Foster children, Often, Foster Children Linger in Anonymity only because their Relatives never knew
Police personnel often find themselves exposed to the trauma that young teenagers experience in the foster care system. Children who have been abused at home by dysfunctional parents are placed by the authorities with foster parents who are often not so nurturing themselves. It wouldn’t be that hard to find foster
children who are with their tenth or twelfth foster family in as many years. And so, police departments in some counties in the country, are being roped in for a new government plan for foster care: finding out if any foster children have estranged, extended family members out there somewhere. And then finding out if they will be willing to take on one of their own.
Finding a relative for a teen foster child is not an easy matter. The relatives would be perfect strangers for all practical purposes, and usually, no one wants to take in a child that is so battered with years of trauma. The only thing they would be guaranteed would be a lot of emotional heartaches, and quite a drain on their resources. It is just a shift in the way the government sees the whole foster care issue. The government has begun to pay for full-time investigators, looking hard on the Internet, through the public records, who get flyers distributed, and pound on doors, all with the aim of locating family members, to help take in a child that would otherwise languish in foster care. And they come by quite a bit of success too. In general, the investigators find several relatives for any child they start to investigate, and often many of them express a willingness to take the child in – their long-lost grandchildren, nieces, cousins and so on – ones they have never laid eyes on before. And it is a wonder that the system all these years put these children through so much pain, just because they never thought that the children would be welcome in their relatives’ homes.
When they are contacted, many times, the relatives are quite startled to begin with, to have to be reminded of some ugly piece of their family history. But you would be surprised how often, they come through with kindness and strength, able to set aside old rancor they may have felt with the parents, for the
good of the blameless child. And foster children for their part, are often deeply, deeply grateful to know and to be in touch with some of their roots. Maybe it is hard to believe this, but most children in foster care feel like outcasts; to have no family often feels like the strangest thing to most people who take a family for granted.
But not all foster home scenarios are like something from Dickens that children would want to run away from. Many foster parents happen to be truly caring people, who raise their foster children like their own. When a relative turns up, the foster parents can be heartbroken at losing a child to the family, whom they have grown deeply attached to over the years. Not infrequently, when children in foster care are informed of how their family members have been located, they say only that they don’t need a real family, that their foster family treats them as their own.
Foreign Adoption of a Good Option
I was covering a story a few years ago for a local newspaper about a couple that was trying to adopt a little girl from China. They had already tried to adopt in the United States but found that they faced a very long waiting list and decided to look at foreign adoption.
The story was that the couple already had three sons and wanted a daughter, and when they looked at a web site about adopting a child from China, they felt that country was their best option, as it seemed to present the fewest problems of all of the countries they researched to adopt a child.
They told me it worked out especially well for both sides when it came to foreign adoption, because it gave them the daughter they had always wanted and given an orphan a loving home, but it was also good for the child and the country, because it prevented her from having to grow up without a family and it was one
less child for which the Chinese government had to provide.
I wrote another story about a family who decided to try a foreign adoption from Russia. The story there was that the couple could not conceive, but they read about a program that allowed Americans to adopt Russian children and decided to give it a shot.
The couple adopted a little boy from an orphanage where, as they said, the conditions were deplorable. Now the boy lives in an upper-middle-class neighborhood with access to health care and a top-notch education through the local school system, things he would not have had in Russia.
A third couple I wrote about adopted a little boy from Zambia. His parents had both died and he was being cared for by his grandparents, who could not afford to care for him any longer and had to make the heart-wrenching decision to put him up for adoption.
The great thing about that foreign adoption story is that the little boy lives in the United States and has a loving family, but he is able to stay in contact with his grandparents in Zambia, as well, so he can remain connected to his home country.
I have to say that out of all the stories I have covered in my writing career, the ones on foreign adoption have probably been the most rewarding and most memorable. Not only does it make you feel good that parents have the opportunity to raise a child and that children find loving families, but as far as I can
tell, there really has been no downside.