Poverty Is Not A Good Reason

The question was asked – Should poverty be a reason to remove children from their families?

Let’s be clear – the stipends the families get to care for children that are not their own biological offspring are more than large enough to help take the child’s original, natural family get out of poverty. This is misplaced societal priorities. It is actually less expensive to help the child’s family than to pay for foster care, not to mention the trauma to the child involved.

Poverty is seen by our society as a moral failure when it is in fact most often a sign that someone is being exploited by employers who don’t want to pay a livable wage. So, poverty is NOT a moral failing or a sign of unfit parents. That is a sign of a family who needs resources and support. No one should be having their family ripped apart because of poverty. Poverty is not a crime but not helping people who need support is. We shouldn’t punish families due to a system that refuses to help them, despite having the means to do so.

One woman shares her personal experience – When I had my case it was simply due to poverty. My husband lost his job and we lost our home, so they took my son for 6 months. I’ve met other people who didn’t get as lucky as we did and never got their kids back. The stipend they paid his caretakers would have easily gotten us a cheap 1 bedroom apartment and saved us all 6 months of trauma.

The saddest part is that many Americans still believe that cash welfare exists (almost without exception, it does NOT), and they rail against the imagined “Welfare Queen” fabricated by Ronald Reagan 30+ years ago. It’s every family for their own selves here, and the most insidious part is that many people don’t even know it. If you make any upward progress in your income, the system disproportionately takes support away from you. It makes it very hard to get anywhere, because getting ahead can actually put you behind. 

The thing about systems is there is no humanity in them. Take a part time job and earn $500/month, and you would lose $800/month in food stamps. It’s a system that punishes people for working hard and then, turns around and calls the same people lazy.

It’s been proven that all a woman needs is $800 and access to the right support agencies in order to keep her baby. So how is it necessary that some couples to pay upwards of $40,000 to adopt another woman’s baby ? Sadly, it’s capitalism – the adoption industry makes billions of dollars in revenue.

Follow the money. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 is how states receive federal monies that they then give to foster carers and adoptive families. This is where the push to remove children comes from. The federal government gives states big money for every child in foster care. This money is simply not available for family preservation or reunification.

There is some good news on the horizon. Some states are trying new ideas. Hopefully, their results will be positive and lead to better programs for families. Change is challenging. Kudos to any state that is open to new and better options for struggling families. The government does need to put more importance on family preservation than it does for paying adoption incentives.

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.

Poor Outcomes – A Sad Fact

Continuing building awareness regarding Foster Care as May is Awareness month.

Trigger warning

The following story mentions murder, substance use/addiction/overdose, suicide, homelessness, Child Protective Services cases that are open, trauma, illegal activity/selling drugs, sex work, mention of a higher power and spiritual crisis, the effects of poverty, and mention police.

Having been warned, here is today’s awareness builder.

It’s Foster Care Awareness month and I’m sitting here at 3:30 am, not able to sleep.

My friend, a girl I’ve known since 6th grade, was murdered in 2019. She was in group homes with me as well, two different placements. She dated my sister. I grew up with this girl. Today, the news covered the sentencing. I learned new details of what happened. It was disgusting, made me hate the world we live in, and made me so hopeless but furious. I’ll spare the details but it was inhumane, needless, and these two men are pathetic excuses for human beings. My friend was 22 when she passed, and she left behind a young daughter.

She did extra jobs for her employer and turned him into the department of labor after he refused to compensate her. That was his motive. It describes his crack-cocaine purchase right after the event. It was all about money. Money for drugs. But my friend was so desperate and had to work at this place and got caught up in this cycle trying to once again, rely on systems and was killed. I know the world is crazy and this could’ve happened to anyone but this specific case with the details.. I think not. I think this was a direct effect of how the systems chews youth up and spits them out. They have to rely and try to network with unsafe, sketchy people because they don’t know how else to make a living. It’s not like the department would help. Or care. Nobody who wants to do anything can and those who can’t won’t do anything.

