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.