21st Century Children and Families Act

Whether it gets through or not, it is a step in the right direction. New legislation authored by California Rep. Karen Bass (D), would drastically change that standard: Under the 21st Century Children and Families Act, states could not even attempt to permanently sever children from their parents until they’d been in foster care for two full years consecutively, barring extreme circumstances — and even then it would be up to the states, and no longer a federal mandate. The reason that this is important is that the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires states to terminate parental rights when a child has been in foster care for 15 of 22 consecutive months. Granted this is just a tiny step.

“This bill is an important first step in moving away from cookie-cutter timelines that have caused devastating harm to children and families for decades,” said Kathleen Creamer, managing attorney of the family advocacy unit for Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.

Existing exemptions would be maintained for certain “aggravated” circumstances, such as when parents have committed sexual abuse or have been involved with the death of another child. But the legislation would free parents from the federal timeline when their custody rights are threatened due to incarceration or immigration detention — or in cases where they are actively working with the court to overcome hurdles in their lives to successfully bring the family back together. Parents are not subjected to the federal timeline if their children are placed with relatives.

Under the bill, if a state so chooses, it could eliminate all timeline requirements, except in cases involving aggravated circumstances. 

Bass announced her landmark legislation in a news release Thursday. “It’s time to update old child welfare laws,” she said. “More needs to be done to improve foster kids’ options for stability in their lives. Premature modification of parental rights too often leaves children in foster care with no legal family.”

The legislation is at the earliest possible stage, and far from guaranteed, with many elements that could lead to controversy, including strengthening the rights of prospective LGBTQ parents. The bill could also be challenged by representatives of the adoption industry, policy watchers said.

“With respect to the timelines, we’ll be looking at those proposed changes carefully and considering how they affect children and families involved in foster care, especially BIPOC children and families, given the systemic discrimination they face,” said Mary Boo, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Children removed from their homes following allegations of abuse or neglect remain in foster care while their parents address the issues that landed them there, issues typically arising from extreme poverty. Under family and dependency court oversight, local child welfare systems must mitigate the circumstances that led to the child’s removal into foster care, offering the parents therapy, anger management, parenting classes and drug treatment, as well as the time necessary to overcome situational crises such as homelessness or illness.

Charles Redding barbecues for his two children last Easter at the home of a relative in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The family is now in dependency court fighting to stay together.

But that time is often not enough. The pandemic has brought heightened scrutiny to the “cruelty” of federal timelines. Parents such as Charles Redding of Minnesota have fought to regain custody of their children when circumstances are stacked against them to no fault of their own. Redding, for instance, had emerged from jail with no computer to attend court-mandated hearings and online classes, and the local center where he needed to go for drug testing suspended services. Earlier this year, Redding’s two children sobbed through a virtual court appearance, imploring a Hennepin County juvenile court judge to give their dad more time to secure stable housing for them to live together.

David Kelly, a former official in the U.S. Children’s Bureau, called the bill introduced this week “a critical, long overdue step toward justice for families,” adding: “I hope it proves a galvanizing moment for realizing the family children need most is their own.”

Bass is a longstanding champion of children and parents caught up in the foster care system — families who are disproportionately Black and Native American. She is among those emphasizing that the bar for reunification is often too high, and the impact of permanent family separation too damaging to continue the federal standards as they currently exist.

“The changes that I’m proposing today focus the foster care system on the child and the idea that children should be at the center of our efforts,” Bass stated. 

Her legislation would require that before moving to terminate parental rights, states must describe the steps they took and services they provided to help keep a family together. It would also mandate data collection on the accessibility and availability of those services. 

Shanta Trivedi, director of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the University of Baltimore said that while states are already required under law to provide services under a “reasonable efforts” standard, the proposed law will ensure that protocol is followed for every family.

“This puts teeth into the ‘reasonable efforts’ requirement that were previously absent,” Trivedi said. 

The bill has another key element: It adds sexual orientation, gender identity and religion to federal nondiscrimination protections that previously only included race and ethnicity. Under the proposed law, states and agencies they contract with could not “deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent” based on those additional factors. The provision would directly challenge laws in nearly a dozen states that permit faith-based providers to exclude members of the LGBTQ community by following religious ideology in choosing which foster and adoptive parents, or even which youth in foster care, they will and will not serve.

The legislation proposed by Bass retains current legal requirements that adoptions cannot be delayed to match children with families of the same race, gender, culture and religion. But it instructs states to consider such factors if that is requested by the child or their birth parent.

