Broken Family Threads

It is said that it is Black History Month, though many of my friends chafe at that and say it is ALWAYS black history. I understand. Imani Perry’s book South To America has been getting some buzz and as I writer I notice those things.

Yesterday, I read an essay adapted from her book published in Time Magazine’s Feb 14 – Feb 21 2022 issue titled “The Way Home.” It is about her effort to reconnect with a grandmother in Maryland who she is able to know very little about. Was her name Easter Lowe or Esther Watkins ? Was she born in Maryland or Georgia, was she 101 years old or 91.

I realized as I read how much I could relate to her journey to Maryland which is described in the article. Her attempt to get some insight into unknowable people. I recognized my own “roots” journey, often fraught with disappointment and too little too slowly. I am fortunate to know what I know now. Though the African American experience of slavery is not mine, I know how it feels not to know anything about where one came from (both of my parents were adoptees). At one time, I used to tell people I was an albino African because no one could prove me wrong, not even myself. Now I finally do know better.

Slavery was not exactly in my family history but in a way it was. My paternal grandmother was put to work in the Rayon mills in Asheville NC at a young age. She was not allowed to keep her own earnings and was probably expected to do a lot of other chores in the home. Her mother died when she was only 3 mos old and she had to live with a decidedly evil step-mother (from a story I heard about her being tied to a tree in a thunderstorm). She was a run-away slave. When her family visited her grandfather and her aunt in La Jolla California, she refused to return to Asheville and her slave labor there.

Poverty and the Great Depression was likely the cause of both of my grandmothers being separated from their babies. There really was not any family support for them. My maternal grandmother also lost her mother at the age of 11. She also escaped harsh conditions with her widowed father who was a sharecropper. She ran away to Memphis where she met and married my mom’s birth father.

Though I am not black and my family wasn’t enslaved, I can relate to Imani Perry’s story because in very real ways it is my story too. I didn’t grow up with a strong white supremacist’s identity. I was in the minority in Hispanic El Paso Texas and anyway, we didn’t have a clue to our ethnicity. Even so, I do recognize now that being white has put me in a class of advantages and I’ve worked very hard at educating myself by reading every anti-racist type book that has come my way. I celebrate the contributions of Black, African Americans to the diversity and vibrancy of the country of my own birth.

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.