Posts Tagged ‘family’

Can a sistah get some better representation?

So, in my other life, I’m a school librarian.  I spend a lot of my time reading books.  So the past week I finished two young adult novels,
Keysha’s Drama of the Kimani Tru Series by Earl Sewell

and Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Pena

These were absolutely amazing Young Adult genre novels and I would definitely recommend them to teens and adults alike.  However, what stuck out to me, was that in both books which dealt with foster care, adoption, and the issues that come along with that territory, there was an repetitive cliche that began to incense me.    In both books the main characters found themselves in the awful and lonely older children foster care experience.  In both books, the character was finally chosen by a family that had an eager foster father and an angry and bitter foster mother.  In both books, the “father” explained to the child that their wife was unhappy because “she can’t have children of her own.”

What the f@#!

So, are you saying that women who want biological children have to be cajoled into getting kids they don’t want, to make their husband’s happy?  Are you saying that all women who do foster or adopt after struggling with infertility will be bitter bitches who hate the child for not coming from their womb?  And more importantly, if you aren‘t saying this, have you  THOUGHT about the fact that you are putting books in the hands of  young people who are often a part of the foster care environment?  Think of the impact your inference has on their perception of their situation.

I found myself getting angrier and angrier as I read.  These “mothers” fought their husbands tooth and nail about everything concerning the new additions to their homes.  And in both cases, my heart broke as these children overheard grown women saying things like, “Take [him/her] back, it doesn’t replace having our own kid”, or implying that they will never love these children the same way they would a biological child.  It hurt my heart.

I serve a school community that has many different family makeups.  We are an inner-city school located in a somewhat rough neighborhood of Chicago.  I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears the devastating cries and comments from children who are already struggling with fitting into their new families, or the heartbreak of not being able to live with a parent anymore, and as I read these stories, my heart broke.  Not just for them, but for the foster, step, and adoptive mothers who I have seen come into our building overwhelmed and confused about what to do with their child’s sudden behavior issues and academic depressions.Now, this is not to say that these things DON’T exist. Not at all. But what do we give the kids who need to know that it isn’t ALWAYS the case?

As a writer though, it also gave me hope.  Seeing these stories reminded me of why I write stories, articles and blogs.  It reminded me that I am using my voice properly.  Like I said, I have nothing against these particular books, as they were generally very good stories.  However, it did motivate me to learn MORE about foster care, adoption, step-parenting, family planning, and spreading this very valuable word.  I don’t want you to walk away from this blog feeling like the books were awful or how dare those authors. What I do want is for you to make it your business to seek out inspiring and factual tales.  I want to inspire you to read up on EVERYTHING concerning this movement.  Because if we don’t talk about it positively, someone else will spew out the negative and the cycle of African American and general ignorance to the foster, adoption and infertility experience will continue.

And since closed mouths don’t get fed,
Here’s a few morsels:

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(by the way, Ball don’t lie will be in theater’s “soon”, read the book, see the movie – that was my librarian moment

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Consider Foster Care even within your family!

My husband and I have been assisting our mom(my mother-in-law) with caring for her great niece and nephew since the youngest was born. The need was there, and we have never really looked back about whether or not to help, it was something we knew to do. As my mother-in-law gets older, the statements have been made by other family members that we are needed to step up more and do more. Well, I personally am not for the back and forth that she endures with their “mother” and I would much rather do things legally. So we’ve discussed fostering or assuming parental responsibility for these children. So today, I was browsing the web, looking for information on these topics and came across some very interesting reads and listens. Thought I’d share them with you…

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I came across this study today and it really hit home how serious it is to recognize the needs that already exist in the African American family structure. For the millions of black women struggling to give birth to their own children, it is really heartbreaking to see how many children which have been born already and are in need of stable homes. This study was put together by the Government Accountability Office and presented to Committee on Ways and Means in the House of Representatives in July of 2007.

Some highlights of the study:

  • “A higher rate of poverty is among several factors contributing to the higher proportion of African American children entering and remaining in foster care. Families living in poverty have greater difficulty accessing housing, mental health, and other services needed to keep families stable and children safely at home. Bias or cultural misunderstandings and distrust between child welfare decision makers and the families they serve are also viewed as contributing to children’s removal from their homes into foster care. African American children also stay in foster care longer because of difficulties in recruiting adoptive parents and a greater reliance on relatives to provide foster care who may be unwilling to terminate the parental rights of the child’s parent—as required in adoption—or who need the financial subsidy they receive while the child is in foster care.”
  • “A complex set of interrelated factors influence the disproportionate number of African American children who enter foster care as well as their longer lengths of stay, and our review found that poverty and the lack of appropriate homes are particularly influential. Major factors affecting children’s entry into foster care included African American families’ higher rates of poverty, families’ difficulties in accessing support services so that they can provide a safe home for vulnerable children and prevent their removal, and racial bias and cultural misunderstanding among child welfare decision makers. Factors often cited as affecting African American children’s length of stay in foster care included the lack of appropriate adoptive homes for children, greater use of kinship care among African Americans, and parents’ lack of access to supportive services needed for reunification with their children.”

Read the Full 2007 Study here
Read the Full 2008 Study here

I’ve also found two interesting blog radio shows which made very interesting discussions towards
African American foster care.