When the Adoption and Safe Families Act became law decades ago, nearly a third of all foster children had been in the system for at least three years. The timeline was designed to push those cases in the direction of adoptions or guardianships so that children didn’t languish with uncertain futures. 

Since then, adoptions from foster care have more than doubled — from 30,000 in 1998 to 66,000 in 2019. Over the past decade, federal statistics show that the number of children awaiting adoption has also increased, by more than 20%. 

The attempt to rewrite ASFA comes at a time when some are pushing for its outright repeal, including Jerry Milner, the Trump-era head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Along with Kelly, his former deputy, Milner now leads a consulting group helping state and local systems interested in significant reforms of their child welfare systems, including the strengthening of family bonds so children can avoid permanent family separation. 

Critics of the current timeline that pushes for termination of parental rights after 15 months describe it as arbitrary and unjust to the families who mostly come from communities of color where daily life and the weight of historic and systemic injustice can bear down on home life. Advocates for parents say the federal timeline also penalizes people in recovery for substance abuse or seeking treatment for mental health challenges — complex healing that can take time and involve relapse and setbacks. 

In a February 2021 op-ed, Creamer and Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the NYU School of Law Family Defense Clinic, described the social context around the original law: “Passed in the wake of the now-debunked ‘crack baby’ scare, and at the same time as nefarious federal laws on crime and welfare, it reflected the racial and class biases that were ascendant at the time and that to this day continue to inflict harm on children, youth and families.” 

Under the proposed legislation, a 24-month timeline was selected to align with the Family First Prevention Services Act, a 2018 law that overhauled the federal child welfare system to decrease reliance on group homes and emphasize foster care prevention. But as it is currently worded in the Bass bill, states could choose not to abide by the two-year timeline — the legislation as written uses the word “may” — not “shall” — while continuing to receive federal funds for the children who remain in foster care. 

“We are hopeful that this is just the beginning of making sure that states have the flexibility they need to embrace and uphold family integrity,” said Shereen White, director of policy and advocacy for the national nonprofit Children’s Rights.  

Child welfare policy consultant Maureen Flatley, who helped craft both the original Adoption and Safe Families Act and Bass’ new bill, said the additional protections for parents would not only help more children reunify with their families, it could reduce the number of young adults who leave foster care alone and disconnected from stable housing, income or a support system. 

Flatley said while the timelines can succeed at creating a greater sense of urgency around permanency for foster youth, roughly 22,000 youth still age out of foster care each year with no legal family ties. Meanwhile, many of their parents may simply have needed more time to complete court-ordered service plans.

“By maintaining those family connections and those relationships, we may be able to mitigate and limit the number of kids who are aging out alone,” Flatley said. 

Under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act, states have received financial incentives to push foster children along the adoption path, despite critics’ objections. Bass’s bill does not address adoption incentives, instead taking aim at timelines that lead to the termination of parental rights — a critical first step for children to be adopted.

Still, even staunch detractors of the existing law applauded Bass’s attempt to update it through a social justice lens. 

“I don’t know what the chances are for passage, but the fact that we can even have this discussion shows that the racial justice reckoning finally is reaching child welfare,” said Richard Wexler, an outspoken foster care critic and executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. “If it passes, it will improve the lives of, ultimately, millions of children.”

Thanks to The Imprint for this blog.

It’s Temporary, Don’t Choose A Permanent Solution

Today’s story –

My daughter is 5 months old. I was going to parent her until a series of unfortunate events occurred leading me to believe I could not parent her. I made the difficult decision to give her to my sister. The adoption will be finalized next month.

I felt confident in my decisions until recently. I made the choice to place my child with my sister after I was in a really bad car wreck causing me to be injured losing my job along with my car and being near homeless. On top of already having 2 children I was convinced by my “support system “ that I would be selfish to keep her.

These were temporary issues and have since resolved. I am now in a stable job again and have my own car and am close to owning my own home (will happen after Christmas). So, I am currently in a stable living situation. I now know 100% without a doubt that I should’ve kept her and I could’ve made it with her in my care.

In Texas you have to wait 48 hours to sign papers. Then afterwards you have 3 days to cancel the paperwork and change your mind. Even so, I don’t feel like I had enough time to change my mind. I didn’t have time to let my hormones and emotions settle, let alone establish a stable living situation for myself. Now I so badly want to undo it.

