CHILDREN WHO WAITby Betty & Gordon Evans
The Council on Adoptable Children testifies eloquently of the waiting parents...the agencies and judicial representatives will tell you of the legal problems...but I am the one who can tell you about the agony of waiting children in their limbo of belonging no where. WHO answers to these children? Neighbors who gossip about their backgrounds?...teachers who distrust them because of the expected problems...foster parents the foster children want to love, but who are a constant threat to the bonds they cling to with their natural parents?...caseworkers who change with frightening frequency and whose next visit may be dreaded because it may signal yet another MOVE?...natural children in the foster family, who belong there and know they are to stay until they are grown?...agencies who may let them get lost in their files?...judges who see them cheated in the courts by the inadequacy of the law?
Picture the child's misery at missing a school class trip because the foster parent is not allowed to sign a permission slip and it goes astray in a busy worker's paperwork. Imagine explaining to new school friends just what a "foster child" is. The child must daily defend his identity when in no way is he responsible for how he got this title. His loyalties are shredded. Since he is flesh of his parents, he must have love for them or he can have no love for himself. He wants desperately to trust his worker and foster family, but DARE HE?
Every waking moment, a foster child faces the knowledge that he's only temporary--he really doesn't belong. Many nights he endures the nightmares of his mixed loyalties and his fearful anxieties about his future--or his past, which could AGAIN become his future should he be returned home to parents who have not changed. He needs RELIEF, either through speedier rehabilitation and return--or through earlier recognition of the total and perhaps permanent inability of his biological parents to "take him back." When this happens...I repeat, WHEN...society should divorce that child from his natural family, a divorce both legal and psychological, and notify the adoption specialists that it is now their turn.
The foster child's rights heretofore have been completely subject to the seemingly endless legalities of his parents' rights. REMEMBER that two-year wait in a 4-year-old which is one-half of his life, in the life of a 24-year-old parent is only 1/12. Length of time is critically important to a child. In the law, this concept of time is seldom given any significance.
Dedication to foster children includes our helping to shorten foster care, whether in one home--or heaven forbid--in a succession of homes. This can only come when the child's inalienable right to a safe, loving childhood is recognized early enough to PROVIDE IT--while the child is STILL A CHILD. The legislative bodies are probably satisfied that on the whole, they have written adequate laws to rescue children who experience abuse, neglect, or abandonment. They are likely content (out of lack of understanding) to warehouse the rescued children till they are grown. Of course, temporary care in a family setting IS better than the institutionalization of past years. But that family may well be a series of families--and, here, we add another ingredient, the trauma of PARTING. A well- known verse begins, "Parting is such sweet sorrow...," but foster children don't have sweet partings...each one is a kind of death...a terrible, frightening ending of contact with human beings w! ho have grown to love each other.
And you know enough of this bitterness and grief over shattered family relationships will cause a child to cease loving altogether--he has reached his breaking point--he can stand no more endings of loving, so he will TOLERATE no more loving--loving anyone--he cannot even love himself!
We must say that we, too, and our children come to the point where we think we ourselves can stand no more loving and parting. But at least, we have each other to share the grief. At times, we want to end this cycle, but then we pull ourselves together and start over with another child. For us, the incredible joy so very far outweighs the sorrow. We plan to continue being foster parents--to continue putting our emotions through the wringer willingly--because we are a necessary and scarce cog in the legal machine which handles the child without a home.
But how--oh God, HOW--I wish we could get on with the business of providing
a child a PERMANENT HOME, his own legal, lasting home with that beautiful
piece of paper--that new birth certificate--with everybody's name the
same, his mother's, his father's, and his own.
Houston, Texas 77024
Mr. Evans has vast experiences in foster care and foster care issues and is a wonderful resource.