Thursday, May 1, 2008

American Foster Kids - The Walking Wounded

Hubby has always been keener on adoption than I. He always felt that a child in our home would fill the hole in my heart left by the loss of our pregnancies. I wasn’t so sure, but when a friend who parented both adopted and foster kids invited us to a foster mixer we went. I’ll never forget the first and only conversation I had with one of the foster parents there. The man was telling me all about a little girl he was caring for. She had oppositional defiant disorder and was on a host of medications. She regularly needed to be physically subdued and would scream obscenities for hours on end. She came into care with her brother who explained how he would horde his fries from MickyDs in his pockets so that he could shove them under the door of the closet she was locked in so she could eat. I recall physically recoiling at the tale, I still do today as I write the words that describe the reality of her life. I remember feeling my knees weaken, and feeling like I wanted to retreat to a corner of the room to politely wait out the duration of the event in stunned silence. What I really wanted to do was run as far away as quickly as I could.

I had great empathy for this child, but wondered how I could possible parent such a child when I could barely stomach a telling of her story. My friend had a toddler on her lap. The child was so subdued and quiet, not the least bit toddler like. She sat almost in resignation with her little shoulders slumped and her eyes downcast. She came into care at around six months when her mother was incarcerated, but remained in care because the mother hadn’t made any efforts to retrieve her upon her release. I was shocked. I didn’t have any frame of reference for the daily experience of these children’s lives. These children who lived in my hometown, not in urban blight, or a third world country half way around the world, in my rural county!

Our first brush with foster adoption came four years before our conversion to Christ. I didn’t have a frame of reference to process a world in my backyard with such intense pain, and I had no understanding of the issues these kids face. I knew I wasn’t prepared to parent these children. Since that time I’ve done some research into the issues common to children in foster care. For me Reactive Attachment Disorder is the most intimidating. Kids with RAD require therapeutic parenting, and a host of interventions that I’m not sure Hubby and I can handle. We set the entire adoption discussion aside for several years as we explored options.

Still these children never left my mind. They have been an important part of my conversion in many ways. Their lives, and their experience would flash through my mind as I was learning the Church’s position on right to life issues. The pieces of the puzzle began to click into place like the tumblers of a lock as I began to comprehend how removing the procreative aspect of human sexuality naturally leads to dehumanizing of the human person. Once we treat sex as entertainment rather than a procreative act we are naturally more inclined to consider the byproduct of the act disposable. Foster kids survived the abortionist only to get ground up in the aftermath of the destruction of the American family brought on by a little tiny pill. And the Catholic Church was the only one who saw it coming.

Thank you Lord for sending your Holy Spirit to guide and protect your Church. Teach us to speak out boldly for you and for the most helpless among us. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.


Abigail said...

Wow! This post is really eye-opening. "The Catholic church is the only one who saw it coming!" I don't think I've ever made the connection between my life as a "child advocate" attorney to being a non-birth control using Catholic wife before. Divorce, cohabitation, abortion, the break down of the family that leads to kids in foster care, it's so inter-connected. I'm reading the Catatecism today and it stated "the purpose of the family is service to life"-- I was just stunned. That's the purpose of family. I've been living that mantra on my own for seven years now, but I never before thought that there could be a universal statement "servant to life" that applied to all family groups. That's our job and in America, right now, we are doing it pretty poorly.

I really want to encourage you to write something for publication on this issue. I think that your hardships, awful as they are, have lead to deep insights into the nature of contemporary family life. I think of your cross with miscarriage and infertility as sort of making you a "contemplative" on this issue. You have so much wisdom to share.

Anne Marie said...

Thank you Abigail, that's very kind. I would like to write. Perhaps if God would like to use me to speak to a wider audience he will open those doors.