But it would destroy my sister and the family she’s created in the process. And I’m not even sure if it even can be undone, even if my sister would agree to it.

One replied from experience – Unfortunately, I fear that your time frame to fight without repercussions has passed. I am not sure that Texas would reverse your Termination Of Parental Rights. This is definitely a question for an attorney, as it differs by state and situation. I would talk to the attorney before talking to your sister. If she is offended or panics, she could simply cut you out of both her life and your daughter’s, and take other family with her. I would try to preserve that relationship until you have legal guidance.

Yet another from experience – I also live in Texas and unfortunately it can is very difficult to reverse Termination Of Parental Rights. I’m heartbroken that your family pushed for you to give your baby up instead of standing with you by giving you support. I would seek legal advice to understand your rights. Ideally your baby should be with you and your family should help support you.

Walking A Fine Line

Today’s Story –

Situation: My two nephews are in permanent guardianship. My husband and I have had them for almost one year. The reason for removal was 9 Dept of Child Services cases, many of which involving physical abuse and neglect.

The kids’ mother has not taken any classes, or worked toward getting the children back. She has gotten herself a place to live, so that is improvement. However, nothing else has been done.

We do two hour visits every other week. Not mandated by the court, but just to keep the boys in contact with mom. The father will not answer calls, texts, or requests for visits. It’s been six months since the father has messaged us back. Honestly, not hearing from their father is hurting the 7 year old really badly.

The mom has recently asked “to be more involved in the kids’ lives”. When I asked her what she meant by that, she said she wants to be present for the kids’ doctor’s appointments, specifically the 7 year old’s psychiatric appointments. I feel that her being involved in those appointments is out of line. So I said no. She was very upset by it. I just can’t find it appropriate to have her involved in my nephew learning coping strategies and healing, at least not until the therapist requests the mom’s presence.

My rambling here is due to – I don’t want to fuck up these kids. I want them to live happy, healthy, lives free of trauma. I hear a lot of adoptees wish to have been left with their biological parents, is this the case with physical abuse as well? Doesn’t that seem a little Stockholm syndrome like? I mean, obviously it’s different because children will always have a deep love and connection with their biological parents. But at what point is it okay to say it is more traumatic to live with mom than it is to be placed within another home?

The three year old is now starting to call my husband dad, due to him never seeing his real dad. We correct it, but he insists on dad. We just try to correct it and move on.

I’m not sure if mom will ever try to get her kids back. We are ready to care for them as long as needed. However, my question is, at what point, if any should we terminate rights? We are capable of doing so in May. However, from reading in this group, is it best to just remain as permanent guardians? Therefore the birth certificates and other legal documents are not amended? The negative to that is, we cannot Will children in guardianship. So, let’s say we both die – what happens to the kids? Would it be in the court’s hands (probably foster care)? That concerns us.

I’m happy to receive any opinions or guidance as this is not something I know a lot about. We never planned for this to happen. It was kinship placement with us through guardianship or foster care. Thank you for all of your time. I wish to limit the amount of trauma that my little nephews will have to deal with.

My concern as well was about the child feeling free to be honest and face whatever issues the abuse has caused. So this comment resonated with me –

If mom wants to be more involved, she needs to do the work of parenting classes, before being able to participate in her child’s psychiatric care. I was ultimately removed from my parents raising me for abuse. At 37, I’m still in the thick of trauma therapy. Therapy needs to be a safe place for guards to come down, otherwise it won’t be productive. It’s hard for therapy to be safe, when the person whose created the trauma is in that space. Especially when you’re a child. Had she been wanting to be involved with another aspect of his life, then as long as your nephew also desired that, it would be okay. Adoption is trauma, but so is abuse, and the messages we internalize from abuse can take a lifetime to reverse. I sincerely hope she does the work she needs to, to be safe for her child. For both their sakes.

What’s Best ?