Sherri Jefferson – The Facts about DFACS CPS and Foster Care
This episode will discuss the facts about Dept. of Family and Children Services (CPS) and their role concerning removal of children, displacement and foster care. It will also discuss what you can do about getting your child out of foster care and losing your parental rights. For children in foster care, it will discuss their legal rights. (Sherri Jefferson)

CWLA Radio -The Color Blind Challenge: The Case for Changing the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act

Although 15 percent of American children are Black, they make up 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care; consistently have lower rates of adoption; and tend to stay in foster care nine months longer than white children. The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) supports a “color blind” approach that prohibits agencies from the policy or practice of matching a child’s race with that of his or her foster parent. “On-the-Line” with CWLA’s guests discuss MEPA and the grounds for amending the “color blind” component.

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Who is this thing about?

So, my husband and I have tiptoed through “the talk”. The adoption/fostering/childless by choice talk that most reproductively challenged families eventually gauge during their journey. I didn’t want to have the talk. Seriously. I have always wanted to give a home to a child in foster care or in need of adoption, since I was very young, like 3rd grade young. Growing up, on my grandmother’s block there was a family at the end of the street who ALWAYS had foster children(and still do). I was about eight when I started befriending the girls down the block. They were sweet but sad girls who seemed to revel in the attention and basic notice that adults gave them when visiting my house. On my few visits down to their home, I could see why. They were yelled at, hit by older foster-siblings, and just talked to badly. I told myself, right then, that one day, if I had a home, I would get kids who needed someone to take care of them. Never had a second thought about it. And still don’t.

But.

There is that small pang that I wish I had “my own” first. Saying it out loud, it sounds ridiculous. But I can’t help the way that I feel. I would love to see my husband’s eyes or my smile on someone sent just for us. Something in me is sad that an adopted child wouldn’t have parts of my personality or features.

But then there’s another pang that hits. Maybe this isn’t about me.
Who am I to put my feelings and perhaps selfish desires over what some child may need? Who am I to decide that I can put limits on God’s plans? The thoughts brought to mind the story of my aunt and cousin.

My first cousin passed away two years ago this June from renal failure. For years, she battled trouble with her kidneys. Despite this, she chose to have two baby boys. Finding a kidney donor was a hard thing to do for a while, but a few years ago, she got a kidney transplant. It was a success for a couple of years, but then it began to fail, and she was only working with one. The summer before she passed away, they told her that it wasn’t doing too great and checked her into the hospice. They told my aunt that she could go at anytime. My family members traveled back and forth from Chicago to Minnesota to see her and her boys. How she survived so long was totally God’s will and choice.

I was saddened because she was my cousin, the first to give me a Barbie doll, the first to play with me when I visited my father’s side of the family ALL THE TIME. She was my blood, my big cousin. But what hurt most, was finding out that while my little fight with ttc was tearing me up, my cousin and her mother, my aunt , knew more about ttc than I ever will.

You see, my aunt tried numerous times to have a baby and miscarried every time. She would get so depressed and sad that she would have nightmares. She finally gave up trying and adopted a daughter. Well, a couple years later, she got pregnant again, and she carried that baby to full term, my cousin.

And that cousin, to have struggled with her kidneys and still fought to give those babies life. She would at times get so upset about her life and her struggle that she would talk about killing herself to stop playing the waiting game, but for those boys she lived.

My little bout with ttc may be fixable, I don’t know, but these two strong women in my life gave everything for the love of a child, and they have inspired me immensely.

Had my aunt never gone the route of adoption, I wouldn’t know the awesome, supportive cousin she brought into our lives. And with my other cousin passing away, it has been that adopted daughter who has become our rock. And without any of this, we wouldn’t have those two amazing boys, now would we?

This thing could be so much bigger than me….

I’m going to have to pray more and see just who this battle is about. Or at least what position I’m to play in it.
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Appropriate Questions and Responses

Birth Control? (Metformin, Prenatal Viatmins, Birth Control Pills)

Since I’ve taken up this campaign, I’ve had countless friends and family members ask
“Oh my gosh, Regina, are you saying these things because of me?”

To them and everyone else, “NO!” LOL That is precisely the reason I’m opening up this dialogue!
The problem in our community is not those who ask, “So when are YOU gonna have kids?” The problem is those of US who are not honest in our response! Keep the questions coming! We have to start talking more about these things.

We must start going past the choice not to conceive, and trying to get some more dialogue about the other end of the spectrum. I grew up and found out that out of my aunts and cousins, many of the ones I thought CHOSE to have one child or no children, were GIVEN that choice by thyroid, PCOS, Fibroids, or Secondary Infertility. We have to stop being quiet because a LOT of little black girls grow up trying NOT to get pregnant without ever knowing that they’re going to need help TO get pregnant.

There have been a lot of times that my husband and I have been asked what we were “waiting for” or other similar questions. We tiptoe around the question, specifically because the community that we are a part of tends to be more acclimated to teen pregnancy than adult infertility. Think about it, how many 14-18 year olds do you know in the African American community who have one, or even more than one child before their 21st birthday? In our culture we tend to spend more time on pregnancy prevention and are very open about sex and babies without ever talking about sterility and infertility.

So, all I’m asking in our community is that we stop asking “What yall waiting on” and we start thinking about the possibility that childless marriages aren’t unhappy or deliberate. Think about it, you wouldn’t go into the death row of a prison yelling, “Damn, so when yall getting out of here?”

That being said, those of us who are trying, should do more to honestly answer these questions rather than shy away from them. Reassure people that it is okay to be excited for your future but respectfully make them aware that pregnancy is NOT as simple a feat as some would believe.

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