, having given up on finding the quality of person they felt would be a supportive parent.

After I met my husband, I told my doctor that he was the kind of person I would be willing to become a mother again with and after ten years of marriage, we made the decision to add parenthood to our life as a couple.  Previously, I had a child who I still adore and found there was no support for myself as a single mother after I felt compelled to divorce her father.  So, I was understandably reluctant to go into motherhood again but this time it worked out.  There are always bumps along the way in any relationship but we have made it through them so far and our two sons are almost grown.

70% of all moms are working mothers.  25% are the primary breadwinner in their family.  Almost half of all two parent families find both parents employed outside the home.  The realities of modern life are – it is difficult to support any family on one employment option.  And our society only cares about the unborn and not children once they are born when a woman has to support her family without any financial assistance from a partner.  That I think is a real tragedy.

In a Pew Research Center analysis – there were 9 million mothers living with a child younger than 18 without a spouse or partner. Solo motherhood is particularly common among black mothers (56% are in this category). By comparison, 26% of Hispanic moms, 17% of white moms and 9% of Asian moms are solo parents. (Solo parenthood is far less common among fathers: 7% of dads are raising a child without a spouse or partner in the home.)

For my own self, Pro-Life would be full support for parents raising children if the available resources fall below what is adequate to provide the basic necessities.  Until then, I believe we fail the morality test as a society.

Sadly, We’ve Not Come A Long Way

My dad was born in a Salvation Army home in Ocean Beach California in 1935.  Back in the day, an unmarried mother who insisted on keeping her child was described as neurotically needy.  There was even a belief that unmarried mothers were not as attached to their children as married mothers.

Adoption continues to be viewed as an incomparably FINAL method of reordering the deviant family through placing the mother in the hot seat of moral responsibility.  As though the man who impregnated her had no role in what happened.

At the same time, she is refused access to the economic means of determining and controlling her own environment.  With proper financial support, there would be no reason to separate mothers from their children.

The demand for and supply of adopters and adoptive children is central to the development and importance of adoption as an instrument of social control.  Many adult adoptees still marvel at how adoptive parents CELEBRATE the loss that precedes any adoption.

Adoption has long been seen as preferable to keeping an unmarried mother and her child together.  It is a method of shifting financial responsibility off of government or the woman’s own family and placing it upon people with the means to pay for a child.

Why does society insist on rejecting the idea that all women who have borne children are naturally suitable mothers ?

 

 

Economic Pressures

“When a mother is forced to choose between the child and the culture,
there is something abhorrently cruel and unconsidered about that culture.
A culture that requires harm to one’s soul in order to follow the culture’s
proscriptions is a very sick culture indeed.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Young, unmarried mothers are often at the mercy of their parents and society.  Jobless – they have no income.  The general view in the past was that economic pressures were only secondary factors to the moral sin of becoming pregnant out of wedlock.

If financial resources were more generous for single mothers, fewer babies would be given up to adoption.  There will always be some children who’s mothers simply are not prepared – physically, mentally and emotionally – to be good parents but I believe they are the rare exception.

Where There Is Demand

In the decades after World War II, there was a huge demand for “adoptable” babies.

If the demand for adoptable babies continues to exceed the supply . . . if the laws and courts continue to emphasize that the “rights of the child” supersede the “rights of the parents”, then it is quite possible that, in the near future, unwed mothers will be “punished” by having their children taken from them right after birth. A policy like this would not be executed nor labelled explicitly as “punishment”. Rather, it would be implemented by such pressures and labels as “scientific findings”, “the best interest of the child” and “rehabilitation of the unwed mother”.

~ The Baby Scoop Era

Once unwed mothers in the United States began to chose to keep their children, international adoptions became all the rage.  Without strong familial support, it was generally not possible for a single mother to really support herself and her child because the self-reliant tradition in the United States does not believe in financially supporting such mothers.  I was such a single mother after divorce who was not supported by my child’s father.

Back in the 1970s, growing up, I knew a girl who kept her child but mostly it was the grandmother who raised it.  Even more recently in the early 2000s, I know of a similar case.

But in my own family, where both of my parents were adopted, there was no familial support for their daughters keeping a child if they were not married.  Adoption was suggested as the solution.  The results speak for themselves.

There Are Worse Things Than Adoption

Warning – this is not an easy story to contemplate.