I’m angry. I’m triggered.

I have three other friends from placement that were murdered. I have two friends that overdosed. I have two that committed suicide. I have one that died outside while homeless.

I’ve experienced so much grief and loss in my life, but I also know that these are the statistics for foster youth. Why do we have to be reduced to these statistics? When does it end? When does the world and our government figure that we’ve had enough?

This breaking code silence movement has done a lot for my mental health, targeted support groups help. Former foster youth are the only ones advocating and looking out for each other. I’m just so distraught tonight.

My friends all were amazing people, kind people. People who have seen the worst side of others but still worked hard to show up to life and make this world a better place for others, every last one of them.

I spent 11 years in the NYS Foster Care system. These youth from placement are all I know, I don’t even know anyone else aside from the internet that I haven’t met in care. I’m watching my friends die, I’m watching life kick them when they’re down, homeless, doing sex work out of necessity and desperation, stealing out of desperation, selling illegal items out of desperation, going to jail and prison, having open CPS cases with their own children when they’re just trying to move on with life and their own personal experiences, working for shady people because THEY HAVE TO. Everyone I was in care with, including myself live in poverty. I know I’ve had to network with shady people and take risks myself, you’re never growing up and are like “oh yeah I’m going to clean this mans house under the table that I don’t know and I could get attacked and all but nobody would care because I have nobody to call anyways and the police only made it worse the last time”

Because the resources aren’t there, the empathy isn’t there. The community isn’t there. Youth can so easily go back to what they know pre-system and actually pick up more behaviors in the system because THE SYSTEM DOESNT WORK. It’s failed so many of us.

Thank you for letting me vent, I’m mourning so much. I’m so scared to lose anyone else and I’m also fearful for my own future. They raised us to be stupid, to be nothing, to be institutionalized. They already reduced us to these statistics.

I feel so spiritually bankrupt at this point, I feel like I’ve been abandoned by my higher power, and I’m always stuck thinking about how the world should be rather than how it is. It’s so much weight to carry, but I can’t be complacent about the trials we face as youth. I feel powerless and here it is, foster care awareness month and I feel like this is the only platform I can come to and express my sorrows without being silenced. Thank you for reading. I just needed to get it out to people who /do/ care.

Is It This Or That ?

An adoptee blogging friend wrote – Borderline Personality Disorder or Adoptee?

This attracted my reading attention right away because for quite a few weeks, months?, I’ve been reading a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding Of The Mentally Ill by John E Nelson, MD. Because there is evidently a severe case mental illness (likely paranoid schizophrenia) in one of my childhood siblings, this book has really spoken to a heart that will always have concern about her well-being, even if my relationship with her has become hostile from her side of the equation. But the book goes into much more than merely mental illness but deeply into how spirituality evolves in a human being. As a matter of fact, I had my own spiritual emergency in my early 20s and but for my own realization around that, I might have ended up very much like my sister who has had a multi-year stint of homelessness (but not presently, thanking all that is good).

One of the topics that gets touched on – but mostly very briefly overall – is borderline personality disorders. There are nine classic symptoms from chronic emptiness to uncontrollable anger, and there is a lot of variation from symptom to symptom. You can read about all of them at The Mighty from where today’s graphic was sourced. The 5 types briefly are Affective, Impulsive, Aggressive, Dependent and Empty. These are also discussed more in depth at the link.

In the blog I refer to at the beginning of my own, she says that it is a disorder of instability and impulsivity. In relationships, moods and behavior and sense of self. She goes on to ask – “OK how many adoptees reading this have already put their hands up as recognizing themselves in that description?” She prefers to call the traits of borderline personality disorder – “adoptee functioning.” She goes on to say of the 9 traits – “this is pretty typical behavior for someone who has experienced being relinquished at birth, and it is the way that adoptees function, rather than it being dysfunctional.” 

She concludes – “I am going to re-label Borderline Personality Disorder as Adoptee Adaptive Personality, caused by relinquishment.”

