Another Perspective on Birth Families and Foster Care

I read a blog today on foster care. I decided not to link to it b/c I want to honor the author, but I need to speak. I need to write a different perspective. It has been burning in me far too long not to share.

For those who have posted or shared the link to “the other blog” I am about to tread into some waters, that might feel uncomfortable to you. You might not agree. That is OK. We can love one another and have a good profitable discussion right?

We are missing a huge piece of the foster care puzzle. Not all “these” kids are unwanted. They have families. They have parents. Yes they may have put their children in at risk situations. Yes they may have messed up deeply or again and again. Yes they may have even harmed their children.

But to make a blanket statement that the children would be nowhere without us, boasts of something that does not sit well with me. No offense or judgment to the author- I understand her heart and appreciate what she is doing…just asking us to raise our eyes a bit.

We need to be about holistic healing.

Bio family and all. We are not saving them. We need to be arms of love and compassion to the whole family. Hurting people hurt others. Where is our compassion for the hurting adults in the equation? Who, I bet, were hurting at risk children themselves.

I understand that in some situations children do not need to return to their bio families. But to ask “who really wants these kids” is a generalized statement that sensationalizes and moves us to “pity” them. I bet their broken-hearted families do. Even if they are too covered in shame, embarrassment, addiction, or fear to admit it. I bet they want them. Deep in their hearts they wish they were free to live and love and provide for their kids. But they aren’t.

We need to reframe our thinking. We need to think about the bigger picture. We need to lay down our stereotypes of what good parenting is. We need to lay down racial prejudices that get in the way of seeing birth families culture and different ways of living as something that can be celebrated rather than judged. Not all cultures parent the way white evangelical parents do and that does not mean they don’t want or love their kids. (Feels good to finally say that)

We need to SEE our foster and adopted children’s parents as human beings to be treated and talked about with dignity and grace. Compassion and truth. Love and humility. Understanding and empathy. Our children’s self-esteem, our reflection of the gospel, and very possibly a family’s need for healing depend on it.

Tona

Want to add this link written by a dear friend and adoptive and foster mom. It is worth your time to read:  Where the church is getting fostercare all wrong

Adding another post that calls us to grace and compassion: The Story of a Birthmother 

(One additional thought I promise this is not directed at one particular person or blog. This is in response to a larger mindset I have been feeling for half a decade. Phrases and words that tear down not build up. That wound not restore. Words that set it up “us as against them” and “us as the good guy rescuers vs them as the bad guys”. It is about HONOR. It was just time to speak.)

11 thoughts on “Another Perspective on Birth Families and Foster Care

  1. I totally felt the same way!! Thank you for writing this. My son’s family loves him very much and he was never unwanted or unloved. People judge too quickly, even us foster parents do.

  2. Amen girl. Thankful for your words as I try again and again and again to reach out to our foster (soon to be adopted) kids first mom. She was a hurting kid and now she’s a hurting adult. She needs His love and grace too.

  3. Pingback: Could Not Have Said it Better Myself – More on Foster Care | Tona Ottinger

  4. I’m glad you wrote this. If we pray for God’s eyes to help us see, gradually the adults in these stories are less the villains, but more His loved little ones that long ago were in similar situations and someone should have intervened on their behalf too. He wants to heal them all and if we ask, He can give us the compassion we need to love and root for the child and the family.

  5. loved this! and yes yes yes to the article by erin kim! i loved that and just posted it to my Facebook!

  6. Pingback: A Must Read: Another Perspective on Birth Families and Foster Care | One Thankful Mom | Lisa Qualls

  7. My thoughts exactly! Thank you for expressing it so well. I love my children’s bio-parents. I worry for them and pray for them. They are so young! They themselves were born into a terrible cycle of drugs that has led them to live a dark life and not for the grace of Jesus, I might have also! I grieve for their loss, pray for healing and rejoice that my children, prayerfully, will be the ones that break free from that cycle. Thank you again!

  8. I have have three sisters adopted from foster care (my BFF from age 4 and her baby sisters) adopted at ages almost-17, 8 and 9 about 20+ years ago. Fully open adoption (how can it not be when even the youngest kid knows their mom’s phone number, email address, etc?), they kept their names and we all (them, me, my parents/their aparents) adore their first parents and always have. The first parents live nearby, regard my kids as their nieces/nephews (just their bionieces/nephew), my kids call them auntie/uncle (just like their bioaunts/uncles), celebrate holidays with us (they’re family! I’ve know them since kindergarten!) and have for the last 17+ years, i.e. since they beat their drug/alcohol demons for good. I cannot imagine adoption any other way — though there are certainly circumstances where this kind of openness and ongoing contact is unfeasible (severe physical abuse, distance, continued substance abuse, etc), cutting all ties to a first family seems wrong. In all but the very worst abuse cases, surely some sort of occasional contact (annual letter or email) could be maintained. Despite drug/alcohol exposure in utero and some pretty serious neglect, all three of my sisters turned out great — college grads, happily married, two of three with kids. Much of the credit goes to their first parents — particularly for my oldest sister, who lived with my parents/her aparents for all of ten months before leaving for college (and was only home at xmas/spring break/summer after that). Kids have a habit of living up (or down) to expectations… and my heart breaks for all those adopt from foster care kids who turned out SO much less well than my sibs. The excuses that they’re traumatised/alcohol exposed/unfixable simply are not true.

    What sort of “racial prejudices get in the way of seeing birthfamilies culture and different way of living as something that can be celebrated rather than judged”?

    There’s lots to celebrate about any culture out there… the sorts of things that are judged tend not to be the fact that the first family is Muslim/Jewish/Bah’ai/etc and thus don’t believe in Christ/celebrate xmas/go to church/etc or that the first family immigrated from Somalia and therefore eats all sorts of food that is probably unfamiliar to a white, Christian family living in a non-diverse small town in, say, rural Vermont. (My family is Jewish and my sisters are Catholic, it wasn’t a big deal; the two littles went to church and Sunday school every week with a family friend, my parents hired a sitter for the littles for High Holiday services until they were old enough to stay home alone for 3 hrs. There are about three non-Christian families in the small town I was raised and live in, including mine).

    When it comes to “stereotypes” of good or bad parenting, what, exactly do you mean? What are “white evangelical” standards? Assuming the kids are properly cared for, most people adopt a “live and let live” attitude towards other people’s parenting choices — but kids end up in foster care BECAUSE their first parents “choices” result in kids that are NOT properly cared for. In my experience, religion has VERY little to do with it — the parenting “choices” that result in CPS intervention tend to be “toddlers left unsupervised for 4 hours because mom went out to party” or “dad was drunk and hit the baby because he didn’t stop crying”. It’s not the “1-2-3 Magic” vs Dr. Sears approach to parenting that results in CPS intervention. Choosing to feed your kid congee for breakfast instead of cereal because, well, your family is from China and that’s what you like to eat for breakfast doesn’t result in CPS intervention either.

    What exactly do you imply by “stereotypes”>>

  9. As I was reading this (linked from onethankfulmom) I got a call from our former foster baby’s mom…she has a bad cold, hasn’t slept for two days, needs help to care for her son. She was so very brave to admit she needed help and we are thrilled to help her by caring for her son overnight. After a good night’s sleep she’ll be in a much better position to parent well. When mom’s and dad’s have no support system it’s no wonder they have troubles in parenting!

  10. Pingback: Fostering/Adoption Articles • Purposely Frugal

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