Monday, December 30, 2013

"Bio is Best"

Recently, in a discussion about foster to adopt and adoption, someone made this comment (paraphrased) "Rightfully, the courts/DSS/CYS are all about reunifying the child with their biological family." It doesn't matter who it was that said it; that is the general attitude of the legal apparatus in this country. I'll be honest, I have some real problems with that supposition. Please note, I agree that ideally, all children would be raised by their married biological parents who loved them, were responsible, and who gave their children all the attention, encouragement, and guidance they need to become healthy, well-developed, responsible adults. However, we don't live in that ideal world; heck, if we lived in that ideal world, people who wanted to get pregnant would all get pregnant, and those who do not want to get pregnant would not. Since we don't live in this world, let's unpack the "bio is best" supposition to see why I have serious problems with it.

1) "Biological family is always best" presumes that biological parents are always the best possible parents for a child. If that is the case, why is any child ever removed from their parents' custody? If that is the case, then why do we not change children's legal status and return to considering them their parents' property, theirs to do with as they please? If bio is always best, then biological parents can do no wrong, regardless of whether they beat their children, prostitute them, neglect them, torture them, or even leave them to die. 

2) If "bio is always best," then this presupposes that simply by the fact of being unable to conceive and bear a child, every IF couple is unfit parents. Do we really want to presume that the simple act of giving birth is all it takes to be the best possible parent? Do you really want to compare stable, loving, married couples against drug addicts with no way of supporting themselves and find those stable but IF couples wanting? This is the same presumption behind people telling IF couples that "maybe God didn't want you to be parents."

3) Who requires prospective biological parents (or even prospective step-parents) to undergo criminal background checks? Where are prospective biological parents required to attend a series of classes on child development and child rearing? As of when are prospective biological parents required to undergo health screenings? Much is demanded of prospective foster or adoptive parents. While I understand that it is all done to try and protect children, it does not seem right to insist upon so much more from them while telling them that they will never be as good as biological parents. 

Here's the thing: it takes a lot for a child to be removed from the custody of his parent or parents. No, I am not saying that the system never makes a mistake or that children removed from their parent(s)' custody should never be returned to them. As we are all human, mistakes are made; people can learn and change. However, I think that rather than assuming that reuniting a child with his biological family is always and everywhere the ideal, the attitude should be one of determining what truly is best for the child's welfare. Too many children are returned to parents who continue to abuse or neglect them because of the assumption that family reunification is best.

If we are going to continue with assumption that family reunification is always and everywhere the best option, then perhaps we should bring back children's homes. I am my mother's first-born, but before me she had six children. All six of those children attended her wedding. You see, my mother worked in one of those children's homes; she cared deeply for those children in her care; at least one of them considered her "Mother." (At the wedding, this developmentally disable girl went up to my father's mother and said "I guess this makes you my grandma," which my grandmother was not quite sure how to handle.) Mom was amazed when I told her how much has changed, how biological parents now have all the power while prospective adoptive parents have little.

A small chance of maybe being able to adopt should not be held out as a carrot to induce parents to foster children; they should be told the hard truth that they will always be considered the lesser option, the choice of last resort to be the forever parents to the child/children that they foster. And if there are not enough people willing to foster under those conditions, then bring back children's homes. If foster care is always and everywhere a temporary stay, then a short stay at a children's home should do no (or at least little) lasting harm.

In many states under our current system, prospective adoptive parents can be asked to cover the birth mother's living expenses and medical expenses, while the birth mother retains all rights to change her mind at any time. I cannot help but wonder how often a struggling pregnant woman sees this as chance to have all of her expenses paid, without any intention of giving up her child. (Yes, I realize that this is deeply cynical of me, though I am sure it happens.) I cannot begin to guess at the pain and heartache that couples who have struggled to afford to cover all those expenses, only to be left with nothing, experience.

Please note that I am not remotely suggesting that we return to the bad old days, when the children of unmarried women were taken from them for no greater reason than their marital status or when the "unfit" were forcibly sterilized. I am also not suggesting that people should need to obtain a license to have children, either (though every once in a while, the idea is very tempting). What I am saying is that the pendulum has swung too far the other way, that we are letting the "perfect," the ideal get in the way of the good. Not every person who bears or conceives a child is a fit parent; let us recognize that, and in those cases, find good homes and families for those children.

This summer it seemed like every time I turned around, I was seeing something about the need for foster parents. At the time I wondered if it was a sign that we were being called to go that direction. However, the more that I considered it, the more I looked into the attitudes behind CYS and even many private agencies, I decided "No." I would rather not be a parent rather than eternally be considered a second-class, not as good parent simply because I did not conceive and bear that child. In the future we may consider adoption again, but we will almost certainly focus on international adoption. Though international adoption is more expensive, there are no concerns about birth parents changing their minds, no need to sell yourselves as the best possible home and family for the child of parents considering adoption; there is less wait and hope and pray that someone will pick you; in many cases, within a certain time you will adopt a child. There is also the assumption that these children need families to adopt them, not that adoption is a semi-acceptable substitute for a biological family.

Truly, I am not as bitter and cynical as this post may make me seem; I am just deeply troubled (oh alright, and pissed off) by the presumptions behind "bio is best."

1 comment:

  1. I've also often wondered if "bio isn't always best", even though thats the status quo.