Sunday, June 24, 2007

Parents, first parents, are not evil

I hate to give links to blogs when I am being critical of what they have said or what their commentors have said.

I have read files containing descriptions of abuse that have made me vomit. Certainly they have made me give up any idea that G-d is in control of the details of this world. As far as G-d goes, there are two main possibilities: there is no G-d; or for various reasons G-d has decided not to interfere. If I believed that there were a divine plan that included or required that a small child be raped, I would think that the divine planner was a sadistic demon. I would believe it my moral obligation to fight against such a demon, and if he were all-powerful and told me I would go to a fire pit of torment if I did not join his side, I would hope I had the courage of Job (who was NOT patient) and would respond "I know my redeemers lives," and you, demon, are not that redeemer. I would hope that, like Job, I would have the strength to believe in a G-d that was just even if one respected religious leader after another showed up at my door to convince me to repent and bow down before the so-called G-d of suffering.

There are people who should never have had children. People who have done terrible things to children. Often our child welfare system does not work well. Children go unprotected. Children are sometimes, perhaps many times, sent back to parents who are still unable to keep those kids safe.

But we have no right, absolutely no right, to assume without knowing that any particular parent is evil, incompetent, or undeserving. If we have only half the story, then we have only half the story.

So take this story: a child goes into foster care at age two. Even though the foster family moved to a different state, the mother still visited with him every other week. Amazing. So many mothers are overwhelmed by their lives and by the condemnation they fear from the people they will have to deal with that they cannot make themselves go. This mother did. She kept visiting. It took her eight years, but she pulled it off. She turned her life around and got her son back.

There are lots of details that were left out. Eight years is a long time to be with one family and not be adopted. The foster mother being interviewed makes it sound like she just didn't get around to it because she thought it wasn't necessary. I doubt it. If the child was having regular visits with his mother, it is likely that it wasn't possible. It is likely that the court would not have allowed her to adopt. Not that it would have made a difference if she had been able and chosen not to.

Choosing to remain the foster parent when one can adopt makes a lot of sense in a lot of situations. It does mean however that a social worker can show up on day and say, "The judge decided Johnny can go home! Pack his things. Say goodbye."

In other words, she always knew this would happen.

Which does not ease her pain one bit. I would never tell her her, "Well, you knew this could happen" as though that would make her feel better or as though her feelings were not completely justified. Of course she is heartbroken. Her grief is real, and deep, and potentially life-altering.

And I feel very sad for her that the mother has decided she can have no contact with the boy she has raised for eight years.

But I will not leap to judgment. I will not say that it was wrong for a mother to be reunited with her son after eight years.

Perhaps the people who rush to judge are right. Maybe the mother should not have been reunited with her son. Perhaps, even though visits were regularly kept, even though she did whatever else the judge expected of her, perhaps she still should not have been reunited with her son. Maybe.

I don't know.

Which is precisely my point.


  1. Well, I agree with you. It doesn't sound like this was a child abuse case in the first place anyway, more a case of the mother being unable to provide the necessities for her children.

    (And I totally agree with you about G-d. My Jehovah's Witness friend tried to convince me that all my ex's problems are just part of G-d's plan to demonstrate how smart he is. I told her if that's how G-d works, I'm gonna tear him a new one when I get there.)

  2. I won't even comment on G-d because, well, you know.

    I decided yesterday, after another interesting visit with the GAL that all the chances given to parents to get their kids back should take place BEFORE the kids are removed. When you consider that in the last 5 or so years that the rules have changes so much that when a kid comes into care they are almost beyond repair, (then of course they spend another 2 or more waiting to find out what is going to happen to them!) these kids are spending years in limbo. If parents can't pull it together enough to keep their kids, then they are done and an adoptive home should be found right away. (I reserve the right to completely reverse this statement tomorrow!) Foster care breaks hearts and in my current opinion, ISN'T GOOD FOR ANYONE! Grrr!

  3. I feel that being in foster care for eight years was not necessary. Like you said we do not the details. but one hour visit every 2 weeks? and took the birth mother eight years to put her act together? I guess she was not trying hard enough.
    In my opinion it was wrong to remove the boy from everything he knew.

    I agree foster care is not good, but It is the court system that makes it bad, but it is better than growing in an abusive place or orphanage.

  4. I would like to hear the first mom's story as well. I do think the kid should have been given a transistion period. But the article doesn't give a lot of details at all as to why this happened. To me, there almost has to be more to this story. Why would they allow eight years of visits, no termination, and then reunification? It doesn't seem like a normal case...almost like there has to be something else here.

  5. I can't judge, knowing no more than I do now.

    But I sure don't understand the foster family not being allowed to see the boy. Makes me wonder.

  6. I like this, your point is a good one.

  7. I have read newspaper articles about cases I am familiar with, and been appalled by how inaccurate the reported information is. Newspaper articles also tend to sensationalize, making even accurate information sound much worse than it is. For example, the article says that the foster parents had the child in their care for eight years, but I wonder, had he been returned home previously, and then returned to the foster parents again? Could this have happened several times? And three days' notice--that's just ridiculous. What's much more likely is that there was a long trial, a trial that stretched over weeks or months, and all during that time, the foster parents were aware that the boy could be going home. The boy himself may have been aware. If he was in counseling, the therapist may have addressed the possibility with him, helped prepare him. The foster parents themselves should have been helping prepare him. It may have been a surprise that the judge gave custody back to the bio mom, but anyone with any experience with the system whatsoever knows that no one ever knows what the judge will do; it is never a sure thing. Were these foster parents really so naive, after eight years as foster parents? The bio parents may have very good reasons for limiting contact with the foster parents--my red flags are raised by them sending a note home with the boy. Neither the bio or the foster parents are all good or all bad in this situation; both clearly have strengths and are invested in the child.

  8. "Neither the bio or the foster parents are all good or all bad in this situation; both clearly have strengths and are invested in the child."

    This is the biggest problem. NOTHING is black and white, but some people see the world that way. I used to think so as well, but the older I get, the gray-er the world gets!


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