Lily’s Slimy Struggle by Hefess on DeviantArt

Today’s Sticky Situation – I have a friend who approached me asking if we could adopt her child she is currently pregnant with. She has frankly just an absolutely awful situation. Her baby’s father is getting out of prison soon after baby’s birth. (Within a month or so of birth) He does not know she is pregnant. I know him. We all grew up together. He’s awful. Abusive in every sense of the word. Drug addict. Been know to be inappropriate with children. Scary guy honestly. She has tried to leave him in the past and he’s always found her. She has no money. No savings. No family. We have exhausted looking into women’s shelters in our area and none are accepting people right now. She is insistent that she wants me and my spouse to raise her child and while we could very easily welcome a child into our home, that’s really not the point. She refuses to stay with me in fear of brining danger to my family and kids once her ex is out of prison. She’s saying she understands if I don’t want to take her baby but that if I won’t she is going to put baby up for adoption, terminating all parental rights, the whole thing. I really feel like she is going to regret this. I’ve offered some of the resources I’ve seen mentioned in here with really no changes in her decision. What would you do in this situation? My wife is of the mind that we should agree with the idea that baby won’t be going to strangers and if she changes her mind she won’t be in a situation where her baby is just gone to a new family she doesn’t know and will have no recourse to her baby back. With us this can all be undone if she wants that at any point. I don’t disagree with that but it still just feels so wrong. Is this the right choice? What else can we do to help her? I’m just so lost on how to proceed. I know deep down she does not want to give up her baby. She feels like she’s doing it for their safety and I understand that reasoning. Thoughts? I would appreciate so much any advice. Thanks!

Initial response – Can you look into women’s shelters in other counties or states? Either way it seems like getting far away from the abusive father would be beneficial for her and baby. I know many people recommend guardianship in lieu of adoption. I don’t know the specifics of how that works but maybe that could be an interim option.

The original commenter’s response – We have looked out of area and there seems to be some options for housing but she has a decent job here. She makes just enough to support herself. She’s not sure how to move out of area with a newborn, no savings and no job lined up. I’m not sure how that works either. I completely agree leaving the area would be best.

This response seems practical – Talk to a lawyer (or pay for her to do so). One experienced in domestic violence and child custody would be best. Dad will be able to claim parental rights no matter how bad he is, so she’ll need legal advice about how to keep him away from the baby no matter what option she chooses. Then you could talk to the lawyer about a guardianship arrangement, if she needs someone (you) to care for baby, and it will be much easier to get baby back when things are more stable.

The original commenter’s response was – I’ve mentioned this to her. I’ll keep working on her because I agree I think this a good idea. Her plan was to adopt baby out and claim she doesn’t know who the father is.

To which the answering response was – that may work, but if he finds out about it, he could contest the adoption and even potentially get full custody if she’s surrendered her own rights.

And the original commenter’s response was – I’ve mentioned that to her. She’s just so scared I think she isn’t fully hearing half of what I’m saying. I don’t see any scenario he could ever get custody though. He’s a registered child sex offender along with drug charges, gang ties. Things like that.

There is some question about whether she is married to this man or not – if he is her husband, he’d automatically be put on the birth certificate. If he’s not, she’d have to name him to get his name on the birth certificate, but if he finds out (from a mutual friend, etc), he could assert rights and demand a DNA test to prove paternity. Hopefully he has no interest in that, but abusers often do stuff like that just to pull their ex back in, even if they have no interest in parenting. All it takes is for a mutual acquaintance to see her pregnant belly at the grocery store and pass the word.

Finally this advice, a plan that can be put into action – For now, set up a temporary guardianship for when the baby is born. That way, you can take care of baby’s medical needs and everyone involved can be as safe as possible, but she still has her parental rights. Tell her not to sign the father’s name on the birth certificate when the baby is born. This means no child support, but also no abusive man can come take the baby unless he demands a paternity test. Have her keep her SS, ID, and Birth Certificates in a very easy to grab place that’s not suspicious. This could be with her or you, just somewhere safe. This is so any split second notice she can take it and leave without it being noticeable. Start saving up for a deposit that can get her and baby into a new, unknown place with a cushion too so she has time to get job or income assistance. Keep an eye around town for the shelters opening up. Its not illegal to be homeless with a newborn for this exact reason. Do the same with food drives. Maybe start hording separate gobags with diapers and formula as well. Get a burner phone. Depending on how tech savy he is, one without a GPS. He will probably be calling her off the hook and/or looking for her once he gets out. Finally, and this is worst case scenario and I hate to bring it up, she needs to put it in a legal contract who this baby is going to if she dies. This will also ideally be in the go bag. I can’t help on the adoption end of your question, but I’ve been through the leaving part. It’s going to be scary, and its gonna f**king suck. I’ve had to do this before, minus a child.

