Failed Reunions

Herb and Homer

When we don’t have a Netflix, we rotate through some of our dvd collection – one episode of The Simpsons (only the first 10 seasons as my sons claim they lost their way after that, though they remained commercially viable for Fox for a long time after) or one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or one from “the hat” – a box with slips of paper we draw as to what we have to watch next.

Last night it was Oh Brother, Where Art Thou from Season Two. Grandpa Simpson almost dies from a heart attack and thou he promised Homer’s mom never to reveal to Homer about “that carnival episode” which resulted in a pregnancy and baby given away, he goes ahead and lets an adult Homer know.

Homer goes on a search for his brother and discovers that he is the head of a car manufacturing company and fabulously wealthy. He is also almost a mirror image of Homer – with exceptions. This is something that adoptees encounter when they finally meet genetic relations that look a lot like them. It is a very warm feeling.

But even reunions that start out happily, sometimes crash and burn. I have read about many. Same with this episode. Homer’s weird design sense tanks Herb’s car company and causes him to lose everything. At the end, Herb expresses the hope that he never sees Homer again. As any fan of the series knows, he does eventually return . . .

More about this episode in Wikipedia at this LINK>”Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

What Is Child Endangerment?

When my children were very young, I used to worry that some rather innocent parental choice might cause us to lose custody of them. There was a memorable episode of The Simpsons – LINK>Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily – the third episode of the seventh season. Homer and Marge lose custody of their children to the state. The kids end up in foster care at Ned and Maude Flanders’ house. Marge and Homer were spending the day at a spa, while the children were in school. Baby Maggie was left in the care of her elderly grandfather, Abe Simpson. This caused the parents to be accused of negligence after Bart was sent home from school with head lice and Lisa was found shoe less. Child Protective Services agents arrived at the Simpson house and judged it to be under incompetent care.

This was much less likely when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I do remember getting in trouble for going too far from home on my bicycle. I also remember wandering in wild and remote spaces and never feeling concern from my parents, though in adulthood I learned they weren’t aware of the extent of my journeys LOL.

We never left our two sons alone and never even employed their grandparents (who lived next door) as overnight babysitters. I suppose we have been overprotective but they are still alive and have not gotten into any serious youthful trouble. They’ve been allowed to develop their own character absent being overly influenced by peers. So often I read in adoption related spaces how easily children have been removed from their natural parents for no more than poverty, which this country does pitifully little to address and probably will do even less in the next 2 years with extremist Republicans in charge of the federal government.

Two recent events have gotten my attention. This country has a serious double standard depending on one’s race and class status. One event is alluded to in the image I chose for today’s blog (more on that below). The other I just read about in The Huffington Post – LINK>What Is Child Endangerment? When Leaving Your Child Alone Becomes A Crime. I remember hearing a similar story from my own mother. She left two of us alone to run to the grocery store, I believe. We were discovered by a neighbor. My mom learned her lesson and the police and/or Child Protective Services were never involved.

The Huffington Post story was about two children, ages 2 years and 5 months, who were left alone in a New York City hotel room, sleeping and under camera surveillance, so that their parents could go out to dinner about a block and a half away. Life is what happens next. The father had a sudden heart attack at the restaurant and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The mother accompanied her husband in the ambulance. In the midst of this crisis, she asked both a close friend and her parents to rush to her children’s hotel room and attend to them (as she continued to monitor them by camera). However, the hotel denied entry to her friend (which actually is policy, I remember being with my dad but in a separate room in a hotel and he asked the front desk what room I was in and they would not tell him). In the case of these children, the hotel called NYPD.

The issue of a double standard comes up in this case, though the mother does face two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child” and is scheduled to appear in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday. One commenter noted – “If she was a poor woman in an inner city she would’ve been arrested.” In fact, some children are left alone in inadequate circumstances by single mothers due to a lack of affordable child care options, while that mother must work to feed, house and clothe her children. Any individual can make a call to the police or to Child Protective Services, triggering a process leading to state involvement, which can include the parent’s loss of custody. New York’s juvenile court has defined such neglect with this example – “A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.”

This case gets attention because the parents are wealthy and well-known. As I have already noted – most other cases involve disproportionately poor and working-class parents who leave children alone when faced with a need to go to work or on a job interview, when they don’t have accessible, affordable child care. Families living in poverty or near poverty are judged far more harshly than wealthy parents. Parents who are taken to family court are at very high risk of having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care. More often than you may think possible, this leads to the permanent termination of their parental rights.

The Guardian had an update this morning, LINK>No fight or warning before six-year-old boy shot teacher, say Virginia police, regarding the case of the Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6 year old who brought a loaded handgun to school. The 9mm handgun used by the boy was bought legally by his mother and kept in the family’s home. It remains unclear whether the mother will face any legal charges. Virginia does not have a law that requires unattended guns to be stored in a particular way or a law that requires gun owners to affirmatively lock their weapons. The issue will be whether it can be proven that the mother’s actions violated a Virginia law that prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under 14. It could be argued by gun advocates that the child was never in danger – but certainly his teacher was.

When The Deck Is Stacked Against You

When my sons were young, I seriously worried that someone might disagree with our parenting of them and take our sons away from us. On occasion, I even warned them that their behavior put us all at risk. That was before I learned my parents adoption stories and before I joined an all things adoption which includes foster care group. Since then, the horror stories I have read about Child Protective Services makes my concerns of yesteryear seem less paranoid. I remember a Simpsons episode where the children are taken away from Homer and Marge over some coincidental events and given to the Flanders. Since our family was watching the series on dvds at the time, I used that episode to illustrate the dangers to my young sons.

