This Family Day Weekend we want to celebrate and reflect all the ways our families are important to us. Everyone needs a family regardless of age. Over this Family Day weekend, let us compare a few real scenarios of young people Kim Stevens, ACO Board member has had the honour to know. All of the names are changed, but the stories are true, and sometimes heartbreaking. In each, the difference is a permanent family.
Stigma is attached to being in care, and follows you into adulthood.
Having been “in the system” carries with it a number of implications that follow young people into adulthood. Jeremy is a young father whose wife suffered post-partum depression. Knowing that they needed help, Jeremy and his wife contacted Jeremy’s adoptive mother and asked what they should do. She advised them to get to the emergency room for evaluation and treatment, while she came to stay with them and care for the baby. Jeremy’s wife needed a short-term hospitalization to identify the appropriate medications and stabilize her.
Two days later, Jeremy received a call from the child welfare agency, stating that a report of possible abuse and neglect had been filed by the hospital. Typically, this concern would have been screened out, since the parents took the appropriate steps, the baby was in no danger and had not been hurt or neglected, and the grandmother was on the scene providing assistance and support. BUT – Jeremy had been in foster care until he was in his teens and because of this fact alone, the report was screened in for investigation. Imagine, an industry that assumes its own “product” will be faulty.
Fortunately, the investigation revealed that the family was stable, healthy, and safe. However, if Jeremy had not been adopted as a teen, if he had not been able to call his mother to come and help – as families do – the outcome could have been very different.
As I think of this story, I worry about another young expectant mother I know. Julie aged out of the foster care system at 18 and traveled to find a new life. She is only a few weeks away from delivering her baby girl and is glowing and full of hope and love. The father of the baby is still with her, though they are not married, are both quite young, and are struggling financially. I wonder… what will happen to this young family if challenges arise – post-partum depression, unemployment, stress, illness – all of these are potential hurdles anyone could face. But without family, who is there to lend a helping hand?
Written by: Kim Stevens, Project Director, Advocates for Families First North American Council on Adoptable Children and ACO board member
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