Surprising Pandemic Effect

Domestic Infant Adoption and Foster 2 Adopt websites are full of complaints about a shortage of newborn infants put up for adoption this year.

Why might that be?

Simple to explain considering the governments willingness to actually financially support struggling citizens thanks to a pandemic. Extended unemployment that can be claimed by parents without daycare. Extra Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT), small stimulus checks, the availability of food banks and free school breakfast/ lunch meals delivered and extended to homes with school age children and the stopping of evictions….

A truly ‘small amount’ of help can make all the difference to a mom in an overwhelming situation….

Most domestic infant adoptions are poverty driven. Single mom’s and two parent families facing joblessness, homelessness, poverty, lack of daycare, depression and helplessness will sometimes give up a child that they would otherwise LOVE to parent.

Many of these struggling families, with just a fraction of the ‘Go Fund Me’ money that hopeful adoptive parents frequently raise to fund their adoption expenses …. would be enough to allow these mom’s or parents to continue to parent their own natural children.

Clearly society can do better than we have been doing in the past. We’ve proven it. Now as a society, we need to prove we can continue to do as much to help families succeed. It is in the interest of stable citizens raised well that we should.

When School Becomes Home

On the car radio on Sunday, I caught the tail end of a To The Best Of Our Knowledge episode – Was The Art Worth All The Pain ? – that was an interview with the visual collage artist, Nathaniel Mary Quinn. What really got my attention was, even though he was not an adoptee – abandonment and trauma issues – were quite similar to what most adoptees experience. And his resilience and maturing perspective on what happened to him in his earlier childhood was inspiring and remarkable. At the end of the episode, he indicates the abandonment he experienced gave him faith in a larger reality that he interprets as Divinely guided in which what happened to him was necessary for him to become what he was capable of.

When he was 15, his family simply disappeared, leaving him to fend for himself at his boarding school. He had earned a scholarship at a really high quality school. His mother had died and when he came home for what he expected to be a Thanksgiving shared with his 4 older brothers and father, he found an empty, abandoned apartment. It was traumatic not knowing where any of his family was but he returned to school and worked hard. Really hard. He developed a study schedule and stuck to it because he knew he was one bad report card away from losing his scholarship and becoming homeless.

At school, he was fed 3 or more meals a day and had to wear a uniform so clothes were not an issue. On Sundays, the school band he was part of at Culver Academy in Chicago would put on a parade performance. Afterwards, when everyone else went to lunch, he went to a mound of grass on a golf course and grieved to a song by Al Green – on repeating loop 10 times – for 4 full years.

Today, he is an acknowledged artist with works included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His first solo exhibition was at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Quinn’s work is a complicated blend of painting and drawing that achieves the appearance of collage, a combination of human faces with comic book figures and other provocative images. Quinn describes his art as “luminism.”

“The technique of light,” says Quinn. “It’s the torch that I’m carrying from the platform of cubism. Cubism was a technique designed to show multiple angles and viewpoints of a particular object, but to show it on the same plane. “Well, luminism is designed to show the multiplicity of viewpoints and dispositions of the internalized world of that object.”

“Whereas in cubism one would paint the multiplicity of viewpoints of a cup, luminism will show the multiplicity of viewpoints of the internalized world of that cup,” he says. He applies a perspective of luminism to collages of human, often family, figures from his life.  His art draws on a difficult upbringing spent in an impoverished public housing project in Chicago with a broken family.

It can be uncomfortable to look at. His collaged and fragmented figures are meant to demonstrate that we are all the sum of our experiences. In his words, “I hope to convey a sense of how our experiences, both good and bad, operate to construct our identities. I also want to portray a mutual relationship between the acceptable and the unacceptable, the grotesque and what is aesthetically pleasing.” Formed from an amalgam of family photographs, images from articles and advertisements, and his own furious brushstrokes and charcoal marks, the men and women who populate his compositions appear as hybrids, at once monstrous and delicate. For Quinn, they are portraits of his fractured family and images of all human beings’ multi-faceted selves.

