November is National Adoption month and I have a few posts in mind for that. But there are a few personal stories I want to share about avoiding foster care. It is great that foster care exists, because in some countries in the world, it does not. However, of the options that exist for kids it isn’t the best, and we forget, there are other options.
Back in the mid-1970s my mom had her 1st nervous breakdown due to post-partum depression. I was pre-schooled age at the time and I was sent off to stay with various relatives while my mom recovered. I’m not sure what was going on with dad (maybe discovering the joys of alcoholism). This happened again when my parents were separated and mom was hospitalized for mental health issues. Grandma, my aunts and uncles and their spouses took over and returned us immediately and the state was not involved. If they weren’t there to help, my sister and I probably would have gone into foster care. I am grateful that they stepped up.
Decades later, my sister was a single mom with two kids living in subsidized housing. Something happened that I’m not going to talk about and mom convinced her to send the kids to stay with her retired brother and his wife. The kids returned to their mom after a month or so. My nephew and my uncle formed a very strong bond. So when my then 2 year old nephew regressed developmentally after his return to his mom, he went back to our uncle. Long story short our aunt and uncle adopted my nephew. This sort of thing was normal on my dad’s side, which makes trying to do a genealogy annoying. On my dad’s side there is a paranoid fear of the state taking away kids, so the family gets involved before the local government does.
So those are personal stories and this next story, I heard from Bethany, the adoption agency we used. There was a single mom in Texas with 3 kids and for reasons unknown to me, she decided to look for a new family for her kids and reached out to an adoption agency. She found a family in Maryland who agreed to adopt all three, keeping the siblings together. I can guess at the various reasons why she did what she did (terminal diagnosis, 10-20 yr prison term, degrading mental illness) but I want to applaud her decision to keep her kids out of the foster care system. In the system there is no guarantee that the kids would stay together. There is no guarantee the kids wouldn’t be moved from house to house and out on their own the minute each one turned 18. Twenty percent of foster kids become homeless after turning 18, and the stats for foster kids is frickin’ depressing. In this case there is a family who will be there for them and their various milestones and provide a home to boomerang back to when they become adults.
Lastly, I am thankful the foster care system exists, it’s better than the institutional orphanage system. In the short term it is a lifesaver for kids in crisis who have no other options. Long-term, eh, there are problems, no simple solutions, and it could be better. If there are options to get kids out of the system or to avoid the system altogether, they should be considered. Family members should step forward and intervene early or the parents should consider being pro-active and find an adoptive family for their kids.