Trust – Easy to Break, Hard to Recover

Today’s Story –

We have kinship placement for our nephews. Their previous foster caregiver is court ordered (at her request to the social worker) that she receive a visit once a month and weekend visits are okay. The judge agreed to her request. I didn’t argue simply because they did live with her for 18 months, while the parents were trying to to complete their case plan for reunification. That did not happen and the case is in the midst of a termination of parental rights process.

We are now only in the third month after the placement. She texted me her 3 available weekends. After our monthly team meeting, I message her back that the second option would work best for us. She counters back that the fourth would work better for her, which coincidentally or not is also Thanksgiving weekend. Her reason is that this is the weekend her daughter comes home and I quote, she’d “really like to see them”.

I take some time to think about it. Although I sympathize, I say no. Then I’m met with hostility – like I’m being unreasonable. Not that she has said this directly. It is just my own feeling but regardless. My own reason is that I believe she wanted to keep the kids from us. I also believe that she lied to our faces about it. There is definitely mistrust between us.

I’m trying to be reasonable but frankly I’m over it. She isn’t family, we are. Her feelings of entitlement are boiling my blood. I’m considering filing to remove her weekend visit allowance. Do I have to wait until the termination of parental rights are final ? I have written an email to the social worker but have not sent it. I am struggling because although this current issue has been resolved and she agreed to my second option, I am concerned about her general behavior.

Comment from a foster parent – I would NEVER get a court order for visitation. That is up TO THEIR MOM. No one ripped the kids away from the foster family. They were placed with RELATIVES. Where they belong, if they can not be with their mom and dad.

Some questions – So she’s not family ? How is she still getting court ordered visits ? I’ve never heard of that. I sometimes see a transitional period, but never continued visits. If it was me, I would email the caseworker and just ask, how long will the visits continue ? If the plan is for them to end soon, I wouldn’t rock the boat. If they are going to continue long term, definitely hire an attorney.

In a similar case – The mom got her child back and the court gave the foster parent visits. Mind blowing. Like wtf is the point ? The children are back home. If the mom wants to keep the foster parent in the child’s life, then by all means, the mom can make that happen. But for this to be court ordered ? And for the foster parent to be demanding visits ?

Someone else complemented her restraint – I think you handled it well. I think something needs to be done, but I would be careful how you approach it. For whatever reason they still have some power in the situation and until tpr or reunification happens, they could retaliate. 

The Rights of a Non-Surrendering Father

This is such a complicated case. It really took reading through the lengthy legal opinions regarding this case (Kruithoff v. Catholic Charities of W. Mich. – In re Doe) to try and make some sense out of the situation. I leave it to my readers if they have that much interest to wade through the complexities. Below I will include a couple of reasonable arguments made in descent.

What is involved is the Michigan Safe Delivery of Newborns Law (SDNL) which is intended to prevent the abandonment of unwanted infants. The mother gave birth under her maiden name. There is also an indication that she was taking Methadone during pregnancy, so that the infant was born addicted to that substance. She also made allegations of domestic violence against the father, while acknowledging that she was still legally married at the time of the infants birth. She did not provide the father’s name.

Known or unknown to her was that the father had filed a petition for divorce and request for the custody of his unborn child the day before the mother gave birth. That is a part of the complication in the determination of this case.

It was never determined whether the paternal custody of the child was in the best interests of the child or whether the accusations of domestic violence were warranted.

Upon voluntary surrender by the mother at the hospital where she gave birth, custody of the infant was given to Catholic Charities. It appears they did not knock themselves out to identity, locate or notify the father. The father is trying to regain custody of his now 3 yr old son. The story has been published by a Grand Rapids Michigan newspaper with the title – Biological father sues Catholic Charities over newborn’s adoption.

Even as difficult as it has been for the courts to sort this one out, it is difficult to know what the best interests of the child are at this point. Both the surrendering and the non-surrendering parents had their rights terminated prior to the finalization of adoption proceedings.

At the end of the legal record were these statements of dissent.

To presume that it would somehow be in Doe’s best interest-the standard under the SDNL-to rip him from the arms of the only family he has known and place him with a stranger, as if Doe was somehow a mere piece of property instead of a living person.

The Legislature therefore enacted a policy that prefers to err on the side of protecting the safety of the child and of the surrendering parent, even at the possible detriment to the nonsurrendering parent.

What Pro-Family Preservation Is And Is Not

I would NEVER advocate for ANY child to remain in an abusive or neglectful environment. That’s NOT what being pro-family preservation is about.

