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.
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If we want to discuss adoption from foster care, we need to talk about the kids that weren’t adopted.
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* 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
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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.

Foster Girl

Foster care is a cause that affects you whether you realize it or not. Your tax dollars fund the care of these throwaway children in your community, and you pay for their outcomes as adults who experience homelessness, incarceration and another generational cycle of welfare.  The majority of outcomes are tragic for kinless, abused, or neglected teens that age out of the system and transition into the real world inadequately prepared.

Georgette Todd has written a book that chronicles her difficult childhood that included sexual abuse and drug use.  It could not have been easy to dig deep into all of her experiences.  Due to her effort to educate herself and make it into college, she has learned to write well.  After earning BA and MA degrees, she worked at an adoption agency.  She eventually ended up providing the youth perspective for the Alameda County Child Welfare Dept in a program called the Youth Advocacy Program. She was in charge of presenting the emancipated foster youth perspective and recommendations about department policies and practices.

Todd outlines the basic premises of the foster care system approach.  The US foster care system is far from perfect. There needs to be a systematic way to save children from abusive and neglectful homes.  The purpose of the system is to place an abused or neglected child with a safe, loving relative that lives in the child’s original community.  If proximity is not available, then the foster child will live wherever the biological relative resides. Until then, children are placed into receiving homes, emergency foster homes, or whatever facility is available.  If the social worker cannot find a biological relative to care for the child, then efforts to secure a more permanent placement take priority. Permanence can mean adoption or long-term foster care in a group home or house setting.

These are the key goals of foster care but these plans don’t always pan out. Bureaucracies don’t always work.  Unfortunately, many foster children end up in understaffed group homes and inadequate facilities. They also go into crowded juvenile halls or wind up going out on the street hustling for survival.

I selected Todd’s book because I belong to a private Facebook group called Adoption: Facing Realities.  The members are adoptees, former foster youth, expectant mothers, original parents who permanently lost custody of their child and adoptive (including those who hope to) parents.  Some find the perspectives in this group difficult.  The mission of this group is to help expectant mothers believe in their ability to raise their own children, and not to chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Though adoption figures prominently in my reason for joining this Facebook group, I’ve become more aware of foster care because of this group.  And I realized I really had no real life background experience with which to understand foster care.  Though Georgette Todd’s book is only one experience among thousands, I did gain the perspective on the system by reading her full childhood experience of it that I was seeking.  The book may not be a good choice for victims of sexual abuse and former foster youth may not need to read it for the reasons I have.  If a former foster youth wishes to compare experiences, then that may be a reason.

Some related links –

Georgette has a website – www.georgettetodd.com.  She was a participant in a 30 minute documentary about the foster care experience which you can watch on youtube here – https://youtu.be/hS5JVSTf4LA.

I am not inclined to do Facebook birthday fundraisers but for this year only, I am doing one to support the work of Connect Our Kids, which I learned about at the end of Georgette Todd’s book.  They are applying technology to help social workers located extended family for displaced children that may be able to care for them.  Kinship is often, but not always, a better option for many children.  Modern families are far flung and often lose track of one another.  I set a modest fundraising goal of $200 and donated the first $25 myself.  Here’s the link, if you would like to help the cause – https://www.facebook.com/donate/310497696609444/

 

St Anne’s in Maryland

Some charitable organizations endure. When I saw this article, I thought of Porter-Leath in Memphis but the outcome for my grandmother (losing her infant, for which she was only seeking temporary care until she could get on her feet) was not so good.

St. Anne’s Center for Children, Youth and Families in Hyattsville Maryland has existed for 160 years. They were originally an orphanage and a maternity hospital.  The organization founded during a crisis has reinvented itself time and again since.  The same could be said for Porter Leath as well.

The organization was created in 1860 to serve women and children during the Civil War and it continued to do so through the 1918 flu pandemic, both World Wars, the Great Depression and now, a new pandemic.

Over the years, it has changed its name and purpose. It went from “asylum” to an “orphanage” to a “center” that now houses mothers and children, sometimes for years, if that’s what they need to successfully escape homelessness.

In recent times, they have seen incredible successes like they had not seen before in terms of families leaving them and going into permanent housing. It’s nothing short of incredible how these families are doing that.

When a single mother with a young child comes to St. Anne’s, she and her daughter are given a furnished apartment complete with a bookshelf filled with children’s books. They share a kitchen, laundry room and playground with other families, but otherwise have their own space.

One such mother said –

“I used to say, ‘I don’t want her to remember any of this stuff,’ ” she says of her daughter. “Now, I want her to see where we were, and how we are in a much more amazing place. I want her to see, ‘My mommy did it, my mommy figured it out, she took care of what we had to take care of.’ ”

When they move into their new house, she says, she wants her daughter to know that from these hard times, her mom created something better for them.

May Is Foster Care Awareness

I don’t often write about Foster Care because honestly I don’t really have experience with it.  I do have some awareness and that is thanks to an adoption group I belong to that includes many former foster youth.

Everyone has the right to a safe and happy childhood.  Sadly, not every child is blessed with that as their experience.

Every child should have –

Protection from physical, sexual and emotional abuse

Access to proper healthcare and education

A safe, healthy and stable childhood

This is not a dream but it is a goal.  Society is woefully behind in making it a reality.