Barefoot & Pregnant in the Kitchen

Someone in my all things adoption group shared –

So I am in a tag group (about men) and someone posted a meme of some guy spouting off about how as women our goal should be to have and care for kids etc…

Well, I wrote that attitudes like that make infertile people feel as though kids are the be all and end all and can end up negatively impacting families.

And, of course I got comments saying let’s not judge infertile women and how there is nothing wrong if someone can’t/doesn’t want to raise a child because there is always someone else who would love to adopt them.

I’m sorry but I disagree.

Very rarely does it happen that a woman carries a child for 9 months, delivers that baby and then is like “naw, just kidding, I don’t want you.”

More often, mothers are separated from their babies due to poverty.

Now that I’ve become enlightened, I am always going to judge people who know they have a scared poor pregnant person up against the wall.

In contract law, if there is unequal bargaining power, the contract may be voided. So why are adoption contracts even allowed to stand? My desperate maternal grandmother never intended to give my mom up. Georgia Tann exploited her with threats that her good friend, the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley, would declare my grandmother an unfit mother – which she in no way was. She tried to get my mom back 4 days after she was coerced into signing the Surrender Papers but no way were they going to let go of my mom – an adoptive mother was on her way from Nogales Arizona to Memphis Tennessee to pick her up.

There is a clear imbalance of power when a woman or couple are poor, or homeless, or addicted to some maladaptive substance. And to have any woman sign Surrender Papers right after giving birth is clearly criminal.

It leaves many of us honestly wondering why our society always paints adoptive parents as knights in shining armor. Most people in modern society think adoptive parents are saints.

Really Want To Know How It Feels?

A story from an adoptee (no, it isn’t me).

I honestly don’t know if I will have enough emotional energy to finish this post but I had two very draining back to back interactions today and I honestly need to vent or I think I’ll cry. One interaction was with the new relative of a domestic adoption (the adoptive parents sister, so “aunt” to the baby) and then that was immediately followed by one with a transracial foster parent/hopeful adoptive parent. The reasons these interactions were so emotionally hard for me were mainly that neither person knew I am an adoptee, so I had to have that debate on “is the emotional labor for this worth it?” The other struggle was that both women are genuinely kind-hearted people but the hint of savior complex and shitty system rhetoric just broke me.

In short, the first story is a domestic adoption infant who was considered “abandoned” at the hospital because her HOMELESS PARENTS didn’t come back for 7 days. The most hurtful things that were said were the typical shit talking of the natural parents and the incredulousness and entitlement of the adoptive parents.

Direct quotes – “They named her this dumb name ‘X’ and even though we didn’t have to use that at home we had to keep saying “X” in public until the paperwork was final.”

(I can’t even comment on this one, especially since it was followed up by her new name and how its now the same letter as all 4 of the parents’ biological children. She seriously might as well have said “Now they are a matched set!” She then went on to complain about how the paperwork was taking extra long because of Covid.)

“They had to allow the biological parents to go to the doctor’s appointments and the dad was very aggressive and would try to dominate the appointments”

This one REALLY upset me. So, let me get this straight, they were involved and caring enough that despite being homeless and having countless odds stacked against them, they still showed up for their baby’s doctor appointments? And you are honestly saying that’s a bad thing, even criticizing them for it? Then I think about how protective my husband is of our 4 month old son at his doctor appointments and my heart broke for that poor Dad.

In response to me saying “Oh wow I wish there was something that could have been done to help that poor mom who was homeless and in (allegedly) an abusive relationship.”

She said “Oh, yeah, its sad BUT this kid seriously WON THE LOTTERY now and will have the best life.”

(Wow. I was truly speechless. Did she seriously just say ‘won the lottery?’ Because she has been taken away from her entire biological family, won’t know her 2 biological siblings, and is severed from a mom who obviously did love her baby.)