A family is a fundamental institution that provides a sense of identity and feelings of belonging. However, conflicts can affect the functioning of the family, which endangers a child’s development. In homes where there is a high level of conflict between parents, the children are at a greater risk of developing issues with concentration and managing their emotions.

A surprising 70% to 80% of Americans consider their families dysfunctional. While violence, abuse, and neglect are common forms of dysfunction, many families reported feelings of estrangement, emotional disconnection, and non-traditional family structures as well.

This has led to the development of family preservation services to strengthen the community and ensure safe environments for children. The aim is to create good quality parenting that advocates for emotional support and positive reinforcement within families to reduce conflicts.

Family preservation is a movement by state and child welfare agencies aimed at helping families cope with whatever stressors are affecting their ability to nurture children. This movement grew due to the recognition that family separation leaves some lasting adverse effects on the children. It’s possible to protect children from unwarranted traumas by offering information, guidance, and support to parents.

Millions of children worldwide live in care institutions worldwide, but a shocking 80% of kids living in children’s homes have at least one living parent. The increased number of orphanage-style institutions—coupled with an increase in people wanting to adopt babies—has motivated families in vulnerable situations to willingly take their children to the orphanage. Most of the parents who would do this are simply hoping this will give their children a better life.

Although these institutions offer refuge to such children, even the best caregivers can never replace biological families. The separation from family can harm the child emotionally and affect their cognitive behavior. The effects are worse the younger the child is and an infant is as much at risk of separation trauma as an older child. Do not think because they are preverbal that they don’t have an instinct for the mother who gestated and birthed them.

Family preservation services can benefit any parent who needs a non-judgmental environment to learn parenting strategies and other beneficial skills for their families. Typically, all families will face financial, employment, parenting, substance abuse, or illness cycles that affect the bond between members. In such challenging times, rather than giving up on your family, you need the proper support to help you safely stay together.

Much of the above (with some minor modifications from me) came from the source of my image – Camelot Care Center. There is more about their services at the link. I am not recommending them or do I have any complaint against what they do. I simply wanted to address that wishing to see fewer children adopted and more vulnerable families supported does not mean that I do not recognize that some families are in difficult straits for whatever reason. Some of those children will end up being removed. Some of those will be placed into foster care. Others may be adopted. If there is any good quality to their parents, that is where they need to grow up.

Anti-Natalism

I have seen adoptees state that they wish they had been aborted. I had not heard of Anti-Natalism but apparently it is a thing. Back when I was concerned about over-population, I could have understood this concept better. With the pandemic, it appears the planet is going to experience a huge die off before it is all over.

So I discovered this concept today when someone in my all things adoption group posted – How do you all deal with anti natalism? How would you prefer people not adopted to deal with that discussion when it does come up? One of the number one things these people seem to say is adopt, even if you can have kids, because there’s too many people and it’s horrible if you procreate while others don’t have a home. This has been frequently debunked as a myth. Poverty is the number one cause of children being separated from their original parents. In the case of both of my parents, that was certainly the issue – not whether their mothers would have rather kept and raised them.

Back in 2019, The Guardian had an article (I wish I’d never been born: the rise of the anti-natalists) about this with subtitle – Adherents view life not as a gift and a miracle, but a harm and an imposition. And their notion that having children may be a bad idea seems to be gaining mainstream popularity.

The basic tenet of anti-natalism is simple but, for most of us, profoundly counterintuitive: that life, even under the best of circumstances, is not a gift or a miracle, but rather a harm and an imposition. According to this logic, the question of whether to have a child is not just a personal choice but an ethical one – and the correct answer is always no.

In my all things adoption group, the first comment was – infant adoption is a for-profit industry and feeds into producing babies as a commodity, so also contributes to over population. Adopting or (even better) providing guardianship for teens with a Termination of Parental Rights background who are currently in in foster care would be much more ethical.

In another’s perspective – They’re applying an argument that makes sense for animals to humans, because they don’t see the difference. With pets, if more people adopt from shelters, then that saves lives, and puts puppy mills out of business. (In the Missouri Ozarks where I live – puppy mills are a hot issue.) And someone else quickly noted –  even in the dog world, this isn’t true. It’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d agree.

Another explained – I’m an adoptee and childfree by choice. It’s astounding how many people throw adoption round as a solution to infertility. There needs to be so much more education done around why this is wrong and support given to people to make their own choices…eg not everyone has to want or have children.

