November is National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. In the past, I have written about the probate courts opening their doors, judges clearing their dockets and making adoption a priority in the month of November. This process quickens the pace to allow children who have been waiting for permanency their day in court.

However, I am troubled by other methods which purport to be a waiting child’s best interests, namely, Wednesday’s Child, publications in the newspaper and events such as Fenway Park Parades.

Shame on all of us who smiled politely without a thought as to the true nature of the scene: parading children around a ball park; at a playground picnic; advertising their availability in the Boston Globe. Admittedly, our world is not at a loss for children who need forever families. Understood. But to offer the child up? Insanity. Such tactics, seemingly, but thoughtlessly, from the good of the heart, serve to feed the pain and uncertainty of the world of a waiting child.

Put yourself into those battle worn sneakers. This is your week to be the Wednesday’s Child. Your childhood thus far has not come close to being a fairy tale, and yet we set you up for a happily ever after, when there is no such thing. You stare at your face on the newsprint, looking the best you can possibly be for your debut. Your strengths are stressed, your challenges glossed over. Thanks a lot.

Next day, Thursday, a school day. You beg to not go, feign a fever, to no avail. You get on the bus, glance up quickly to find a seat, averting eye contact, hopeful no one will notice you. You know what they are thinking, what everyone who looks at you from now until forever will remember: you were a Wednesday’s Child. EVERYONE knows your secret that you feared to tell anyone at school: you are a foster kid. A FOSTER KID!!!

The world, your world, knows you do not live with your parents. There must be a reason that you do not live with even ONE of your parents. Sadly, you are just another casualty caught in the cross fires of misplaced efforts and funds.

One only need look at the front page of the Boston Globe, Thursday, August 27, 2015: Court Stresses Rights of Adoptees. The article stemmed from a judge approving the placement of a child with his father, whom he barely knew with no inquiry into the ability or capacity of this father to parent his son and rejecting the grandmother’s petition for adoption. Last known the little boy was in a coma because of his father’s cruel abuse.

The rights of children poised for adoption are pushed aside,
with little care for the child’s actual needs or desires. How is it possible that a child who is at least three to four years old, with sufficient understanding is denied his voice as to her existence or well-being?

And, regrettably, that is what is done day after day in the world of children needing permanent placement and forever families, not only with children who are in the custody of the state, but children who are the subject of private adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and guardianships, unifications with a relative or reunifications with a parent.
In 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized the rights of a child to have independent counsel when the subject of a disputed adoption case.

Nevertheless, these children stemming out of the foster care system, private adoptions, guardianships and stepparent adoptions remain overlooked and given short shrift. There must be a better way to determine what is in the best interests of a child. Abuse and neglect do not come to light until damage has been done.

I recognize the need for all caretakers to be subject to the highest standards of scrutiny. How is that accomplished? Our focus should move away from the current parent centered choice to a child centered choice. Not an easy task, but doable. If and when possible, the child should review the pictures and self-descriptions submitted by the waiting families. Allow the child to decide which family he or she would like to interview, spend time with and get to know better.

As to children subject to guardianships, ensure the child’s voice is heard and given due consideration rather than summarily determining a placement grounded in the say-so of the petitioners and interested parties.


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