Maybe my son’s birth mom would have kept him if she had had more support. It’s a thought that haunts me. And it’s a thought that has led me to be a foster parent.
My son Silent One was adopted out of international foster care at age six. His birth father had died and Soledad, his birth mom, determined she couldn’t feed all of her children and keep them safe from rampant gang violence. In an act of love so powerful that it humbles me every time I think of it, she chose to find a new family for Silent One so he could live. I know this story, because I talked to Soledad, talked to the social worker, and talked to Silent One.
But about a year after we brought Silent One home, the adoption agency we used was shut down by the U.S. Department of State under charges of coerced relinquishments of children. In other words, they said the agency was part of a group that were paying poor women to give up their babies and maybe even taking their babies. The investigation revealed that this didn’t apply to Silent One’s case, thank God! The story of why Silent One came into foster care was all too true.
It made me think, though. Here in the United States, we have social safety nets. We have welfare, WIC, free school breakfasts and lunches, free education, housing subsidies, medicare, etc. If you don’t have those resources available, perhaps you are more likely to choose to relinquish your child. Not because you want to find adoptive parents for your children, but because you don’t have the resources necessary to keep them yourself.
If there is a chance for a family to be together, that’s what I want to work towards. I want to keep moms and dads and brothers and sisters together as family. And when all avenues are exhausted for keeping children with their parents, I want to be there to provide a new home.
Foster care is about doing exactly that. As a foster parent, I am helping that family in their last ditch efforts to stay together. I am providing a safe and loving home for children while their parents work to kick their addictions, find jobs, do their jail time, get treatment for mental illness, learn better parenting skills, or do whatever else it takes to make their home a safe place for their children. It’s my job to not just care for the children entrusted to my temporary care, but to be a support for their parents, too. If I ever adopt again, I want to know that every assistance has been offered to the birth family. God knows the foster care system isn’t perfect, but it does try to keep families together and, when that’s no longer possible, to find adoptive homes for kids who need homes.
In my book, that makes foster care one of the most ethical ways to adopt.