So today, I read this story –

My biological mom is now sober, almost off probation and holding down a full time job, while keeping her house clean. Child Protective Services is telling her that unless she serves every single meal at the dining room table with the whole family, she’s not in compliance and my 6 year old sister is at risk of being taken away from her. Please try to tell me how Child Protective Services is not organized with the intent to steal kids from capable parents. Even when incapable parents turn their lives around and do the work required of them to become what their kids need to thrive, the system itself fights against them with arbitrary demands.

I can relate to this comment because it is much the same in my family (and we have the added challenge that my youngest son doesn’t believe the food that my husband and older son eat with me is actually fit for him to eat and so, I make provisions to include this one in some aspect of what the rest of us are eating (at least what he can accept as food LOL).

We have a maximum of 1 family meal per day as both my hubby and me work. The boys have breakfast together, though the older one often chooses to skip breakfast, lunch is at school and dinner is together, if my husband gets out of the clinic early enough. Sometimes one of the boys is angry and chooses to eat alone in his room to cool off, sometimes we eat in front of the tv. Sometimes my kids even eat outside in the park.

Someone else notes – we are the rare family who eats dinner together nightly but breakfast??? Lunch??? Not everyone is up together or home for lunch.

That pretty much describes my own family. We do have dinner together and I grew up with dinner at the dining room table but my dad was not always there because he worked shifts at an oil refinery. Everyone is on their own for breakfast and lunch in my household of today.

This is NOT the first time I have read they will go to your kid’s school and ask them questions –

They can prove where the kids are eating their meals by asking the kids at school without your knowledge or permission! I told my kids – if someone is at your school who you don’t know and they start asking questions, don’t answer them until I’m with you! No matter what they ask you say – “I’m not answering any questions without my mom here with me, you are a stranger.”

One suggestion is to get this demand in writing and consult with an attorney about it.

Someone else acknowledges how wealth inequality factors into these kinds of cases – they push all kinds of 1950s era respectability on poor moms, while the richer ones can feed theirs charges nuggets at the drive thru daily. And don’t get me started on substance abuse being leveraged against some parents, while the richer ones proudly boast how much wine they need just to be around their kids.

It’s not where you eat that makes you a family, but how you interact, and dinner is absolutely not the only place to interact by even the smallest stretch of the imagination.

One person admitted – They had issues with my kids eating crackers from a little cup on the floor, dropping one and then picking it up off the floor. It was a reason they gave for removal.

The response was – Have they never heard of the 5 second rule? Lol In all seriousness though, kids need to be exposed to a certain level of germs in order to build up their immune systems. Eating a cracker off the floor is not even the tiniest bit concerning. I’m so sorry they did that to you.

And I will add – I am not the germ free spotless kind of mother. And my kids have been healthy as all get out. I believe it is because I allowed them to be exposed to a certain level of germs. I believe that is actually true. They say if there is too much disinfectant and sanitizer involved, the kids are more vulnerable to illness.

#whatabouts=derailment

In The Simpsons animated series, Helen Lovejoy often exclaims, “Ohhh, won’t somebody please think of the children!”

Something like this happens in broadly represented adoption groups (adoptees, original parents, adoptive parents and foster caregivers). “What about . . . ?” statements regarding kids being abused when issues of adoption and foster care are discussed, especially when the overall goal is to encourage family preservation only derail the effort to put forth viable solutions.

To assume any thoughtful, caring adult is seeking to justify kids being abused by impassioned support for the well-being of the whole biological family is abhorrent. I do not and never have advocated for allowing the abuse of children. What I seek to discuss through this blog in a variety of ways is how abuse and neglect stem from other factors in a person’s life. Being more pro-active on the side of helping families (and people in general) find the support they need can actually help stop abuse and neglect from ever occurring.

If you don’t believe that is possible, then maybe you are not doing enough in your own life to be part of the solution. Maybe you need to open your eyes to the simple truth of what is actually going on. You may need to stop sitting in your bubble of privileged judging of other people’s challenges.

I do believe that no one is born a terrible person. Life happens and sometimes it is a person’s path forward that results in inconvenient truths about the lack of support in our society for marginalized people. Not everyone is fortunate enough to always have goods choices that help them along on one of those better paths in life.

However, allowing people to have better choices CAN lead to a better life, a better person and a healthier, more stable family. This is not Utopian ideals. This is the honest truth derived from being open to learning about a diversity of challenges and experiences as well as the outcomes of those for many different people.

To that question, will there always be children that need someone else to care for them? Sadly Yes, of course there will.

Another question, is there an over-abundance of foster care necessitated by child removals and adoptions taking place in our country today? Maybe, maybe not. These are complex situations that deserve intelligent, nuanced thinking.

The goal of this blog is to help in educating people who may not have as broad of an access to all things adoption and foster care thinking, nor the attention that captures for me many of the stories I feel are worth sharing here.

Second Choice

It could be the worst thing about being adopted.

Everyone’s first choice is to pass their genes down to a biological child.

Even before I knew so deeply about all the complications of adoption, my husband and I considered adopting when he wanted to become a father (I had already become a mother at age 19).  We rather quickly rejected the idea and never seriously pursued it.  We chose a novel method that is not without its own complications now that DNA testing is so inexpensive and matching sites out the truth, at least privately between the affected individuals.

Adoption has often been the solution for a couple when their first choice died young and subsequent efforts to conceive have failed – known as secondary infertility.  Whether the woman has previously had a successful pregnancy or never could, some of these couples decide to adopt when all else has failed for them.

Just last night in a Season 6 episode of The Simpsons about the conception of their youngest daughter, Maggie, Dr Hibbert says to Marge – a healthy baby can bring in $60,000.  Yes, the comment did not passed but caught my attention.