23,000 children age out of the foster care system every year.  Of those, less than 60% will graduate from high school, 20% will become homeless and half will be unemployed when they reach the age of 21.  The FBI determined that 60% of the children that have been recovered from sex trafficking in their raids came out of foster care.

I pledge to resist negative and hurtful myths about kids in foster care.  I support change that recognizes that there are no throw away kids.

There are many books written on the experiences of youth that have aged out of the foster care system.  I will read Foster Girl, A Memoir by Georgette Todd as one way that I can begin to inform myself about the true nature of this system.  I will report back after I have read it.

Shocking Statistics

Private adoption is illegal in other countries. America has made the buying and selling of children a business; a multi billion dollar industry. Children are the commodity.

A woman writes – “I spent the first 16 years of my adoption experience as a ‘birth’ mother in complete isolation. It was preceded by the nearly 10 months of family-conducted isolation during my pregnancy. Such is the life of a shamed pregnant teenager. I had personally never known either an adopted person or a natural mother. ”

Clearly isolation isn’t simply for a time of a global pandemic.  Young women have been isolated for decades in order to relieve them of their baby when it is born.

She goes on to acknowledge – “If I could relive that day (when she gave birth) again, I would run from that hospital with her in my arms and never look back. I would take my chances with being homeless and the foster care system.”

The truth is that “better” life for your child is nothing more than a different life.

Over time, she came to see – that an adoption agent and her very own mother reduced her to a bodily function for total strangers.  It has landed her in trauma therapy. She didn’t receive counseling before or after the adoption by the agency. She had secretly held herself together somehow all these years only to discover she had been suffering with PTSD stemming directly from the adoption itself.

There is a world full of adoptees and natural moms in Adoptionland who have found each other in virtual space and are a kind of sisterhood that understands each other’s pain.  I belong to a group like that.  I have learned so much from reading about the direct experiences and points of view.  So much so that I no longer support the commercial practice of adoption.

Alone And Aging Out

I don’t often address issues related to foster care because I really don’t have any direct experience with that system – thankfully.

Even so, homelessness is an issue close to my heart since my own youngest sister was homeless for 4 years and somehow survived that and even managed to extricate herself from that about 10 years ago.  Her situation remains precarious and my heart hopes she doesn’t end up in those dire straits again but there is no certainty.

I have learned that when children in foster care reach a certain age, they are put out without much in the way of resources.  Some even run away from foster care before they reach that age.  These are children who lack any kind of supportive family to love and care for them.  Their parents may be in prison or addicted to drugs and self-absorbed.  Or their parents may have even died.

There is a non-profit known as Pivot in Oklahoma that is trying to do something substantial to help youth who would be homeless otherwise.  They are building a community of tiny homes to primarily serve the needs of 16 to 19 year old youth.  These are located right outside of the organization’s headquarter.  In addition to providing a bed, small kitchen and bathroom (a roof over their heads), the organization provides services.

They help the teen get a job. They teach them life skills. And they provide therapeutic attention to help these youth heal from a less visible internal hurt.  So regardless of the reason their parents are absent, a youth is understandably upset that the person who was supposed to take care of them, is not there for them.

All children still do love their parents at that level of attachment from birth. There is a grieving process that needs to be addressed – what should have been, could have been – wasn’t.  This healing is necessary if a person is truly to move forward with their lives in a productive manner.

Complicated

I’ve been following threads this morning that touch on a topic that I have struggled with before.  It is complicated.  I am pro-Life in a pro-Choice way.  I believe it is a woman’s right to choose and I am deeply concerned about efforts to overturn Roe v Wade.  I just read yesterday that an amicus curie brief was released in which 205 Republican lawmakers, including 39 senators, have asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the 1973 protection of the right to an abortion “should be reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled.”

Personally, I once resisted the suggestion to have an abortion.  My husband was a heroin addict and had developed hepatitis.  We had a nephew with severe birth defects.  My husband was concerned that our baby would also have negative impacts.  I don’t know why but I just knew she was perfect and defended her life.  She is perfect.

Yet, then I became pregnant under worrisome conditions.  I was taking exotic drugs of a psychedelic nature frequently.  My partner was not the kind of man who was going to be a supportive father.  I was not in a financial position to raise a child on my own.  I had already voluntarily surrendered my daughter to her paternal grandmother while I tried to get on my feet financially.  Shades of my maternal grandmother and how she lost my mom to adoption.

I had an abortion because it was safe and legal.  It was not an easy decision to live with, I will admit that.  It haunted me a bit.  I remember a message coming into my awareness that my son would come back when the timing was better.  It would happen 25 years later.  A son was born into a stable marriage with good circumstances.  Interestingly, my daughter had a similar experience with a still birth and when she became pregnant again, had the same kind of knowing that this was the same son’s soul that was lost before.

I have some concern about a missionary zeal that takes babies from vulnerable young women in order to indoctrinate them into evangelical Christian orthodoxy.  Yet, I also recognize that homelessness and drug use and a lack of financial and familial supports are a serious issue.  I have concerns that Roe v Wade will be overturned and young women will return to back alley abortions in their desperation.

I don’t really have answers to any of this.  Just concerns that are on my mind this morning.  Personally, I believe we live these lives to learn and develop at the soul level and that there are no mistakes, no death and an eternity in which to expand our awareness.