Thursday, December 29, 2011

Poverty is no reason to take children from families

Oftentimes when we think of families losing children because of poverty we think of it as a third-world problem.  Consider this about Ethiopia from SOS Children's Villages:
The main issue facing countries like Ethiopia is extreme poverty.

When people see birth families benefitting from their choice to relinquish their child, she said, that can have a contagious effect in these communities. "It takes over a whole village very quickly. It's very dangerous stuff, playing with people's poverty, emotions, and needs in a way that's really quite profound."
But this commentary at the Detroit Free Press, by a law professor who works with children's rights cases, talks about poverty in Michigan separating children from their families:
A loving father sees a judge place his children in foster care because his Walmart job doesn't pay enough, and he and his child live with his sister.

Another father can't get his two boys out of foster care because he can't afford to buy them separate beds.

And a baby is removed from her parents' custody and placed with strangers simply because the family is homeless -- despite the parents' attempt to place the baby with family friends, instead.

All three Michigan families share a common denominator: poverty.

The foster care system exists to protect children from being abused by their parents. Yet, every day, children are separated from their families and placed in the system for no better reason than their parents' low income.

A short conversation with lawyers, caseworkers and judges bears this truth out. And in a state like Michigan, where the child poverty rate has increased by more than 60% in the last 10 years, recent cuts in public assistance and a staggering economy have only made things worse.


Anonymous said...

it's certainly not a reason to 'take' kids away. however, poverty in michigan doesn't compare to poverty in some of the countries where IA take place. michigan is really bad right now so i'm not negating the poverty there. but there's a difference between not being able to buy a mattress and not being able to buy food and meet basic needs. many families want to give their kids up for adoption because of poverty and they are happy the kids get a chance at life. i've met families overseas who wish they could send their kids to the U.S. for a better life (kids DIE because of poverty). they are doing it because they don't have the means to care for their child and in some cases didn't want the child whether they had money or not. i'm sure you read the story of the couple in an asian country who wanted to give up their child because they didn't want it. they were from wealthy families and in medical school. i'm rambling...

Andi said...

I think both articles are very is the juxtapositioning of the two of them. It's not just that such disparate countries are struggling with the same basic issue. Is there some element that Americans tolerate or encourage children to be taken from their families if it gives them a "better chance for success"? Is there not enough outrage about our CPS practices and do we not all tend to turn a blind eye to such motivations as factors in international and domestic adoptions? I had to admit when I read the Detroit article examples my first thought was that those can't be the sole reasons those children were removed... surely if all that was needed was a bed, someone would donate one...but maybe we wouldn't. Maybe poverty also cuts you off from your support networks and the system is so overworked personal intervention gets lost. Maybe we don't have the support networks we think we do? Are there any family-friendly shelters and transitional programs in your city? Where would you refer someone who needed help? Would you reach out to the strangers posting for support on craigslist? Are we all so isolated? It's a depressing thought.

Holly said...

Overall, I find it very heartbreaking. I have been reading your blog for awhile and I always appreciate the different perspectives and thoughts you share and gather for us to read. I wrote about this recently on my own blog and it is much to long to repost, but here is the link if you are interested.

Thanks for sharing and giving us other perspectives.

Anonymous said...

"i've met families overseas who wish they could send their kids to the U.S. for a better life (kids DIE because of poverty)."

But kids shouldn't have to be removed from their families just because their families can't afford to feed them.

It helps out the kids, sure, but what about their families? What does adoption do in the long-term for upcoming generations?

Not a lot, because the underlying economic and socio-economic issues are not being addressed.

Anonymous said...

anon - it helps the families too because they often did not want to get pg. have you been to the kind of countries i'm referring to? there is no food for others to share. poor in the u.s. doesn't compare.

by the way, i'm desperately trying to get some info on our child's birth parents because i want her to meet them and i want to know them and share info with them. does anyone know how to do this? no china or one of the big ones.

Sharon said...

As far as Ethiopia and similar countries is concerned, yes, it's true that adoption may become a contagious "solution" in certain villages. At the same time, families know that real change will not come to the village anytime soon and may see adoption as the only way out for their child. Another factor is Ethiopia's oppressive government -- some families may wish for their kids to escape that. As one adult Ethiopian adoptee said to me recently, "Everyone in Ethiopia is trying to get out." In some ways, it has made ET unique in the international adoption world, because the adoption is truly being driven by poverty and a relative shortage of healthy, adult caregivers, not social stigma as in Korea, or govt policy, as in China, etc.

I don't know what the solution is, except to support programs that strengthen safety nets for families, both here and abroad.