Friday, February 22, 2008

Adoption Hopes as a Woman of Color With Disabilities

I've got the blues this morning. Last night VanGoghGirl was talking about her friend Junebug, again. Junebug goes to school with her and they are very close friends. She lives in a group home because the state has custody of her. In other words, she's up for adoption. Ever since she found this out, VanGoghGirl has been trying to get us to adopt Junebug. I've met the girl and she's simply charming. She's smart and witty and pretty and one year older than VanGoghGirl. In other words, she's just perfect in my daughter's eyes.

Last year, a few days before Christmas vacation, VanGoghGirl got the blues because she was worried about whether Junebug would be getting many presents since she didn't have any parents to buy her anything. That thought bugged me a lot too, so we went out and got her a bottle of lotion and a bottle of perfume from one of those places in the mall that the teens down here like a whole lot. If it had been up to VanGoghGirl, we'd have spent our entire budget on Junebug. I was really glad that we got Junebug a present but doing it also made me feel kind of crummy inside because I know this child needs so much more than that.

Last night, VanGoghGirl said that she and Junebug were talking and she asked my daughter what her last name was again. When VanGoghGirl told her, Junebug said her first name out loud along with my daughter's last name, then she said, "Hmm, that sounds sort of weird together but I guess I could get used to it." Well, I almost broke down in front of my daughter when she told me about this conversation. I mean, this girl REALLY wants to be adopted.

I grew up with kids who were in state's custody. By the time they reach five years old, they aren't cute little babies anymore, so most of the couples who feel as if they need to experience that stage with the child won't even consider one that's older than this. When you're a teenager like Junebug, the chances of getting adopted are so slim that the majority of them will just end up aging out of the system without ever finding a family. If that weren't bleak enough, on top of everything else, Junebug is African-American. I can't even begin to explain how much that works against a child seeking to be adopted.

Over the years, I've interacted with white couples who'd pay upwards of $20,000 to adopt a child from overseas before they'd adopt one of the minority kids in their own country. They'd even adopt a child from Africa before they'd adopt an African-American. Now tell me that isn't all about exoticizing people of color!

God knows I wish I could adopt Junebug today. It's just that the shitty system we have makes it so damned difficult for families like mine. Right now, the state has to pay for Junebug's health care, food, clothing (including their super expensive school uniforms), and housing costs. If someone or some family could provide an environment that is at least as safe as a group home, wouldn't it be in the state's best interests to let those individuals or families assume some of those costs and give the child the opportunity to grow up outside of an institution? It would definitely be in the child's best interests.

If the state allows me to keep VanGoghGirl in my custody even though I might eventually die of cancer, why would it have a problem with allowing me to adopt a child because I could die? Any parent could die, no matter how healthy they may appear to be at a given point in time.

This whole issue makes me so unbelievably bitter. I'm at a loss for words at this point.


The Goldfish said...

Would it be possible to foster Junebug, as opposed to adopting her? I have no idea what the rules are over there, but in the UK it is much easier to foster a child than it is to adopt. That way the state continues to contribute to the upkeep of the children. And because it is not necessarily permanent, the criteria aren't quite so vigorous (so long as there's no danger of abuse etc.)

A close childhood friend was fostered following her mother's death - the mother had arranged everything during her final illness, and now as an adult, the foster family are her family and her foster-siblings are real siblings, even though there is no legal familial tie (in that case, adoption was impossible for complicated reasons).

Anonymous said...

[I apologise if this appears twice.]

Let me preface this as saying that I have no idea whether my parents situation is unique. However, they are an example where a child that is not related to a family by birth is living in a family home, and got there outside the legal foster/adoptive process.

Essentially, my parents have a little girl living with them. She has been with them for ten years, since she was 2. The little girl has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which in her case results in behavioural issues.

The mother of this little girl lost custody of her daughter, due to alcohol and drug abuse, criminal charges, and neglect and possible abuse of the child by the mother's boyfriend. (Certainly, when the little girl first came to live with my parents, she was afraid of men.)

Custody was granted to the child's grandfather, who was also an alcoholic and responsible for neglecting his own daughter as she grew up (the child's mother). The grandfather recognized he was unable to care for his grandchild and essentially dropped her off at my parent's house one day and she has never left.

My parents have full responsibility for raising this child. They receive no financial support for doing so. Despite the household problems raised by the child's behavioural issues, they don't get counseling or any type of community support. They tried to get legal custody of the child, through fostering or adoption, with the support of the grandfather, but their application was denied.

In other words, there is no legal protection and no financial or other support, but the girl does have a chance of living with a real family and having a normal life. My parent's struggle to help her cope with her mental/emotional disabilities and see real improvement in her social interactions. It's unlikely that she could have made the same kind of progress in a group home or living with a dysfunctional parent or grandparent.

My parents have a pretty unusual situation though. The child lives with them with the approval of the child's legal custodian. They don't have a lot of money, but they do live on the family farm, so there is food and shelter security, plus they are removed from an urban environment where it might be easier for the girl to fall into the same drug and alcohol patterns (and "bad friends" problems) as her birth family. They have a lot of children already, so one more child is not as big of an additional burden as you'd expect. They live in Canada, so health insurance is not an additional cost. All these things add up to a situation which may not be easily repeatable.

At any rate, I wish you all good luck. Junebug's life is richer by having your family in it, even if it is not as close as you wish. I hope you find a way of bringer her further into your lives.

WereBear said...

Junebug's life is richer by having your family in it

Sometimes that's the best you can offer; and it does mean so much.

Just by being there, you and your daughter can contribute a great deal. It would be better if it were more "official" probably, but if it's beyond your resources at this time, there's nothing you can do about that.

The whole problem of what we can offer these children is in need of a serious overhaul.

BLESSD1 said...

Bint, after all that you've said of this particular situation, I pray that you will be allowed to adopt/foster Junebug. I don't know if she could land in a better environment. You guys will be in my prayers

Tigera Consciente said...

As with your post below and this one... its obvious that we live in a society that is not invested in the interests of its people... there is always some "working around the system" that needs to be done.. or at least "knowing the right people"...

Crissa said...

I grew up knowing many foster children - when my mother was working four-ten at the social services office I'd be babysat at one of the foster-group homes, watch dukes of hazzard, and eventually crash. The kids were nice, but it was tough. It was just me and my mother, then.

Like Goldfish said, that'd be my first thing to look at. Fostering is usually considered superior to group homes, but even so... It may or may not be as strict as adoption in some states. For instance, since Fostering is short-term (although rarely is) they don't usually worry so much about age or potential health as much.

I really hope you can find your way through the maze of child services.

I know when we have a house and room, we will adopt or foster. Even though we don't thinking making kids is important - ones that are already here need all the help we can give them.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Yes, consider foster care, where I think you would also get health care coverage and a stipend to help. I think the rules are far less strict.

(((hugs to you all))) The world is so much better with people like you in it, Bintsies. :)