In my lifetime America has grown as a country in many areas to be proud of. But within these advancements are indicators that the struggle is far from over. Making any and all gains relative to the eyes and perspectives of those doing the examining.
For example, Afro-Americans now have opportunities which were unfathomable before the civil rights era. Though the other side of this coin points to numerous communities facing dauntingly bleak situations which couldn’t have been imagined before. Woman on the other hand have clawed their way to respectability as a voice and powerhouse within society. Though if one looks at the nations workforce, cultural attitudes, and future trends, their fight seems far from over. Leading me to the focus of this blog, the voiceless and invisible, those emerging from foster care and adoption!
I will take a moment to interject that I’m sure there are many successful adoptions which benefit both the child and host family. And to those I applaud and congratulate your success. But being adopted myself, and having had numerous interactions with similar backgrounds as my own, I take a disheartening view to the system at large.
What seems to be missing from a governmental point of view is a lifelong commitment to these disadvantaged children. For those who dispute my assumption, just look to America’s prison population and inquire as to the number of inmates who were adopted or experienced foster care during youth. This acknowledgement alone should be enough to examine, revamp, and overhaul the nations approach to these children. Emerging with a renewed approach and strategy strengthening all areas involved.
I remember being a biracial child in the 1970’s, put up for adoption by a white mother and black father. Only to end up being adopted be a white German lady with two other adopted mixed children. None of us looked alike, which at the time was quite the sight and story to all who took notice and inquired. By the time I was able to grasp the concept of our family’s uniqueness, I quickly grew to resent my home life, while being constantly reminded how fortunate I had been to be “rescued”. Then when the teenage growing pains of junior high school kicked in, I was all but an angry confused bottle of combustion.
It wasn’t so much the why, as my adopted mother always painted the situation in the fairest most positive light. But the who I was? What my biological parents looked like? And what my extended family was like? As a boy this translated into no father to emulate. No biological mother to measure true love against. And the misunderstanding of what was meant by my family. Which later catapulted into a misunderstanding of what constituted unconditional love, it’s differences from romanticism, and the inability to self-love.
I searched for an identity of myself until I was well into my 40’s. And I truly feel lucky to have ever found the real me considering my starting point. My self discovery was due to decades of trial and error, with many avoidable tears, given the proper guidance. This is not a dig at my adopted mother, as she offered me all she had and then some. But it is a cry to the outside world to demand a new set of rights for adopted and children of foster care, for their future prospects are often gloomy. A good start would be as follows:
- Free counseling – through the age of 30 for adopted and foster care children. With mandatory counseling being provided until the age of 18. (One of the things I feel would have benefitted me in my childhood was a safe, consistent, nonjudgmental, and caring voice to confide in. Not from my immediate family but an outside source). One of the sad realities of foster care is when a child turns 18, they “age-out”, being forced to leave with a pittance of money to fend for themselves. Owning to the homelessness, incarceration, and high drug abuse rates of those emerging from these scenarios.
- Free college tuition – Granted that in todays society anything short of a college education is a recipe for underemployment. For those individuals born into disadvantage it would only seem fair that our nation ensures they have every opportunity to compete in society.
- Full disclosure of adoption records – In past generations the stigma of having an out of wedlock or biracial child was too much to bare for many. With foster care and adoption providing a reasonable solution for the child and parents anonymity. Well, just like America moved to require “dead-beat-dads” to own their financial responsibility. So must we acknowledge that children of the foster care system be privy to their birth parents identities at 18, requiring the responsible adults to take ownership.
- Adoptee Preference – Just like we offer veterans and disabled personnel applying for job positions a leg up. So must we do so for the children of foster care and adoption.
What worries me the most is that with the rise of private prisons, the path of least resistance is to allow foster kids and adoptees to keep filling them up. Allowing corporations to get richer, and letting the government off the responsibility hook as to this segment of society.