April 22, 2010

This is one of those days I'm having a hard time catching up with my feelings.

My husband and I lived on the same street as a family with six kids for several years. Their parents were both drug addicted and the children endured a lot. Three of the girls lived temporarily in a children's home we suggested to the parents during a particularly hard time, but then moved back home after the family dynamics became a little more stable.
As time has passed all these children have grown into young adults with children of their own. We grew close to them over all these years and still stay in touch.

It has been heartbreaking to see them endure so much as children and try so hard to "make it" as adults with very little education, resources or emotional support and coping skills. They are great "kids" with big hearts, but they struggle so much.

Anyway, I went to a court hearing today with the youngest boy (now 25) regarding "permanency" for his children who have been living with a foster family for the past seven months. This young man loves his children dearly. The situation involved the children's mother, who is now in jail, sadly. I know this young father would never hurt his children. He doesn't have the resources for a decent attorney and is getting no help whatsoever from child welfare. He doesn't understand the process and even though he thinks he is doing everything they ask to regain contact with his children, their reports say otherwise.

The foster mother is adament against any form of "openness" in contact and wants to adopt the children with no agreement for them to ever have contact with their father again. It breaks my heart as an adoptee. To see the subtle and not so subtle sneers and attitudes coming from this foster family towards this young father, and to know that his children may grow up feeling disdain towards him (and hence, towards themselves) because of the attitude oozing from the home they are reared in.

Sitting in that courtroom today after also experiencing the last few days of contacting the case worker and attorney and being treated rudely myself, as an advocate, I feel conflicting emotions regarding the whole "system" of child welfare and adoption (now very much intertwined because of federal incentives to states for every child adopted into "permanency" as quickly as possible).

I'm beginning to believe that advocates may truly have a point when they argue these issues as intricately related to "social class" and "poverty", with the "rich" using the court and legal systems to take children of the poor. I know there are many, many instances of child abuse and neglect which call for a child's removal from their home. But I also experienced the attitudes of many "professionals" involved today. It was sickening.

While waiting for our court time, in walked a tribe of a family all decked out in their Sunday best, matching coats and ties for the boys, and frilly dresses for the girls. They would give the Von Traps a run for their money, no joke. The stair-step toddler girls were the "show" of the waiting room. All eyes were on them, the "Belles of the ball" as they toddled around performing for everyone. Yet as soon as those darling "little dolls" decided to invade the mother's diaper bag, they got an immediate hand slap and firm reprimand, "SISTER, there is NOTHING in there for you, PUT IT BACK NOW!" Wow, a triggering reminder of what we adoptees hear our entire lives. Especially when we start snooping around for our identities, birth certificates, and buried emotions. My heart went out to these tiny adoptees.

The finalization of the youngest's adoption was being celebrated in big style for sure. What worried me most was a comment made by the grandmother. She was proudly telling someone about the fact these little girls now have "yet another" baby sister and that they were "already working on getting her as well". I have no idea what the situation is. But as an adoptee sitting in this waiting room and seeing the pain of "birth" family pitted against "entitlement" attitudes of adopting parents, I literally wanted to puke. I saw this young father watch these little girls play, with tears in his eyes thinking about his own two daughters whom he hasn't seen in months. In fact, here it is eleven o'clock in the evening and I'm still trying to process it all.
Not only that, I'm only "hitting the highlights" of what I saw, felt, and experienced today. There are many details I've left out, simply because it is too overwhelming.

I think what baffles me most is the utter and complete ignorance and disrespect for the children involved. (Who certainly don't remain children, except in the eyes of the law). The "deer in the headlights" looks we STILL GET when adoptees try to voice the injustice and pain caused by archaic sealed records laws and prevailing attitudes in adoption.

I was just posting pictures on Facebook of me and my son having wonderful times with my natural father, who I have been reunited with for 20 years now. I tried to encourage this young father today with that. That his children will always wonder and wish and hope. When they become adults, they will most likely search for him and grieve for the years lost. I pray that they will not have to wait until adulthood to begin this process. I pray the Judge will see the importance of openness and issue decisions that will help these children begin to heal now, for all their sakes.


Lori said...

Peach, I was both one of those kids - the ones lost to the system and the parent losing a child to adoption.

It is exactly what was - the feeling of complete and total blankness to what is happening and deep sorrow and pain.

All the talk about adoption from the system - it brings it all back in spades.

The first foster home - a trailer with a grad student that had no time for me. The second - a nice house where the man molested me - and on and on and on.

Then my daughter and after a year of struggling with two jobs and another odd job, I find a job that will let me take my child to work with me, a nice house and because I did not tell them I was moving - they took my baby from me....

It is a disease....one that seems to take over the mind of what should be intelligent adults. I feel for your friend. I wish I had known before this time - I know people that would have helped.

Von said...

So very tragic, so very immoral and wicked.I find it hard to see how it can be justified in any way.This good hearted man needs support, assistance, help to make a loving family.The cycle of deprivation as it used to be called can be broken.Nothing is helped by judgemental attitudes and collusion.I imagine you must be so devastated by all you've seen and heard today.There is no way to accept it, it's wrong.
And so very cruel to have people lumped together in the same waiting area.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

"But I also experienced the attitudes of many "professionals" involved today. It was sickening."

The shame of it is that these attitudes have been around for many, many years and nothing has changed!

This was a hard post to read, but thank you for sharing it. So many need to know how both sides see life in adoption. Thank you.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What a heartbreaking story to read. I hope your friend will find a way to be able to be with his children. It is very true, if you don't have financial resources, you CAN'T fight those who do in the legal system. I can't imagine anything more distressing. Thanks for posting this.

a Tonggu Momma said...

So heartbreaking to hear about.

M. said...

Oh my. I have no words other than to echo what Von said. "So very tragic, so very immoral and wicked."

Thank you for sharing this, as hard as it was to experience.