May 21st, 2008
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Many people touched by adoption know that May is National Foster Care month. While reforms are needed in foster care as well, I find this an easier month for me to acknowledge than November (which is National Adoption Awareness Month). However, I got to thinking about things the other night and I was struck by my lack of empathy and understanding.

While many foster parents and parents who have adopted from the foster care system might be quick to point out that their child’s biological parents have no capacity for caring, I’m sure that this is a hard month for some parents who have lost their children to foster care, however permanent or temporary. I’m often chastised, on this blog and elsewhere, for having a big, empathetic heart and trying to figure out what various groups of people are feeling at any given time. Right now, I’m feeling kind of bad about myself that it took me until the 21st of this month to consider how this month might be making some mothers and fathers feel.


Let’s pause for a disclaimer: I am in no way advocating abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse around children or any other number of things that lead to the removal of children from their biological homes. I don’t think those things right. I don’t want it for any of my children. I’d move mountains so that children, not just mine, never had to experience such negative things.

But I don’t believe that all parents who have lost their children were completely lacking love for their children. Some, I’m sure, were a rare breed of heartless souls (just as you will find in every other grouping of parents as you don’t have to lose your children to lack love or the ability to express it properly). But, from things I have read and parents (foster, adoptive and birth by foster loss) that I have spoken with, a lot of it comes down to a really bad situation and a really bad way to cope with it. (See disclaimer above before you jump down my throat.)

I don’t think any parent, even a heartless one, brings a child into this world with sole intent to abuse. I think things are harder than they thought they would be. I think things go wrong. I think the stresses of parenting, working and money in general get to them and make them act out in in appropriate ways. I think it’s a sad, sad thing all around.

And so I feel kind of bad that I didn’t strap on their shoes for a day or two earlier this month to think about how it feels to see talk about foster care on every newscast, to see celebrations in their own hometown. While I find it hard to “celebrate” Adoption Awareness Month because we as birth parents are specifically forgotten in addresses and so on, I can’t even force myself to imagine what it would feel like to have a month dedicated to your “failure” as a parent. (I chose this word for lack of other choices. And I do realize that it is dedicated to the children and the need for more foster parents but, again, strap on the shoes for a moment.) Especially if you were living in the same town as a foster care celebration after your child was removed but prior to adoption, well, it might just be very overwhelming!

I won’t pretend to know the heart or mind of an abuser. But I do know what it feels like to be reminded that your child isn’t with you at any given time. And while I want every child to have a safe home, I’m taking some time today to say a prayer for those parents who, possibly more than even me, need to find peace with their actions.

I put this in the National Adoption Awareness category because that’s where it best fits on this blog. For more posts, read here.

Photo Credit.

4 Responses to “Just a Bit of Empathy Again”

  1. deb donatti says:

    Far to many parents have done nothing more than be ill prepared to parent, and had children removed. Often others in the extended family are not fairly considered to care for the child as they should be. I speak from experience here. How about feeling like a failure as an entire family?
    My own brother lost 4 to the foster system, a system that is in need of major changes to be truly protecting of all involved. My husband and I were refused custody of them for no good reason we could uncover, and there were many others in the extended family who could have and would have raised my nieces and nephews. The system did nothing to help us and turned us away at every attempt. The oldest of the 4 aged out of foster care at 18 last year. He was adopted all right, but ‘returned’ to foster care a year later because his adoptive family could not deal with his grief and rage (no doubt over the loss of his parents and entire family.) He spent the next 11 year in and out of 17 different foster placements! All this while we thought he was being loved in his adoptive home, of course much better than what the state felt WE could have provided! What really resulted was a severely detached and sociopathic young man, who is already breaking the law and will now be an adult burden on the ‘system.’
    I don’t know if you recall the posts I did about reuniting with that nephew, who found me last December. Honestly it did not begin to capture the sadness I feel over how his life has turned out. I believe if he had been allowed to come home, even to aunts, uncles or other relatives, perhaps his life would not be the mess it is now. Sometimes the foster system creates more problems than it resolves.
    Yes there are many wonderful foster parents, and the work they do is needed for so many children who have little else to protect them. Children should be protected from abuse, unfortunately this is not always what happens though.

    Here are the links to that story…

  2. deb donatti says:

    Actually I should clarify that one of the 4 was not in the foster system, but was adopted (a closed adoption) by her step-father.
    This niece is now of age, and even a mother herself, but our family is still waiting for her parents to even spring the news that she was adopted to her.
    Sorry for hijacking your post.

  3. Chance says:

    Hi Jenna – Thank you for taking a minute to think about Foster Care. It is not an easy job we do, but we do it b/c we want to care for these children. A loss of a child is STILL a loss of a child. There are many days that I think about and feel bad for my foster (and adoptive) children family, even beyond the reason for them being in care.

    I have two foster boys (twins) who have been with me for 14 months and we are going to adopt them. But thier birth mother has a slight mental delay that left her functioning at a 14 year old level (and some ways lower). but she had her boys for almost 2 years. She never abused them, neglected them. She loved them with everything in her. She just was not able to mentally raise them (which as a result left them delayed as well). She just had a baby on Friday and has also lost that baby too. It’s hard.

  4. txmom says:

    I know my daughter’s bmom loved her because she tried to get her and the siblings back from foster care. She never did follow the plan, such as stay off drugs, stay away from the convicted child molester, miss visits, ect.

    The love that she has didn’t mesh with the ability to protect and nurture her children. My daughter was left alone for almost 2 days with (at age 2) with her 5 year old brother. THey went hungry and were afraid. The first report of abuse was when she was less than 1 day old in the hospital. The nurses reported the drug use and ‘visitors’. One of her children has brain damage due to abuse/neglect.

    I know she feels love, but something is missing. I don’t know what.

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