Now I’m too spent to go into the second interaction but will just say its a one day old newborn who was placed into a foster home immediately after birth because they have had the 2 older siblings for a few months. Its transracial and the baby will be in daycare almost immediately. This person is someone I loosely work with and have to maintain a professional relationship with, so I had to just kind of smile and nod and try not to cry.

Anyway like I said just needed to vent somewhere someone would understand.

Dumped Out at 18

This man entered foster care at the age of 15. My biological parents had their rights terminated my senior year of high school. The permanency plan the state created for me was for me to age out of the system and be thrusted into the “real world” at the age of 18.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If we want to discuss adoption from foster care, we need to talk about the kids that weren’t adopted.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
* 5% of kids adopted from foster care are between the ages or 15-18
* 20% become homeless the day they age out of the system
* 60%-90% of victims rescued from human trafficking spent time in foster care
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The reality is that 23,000 youth will age out of foster care this year alone. I know personally how hard it is to navigate life after foster care and I don’t want other youth to age out of care and have this be their reality.

When considering adoption, please keep these youth, not babies 0-3 years old, in mind.

One woman in my all things adoption group wrote – I’m one of those former foster youths in the system from age 5 to age 16, I aged out and was homeless upon emancipation, never got adopted, only had a failed reunification with my mom in my teens.

Another added this reality – I hate seeing comments from foster parents saying if reunification didn’t happen then kids could be adopted as young children instead of staying in the system as older children. Many older kids come into care as older kids. The reason why older kids stay years in foster care is because most people don’t want older children. They want 0-3, infants, or under 5. She adds – My foster daughter’s permanency plan was defined as another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) at 13. The system tossed her aside.

Yet another former foster youth writes – Came into foster care as an almost teen/teen, in 24 foster homes, and nobody but one wanted me. It’s crazy how you can get a teen easily in seconds but people would rather avoid teens and wait years for the kid they really want. I just wish we can be honest. This might hurt to say but all I hear are excuses. Just be honest and say you don’t care about teens in foster care. We’re passed along and pushed aside by everyone. It hurts but you get use to it.

The Blind Side

I have not seen this movie but after reading a critique of it in Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility, I won’t watch it.  Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for her performance.  The Blind Side is a movie based on the true story of a Memphis family, the Tuohys, who take in a poor homeless black boy.

Sandra Bullock plays the surrogate guardian of Michael Oher, a real-life African American pro-football player for the Baltimore Ravens who escaped homelessness and found success playing in college.  It is a “white savior” movie.  Some critics are torn by its depiction of race. Many critics are drawing comparisons to “Precious,” a controversial film that explores the struggle of an obese, abused African-American girl. Opinions on “The Blind Side” are similarly mixed.

The film has been accused of pacifying Oher, molding him into an unrealistically noble and non-threatening “black saint.”  In the movie, Oher takes on the trappings of a stereotype that emerged in the 1950s (when white, liberal filmmakers sought to change negative perceptions of African Americans). Ultimately that take is a patronizing one.  He is never angry and shuns violence except when necessary to protect the white family that adopted him or the white quarterback he was taught to think of as his brother. In other words, Michael Oher is the perfect black man.

“Our films are loud, overbearing and ultra-violent or they are uncomplicated, heart-wrenchers, which jerk at tears in a manner which they have not earned,” judged Ta-Nehisi Coates.  There are few black people shown in that middle space, in that more human world between the extremes, he concluded.

The kindest assessment is that The Blind Side uses a double metaphor – alluding to both a football player’s vulnerability and racial color blindness – to dramatize how people can overcome race and class barriers to achieve their fuller humanity.

I believe DiAngelo’s criticism was the dis-empowered way Oher is presented as though only this white woman could save him.  I really can’t judge the Tuohys.  Michael Oher, the NFL player who was portrayed in the 2009 drama, told reporters he feels that the film has negatively impacted his athletic career by putting extra scrutiny on him.

“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Oher said. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field.  This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football.  It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”   At a media event just prior to Oher’s 2012 Super Bowl win with the Baltimore Ravens, he told reporters that he was “tired” of being asked about The Blind Side.