38 years after the event, a combination of DNA and genetic genealogy located the woman who in some confused and frightened state, gave birth to a baby in her apartment, and then dumped the living baby with the placenta still attached into a ditch in freezing weather in Sioux Falls SD when she was 19 years old.

The baby was found about 24 hrs later by a man test driving a car.  The coroner ruled that the boy lived for about two hours before freezing and bleeding to death.

The woman did go on to marry the baby’s father who seems to have been unaware of either her pregnancy or the birth.  She and her husband have two living adult children.

Haunted by this story, I did think “there are worse things than having been adopted.”  This man would have been 38 years old.  What kind of life might he have had?  Would the outcome have been different if this young, single mother had had the encouragement and support that would have made her willing to keep and raise the boy?

Neglect

We watched a movie titled A Woman Called Golda.  She was an extraordinary woman but she was the first to say that she neglected her children when they were growing up because she had important work to do – which was true – and her perception that it should not have been more important than her children was also true.  It is a paradox.

I had to return to work when my daughter was 3 mos old because her father lacked seniority and was laid off by the railroad due to a 1970s recession.  When I would take her to the pediatrician, I couldn’t answer the simplest questions because I was working full time and away from her most of her waking hours.  The doctor would always try to reassure me that it was the quality of the time I spent with her and not the quantity of time.

I now believe that was a lie.  Not intentionally a lie but a lie never-the-less.

In my struggle to support us as a single mother, I ended up leaving my daughter with her paternal grandmother so I could go and try driving a large 18-wheel truck across country in order to actually make a “livable” wage.  My intention was to save up some money and start again with trying to support the two of us.

It didn’t end up that way however.  Ultimately, her father remarried a woman with a child and then they had a child together.  Her step-mother operated a day care in their home.  My daughter ended up with the family life I couldn’t give her at that time and it was incredibly difficult to be an absentee mom in the early 1970s.

Fortunately for me, life gave me a second chance to prove to myself that I could be a good parent.  My two sons, born late in my life, have been with me 24/7 for their entire lives (they are schooled at home).  The few times I did have to be away from them, their dad was still there.  They never spent a night away from us, not even with grandparents.

This probably seems extreme to many people but my children now have both quality and quantity time and are thriving and very secure.

 

 

Preventable Separations

Within the community of adopted persons, there seems to be a consensus that separations of children from their original mothers could be prevented with the right encouragement and financial support.  A group I belong to actively seeks to encourage single mothers to at least make the attempt before giving in to surrendering their children for adoption.

A valid question is whether, in being separated from the mother, the child is deprived of something that society cannot replace – even with the best care it can provide.  I have been convinced that this separation results in a wound in the child, and also in the mother, that never entirely heals, even if it has been unconsciously buried within that person.

This most important consideration may outweigh all others in my own opinion. To avoid causing the wound to begin with, seems to my mind, to be more important than convenient “solutions” to a perceived lack of parenting skills or inadequate financial support.

It is a growing belief that separation might be prevented – if we as a society cared enough to do that.  Separating mothers from their children for profit-driven reasons is not in the best interests of the child, nor of the mother.

Stability Matters

In contemplating how myself and both of my sisters lost custody of our children in a variety of ways, I realize that the main factor was instability and a lack of financial resources.

Though our parents were technically “good” parents, there was this attitude that once we were mature and more especially, once we married and had children, even if our marriages collapsed – we were on our own.  Our mother even counseled one of my sisters to give up her daughter rather than face an indefinite period of time when they might have to support the two of them.  The other sister simply accepted adoption as a reasonable solution to an inconvenient conception since both of our parents were adoptees.

Of course, we had no idea at the time of the wounds that separating any child from their natural mother, by whatever means, causes in a child.  I also realize that many single mothers somehow manage to survive parenting without losing their children.  I admire their fierce determination.

Today, is my oldest son’s 18th birthday.  I may have spent the rest of my life accepting that my self and my sisters were somehow defective if I hadn’t met my second husband 30 years ago.

My parents were quick to recognize the stability that living with him brought into my own life and were eager to “give me away” in marriage.  They were relieved to no longer have to worry about me.  My sisters have not been as fortunate.

I have been in my son’s life almost every minute of every day since he snuggled into my womb, then fed at my breast.  I now know it was the lack of stability and not that I was inherently defective that kept me from raising my oldest child, my beautiful daughter.