Another one found the argument confusing –  how do anti-natalism and adoption go hand in hand with the argument that you shouldn’t pro create. You should take someone else’s baby instead ? How does that solve the problem ? How is that any more ethical ?

Someone else explained – Anti Natalists are against people giving birth or choosing to make a baby in general. This does come across sometimes as not wanting children at all, but it doesn’t always go hand in hand. It reaches into adoption because it doesn’t automatically mean they dislike children or don’t want them, but rather that they tend to think it’s unethical to create life in a distressful world/ the earth is dying/there’s too many kids without parents/ why create something that will suffer/overpopulation/ other reasons I can’t remember at the moment, so they adopt rather than creating their own, if they do want to become parents.

Here’s the truth – adoption isn’t the answer for anti-natalism. Adoption is trauma regardless the intent. So if they’re about being ethical, I think they should do a little little more research on adoption trauma before they push that agenda.

Another noted – Usually people who are childfree by choice are very pro-abortion.  The foundation of the philosophy is that humans already born take precedence over the unborn or not yet conceived. That there is a finite amount of space/resources and we are close to exceeding or have already, thus births/continuous growth should be avoided.

The bottom line was – If you think it’s horrible to procreate, then don’t. But don’t traumatize children and families, so you can still fulfill YOUR dream of a family. If you really strongly believe it’s awful to have biological kids, no one is forcing you. But don’t look for a way out – that’s just as selfish, if not more so.

Not Every Situation Works Out

It can be heartbreaking. Case in point –

We were matched with an expectant mother 2.5 years ago who chose to parent. We understood and gave her all the things we had for the baby. We checked in on her legitimately a few times to offer help, but she blocked us – which I also understood. This was not a $50,000 agency adoption. She found us on social media. During the time we got to know her, we also got to know her sister who we have remained Facebook friends with. The sister recently reached out to ask how we were doing. In that conversation she shared that soon after her niece was born, her sister got into a bad relationship and started using drugs. Her child was taken by Child Protective Services, the Termination of her Parental Rights by court order occurred and the foster parents adopted the child. The sister was complaining that at first the foster family let them have visits, but they were super uncomfortable, seemed sketchy, and have since blocked contact with the child’s biological family.

I do advocate for moms to keeping and raising their babies. The woman above asked, “but what about situations like this?” and goes on to make a point that there are some moms that do not do well parenting or maybe their circumstances change. That maybe she wasn’t as able to parent though she thought she was.

A really good response to this story acknowledged that the woman telling this story was really trying to learn and wrap their head around breaking out of the whole “rainbow and butterfly” narrative (what adoptees often refer to as the societal adoption myth). I believe you are mature enough to understand that there is always going to be a “not“ situation that falls into a gap. I have a sibling who could perhaps fall into that not all situation… (and in fact this blog author does too.) To answer your question… Yes, there are probably situations involving parents who don’t want to raise their children. Some parents believe the narrative that giving a baby for adoption is better than having an abortion. Some parents, maybe in this particular situation, decided to parent the child because they honestly feel that’s what is in the best interest of their child and it was. Here’s the reality – being in an abusive relationship can change the victim’s mentality. A person trapped in such a relationship can literally become someone you would no longer recognize and someone they never intended to be. So again… Had this child remained with the mother and had she received the kind of support and assistance she needed when she need it including how to get away from her abusive partner, this story would have had a good outcome. There are so many women in situations that really could use help. There are a bunch of places where the system fails to help. And in her case, those failures resulted in the termination of her parental rights. I immediately wonder why this woman’s sister wasn’t contacted to foster this child who is her kin. Why was this sister not encouraged to adopt this child? It’s too late for answers to these questions. I’m just saying there were so many ways in which this one child was failed by a seriously flawed system. The trauma will be huge over the child and her mother’s lifetimes.

Too Old ?

It is still Foster Care Awareness Month and today, the questions was asked – Should someone in their 50s be able to adopt infants and toddlers from foster care ?

I encounter this as an older mom from time to time. I responded – Recently, visiting my primary care doctor, my youngest son came up and she asked – how old is he ? I said 16-1/2. She did the math quickly – you had him at 50 ? I said, yep. I know this is about adoption and foster care but honestly, it really depends on so many factors. My grandmothers both lost their YOUNG mothers when one of them was 3 mos old and the other one when she was 11 yrs old. The length on any life is simply not guaranteed. I do think health matters. I was put through a whole battery of tests including a heart stress test before being allowed to conceive my last son at such an advanced age. Agencies could require additional health assessments for older persons.

