The Throw Away Children

As of the year 2003 there were over 500,000 children in foster care in the United States. The numbers have only continued to increase. An alarming number of the children currently in foster care will "age out" of the system on their 18th birthday. What this means is that once the child reaches the age of majority, the state basically pats them on the back, hands them a little cash and says, "Hope we taught you how to take care of yourself, have a nice life."

Recently there has been a growing trend to highlight the plight of children in foreign countries and a rise in the number of adoptions from these countries. Today, as I was flipping through the channels, looking for cartoons for my son, I stopped briefly on the Oprah Winfrey show. She was talking to a group of upper class southern families who had adopted older children from a Liberian orphanage.

First, I'm glad that these children will have the love and support of a family to help them develop into solid adults. Second, where were these people when children right here in this country needed that same love and attention?

It frightens me that it seems to be considered a great thing to do, generous and worthy of news attention, when someone adopts a child from a foreign country and yet no one seems to care that we are creating an entire generation of throw-away children.

The states remove these kids from abusive or neglectful homes and they spend the next years of their lives bouncing from place to place, never really knowing the love and support of a family. People are willing to adopt bright eyed babies, but these older children waste into the background of our society.

Where is the call for help for these children? Who will stand up for them and urge those who are financially able and emotionally willing to give them a home and parents to guide them? Why are there no news stories about celebrities adopting boys and girls who were beaten, neglected and overlooked right here at home? Is it just not "hip" enough? Are they not poor enough? Pitiful enough?

It angers me to think that simply because they were born in this country they will live their lives without someone to kiss their hurts away, tell them how proud they have made someone or hold their hands the first time love breaks their heart. I am saddened that we as a nation seem to have forgotten an entire generation of children.

If you read this and it makes you think, take a moment and write to your congressman or woman. Ask them to make finding adoptive families for these children a priority. Write a letter to your local paper asking why no one has taken the time to write about the children in your community who are in need. Call your local news station and ask why there are no stories about the eleven year old girl with no mother to love her. Take the time. Help bring these children out of the shadows.


knightjorge said...

Here's something that might make you feel a little bit better about foster care and "throw away children".

I know not one but two couples that have adopted children out of foster care. The first were my next door neighbors for many years when I was younger. They started hosting (I suppose that's the right word) foster children many a year ago. These children generally did well in their home. One such child was adopted by them. That child now has a good home with good, loving people to care for her and siblings to boot.

The second is a girl I went to junior high and high school with and her husband works at TP, that's how I know about this. I discovered some time ago that he was married to the girl that I knew and since then have learned a bit about their lives. They signed up to be foster parents and got a two brothers. Somewhere along the line they fell in love with these boys and wanted to offer them the security and love of their home permanently. They adopted both of the boys. It's kind of funny actually. She's 28-ish, possibly 29 now, and she has a 12 or 14 year old son. From what I hear they're doing a good job and the boys are thriving.

I just thought I'd share that tidbit so that you'd know that there are those out there that are adopting these children. They aren't being completely overlooked.

viciousrumours said...

It's always good to hear about the people out there that are doing something for these kids. I guess what really makes me angry is that for every one child in foster care that is lucky enough to find a good home, there are three who don't.

knightjorge said...

I know. It's sad.

Anonymous said...

In theory, it shouldn't matter from where you adopt, as long as you do: one more child in the world gets a loving home. But, like you, I always wonder - why adopt overseas when there are children in your own city who need parents? I read stories that the US adoption process is more arduous than in other places, costs more, danger that a biological parent might "change their mind" (like a child is on par with a hair color you just can't decide whether you like), etc. I don't know whether any of this is true or, if so, to what degree. But if it is, and if that's keeping kids out of permanent, loving families, then THAT'S what the legislators need to get on top of, ASAP - especially tightening the legal process so that once you give up your rights, you GIVE UP YOUR RIGHTS. Then the adoptive parents and the child can form permanent bonds without hesitation.

And of course, as you say, practically everyone who adopts wants a shiny new baby, not an older one who's been in foster care and possibly developed scars and imperfections from that very process.

But we do get to see celebrities hop on a jet to "score" a baby from another country (Meg Ryan, Madonna, etc.), so they can carry them around like those little toy dogs. The whole thing makes me ill. Angelina Jolie is the only one I really admire - at least she works her ass off for the very countries from which she has adopted, and makes huge efforts to keep her adopted children in touch with their cultures and countries.

And personally, the whole issue of not allowing gays to adopt is offensive to me. I'm betting those kids don't give a rat's ass about the race/religion/sexual orientation of the prospective parents - they're just damn happy to get parents AT ALL. But I'm very liberal about that sort of thing, and that's my opinion.

Great post - thought-provoking.

viciousrumours said...

It's true that the adoption process in the US is a pain in the rear end. For example, the people who adopted my dauhgter live in New York State. She will be a year old in April, they STILL don't have a court date to finalize the adoption and the entire time, they have to continue to pay an attorney. It's sad.

Adopting children that are in foster care is slightly different, the parental rights have already been stripped, so that eliminates one worry. Still, legislators need to make helping these children more of a priority.

That's why I encourage people to write letters and speak up, it actually can help.

Suzanne said...