Just before I responded, I was happy to see someone else reply – I was 50 when I had a newborn placed with me for a weekend due to an abuse allegation on a foster parent. I adopted him at 53.

One wrote – While I don’t agree with anyone over 55 adopting (I don’t agree with adopting at all) my state allows people to foster and adopt well into 65.

And of course, it is very common these days to see grandparents raising their grandchildren. I know at least one in that category. So this answer did not surprise me – I fostered my 3 grandchildren (4 & under) at age 53 and adopted them at 56…no way I was letting them go to strangers.

And this view from experience – My parents were that old and I did fine. Only disappointment was that all of my older siblings were my biological mom’s age or older. At 28, all my siblings are old enough to be my kids grandparents. Because they are in their late 40s, early 50s now. Other than that, I still did everything – with sports, dance, went on vacations. They kept up. With me and my little sister who they adopted when she was 1. And I was 6 at the time. Maybe they should have just stopped with me. But I wanted a little sister. So, when she was literally dropped at our door and the mother terminated her rights, they adopted my little sister too.

A concern was expressed but this smacks of ableism to me – I see it every day at work, as soon as our older ladies step in with the kids (especially the toddlers), the children do not get the kind of engagement they need from the caregiver. Toddlers and kids need someone who can physically be involved in their play and in their development. From my experience, older women and men are not usually able to do that for them. That’s not to say the kids don’t love the older ladies, but they know they can’t ask them to play or help because of their limitations. I’m very old school (you know, “get over it and go play”.)

I remember my mom always sent us outside to play – without her !! Out of hair and need for giving us attention – though we knew she loved us. It was just how she was (she had me at age 16 and my youngest sister at 22, so she wasn’t old). I would add until very recently, I will be 67 later this month, there were no physical limitations on the “play” part and we did “play” with our kids. I’ll admit my knees have crapped out a bit, so I can’t do the long hikes anymore. My husband just turned 69 this year and he runs every day – so the physical stuff he can still do with his sons – and he is always willing to have fun. The older one is now 20 and not so much into “play”, actually for that matter the 16-1/2 yr old isn’t either. They are pretty independent of us for entertainment. My husband does like to joke with the youngest one that he’ll be changing his dad’s diapers some day. It really isn’t funny – experienced this stuff with my in-law’s before they died and with my dad after my mom died. It happens. It’s reality.

One commented – How embarrassing would it be at your high school graduation having to explain to your friends that the old lady with a walker is your mom? Yet, I think, would they say this about a person in a wheelchair. In this week’s Time magazine is a feature on Rebekah Taussig – a disabled mom who has paralyzed legs. And she writes about such everyday things as learning to lift him (her baby born during the pandemic) from the floor to her lap, or in and out of his crib, or up and over the baby gate on her own.

I suppose appearances matter a lot when your life is determined by your peers. Maybe we’ve avoided a lot of that comparison angst because our sons are educated at home because we have a home based business and are here all the time anyway. They have grown up with mature conversations and exposure to people of all ages – from babies to people much older than us up in their 80s or 90s.

Of course, I liked this response too –

I’m 50 and have such an issue with this. I’m going to ask that you give your age with your response. I’m tired of people implying that I am too old to do anything. I ran a half marathon in February, I work a full time job and a part time job and just hiked for 4 days straight – over 20,000 steps a day. How dare you all restrict women and what they can do at any age! I am a teacher and an owner of child care centers. I have more patience and experience and knowledge than the vast majority of 20-30 year olds.

I had my daughter when I was 19. I find this too. I may have behaved more like a child with her than I have with my sons but I have gained so much from years of living that is also an advantage over how I was when I was that young.

Another one wrote – My grandma (just found out, not even biological, through 23 & Me) started raising me when she was 60 and I had the best life and upbringing I could have ever asked for. She never missed a beat and was way cooler than all of my friend’s parents. To this day she’s my best friend.

I think I’ll just end it here. There is no one size fits all on this kind of issue. One argument the person who asked the original question made – in response to the above was – Adoptees already have so much stacked against them, that older parents just add more layers. Fair but . . . . again, no one size fits all . . . . even with the experience an adoptee has in their circumstances. I’ll make my anti-ageism stand here.