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.
If a young person does not find a forever family, the next generation is twice as likely to enter foster care.
Rachel came into my life at 17, having spent the last 3-4 years in group care. My charge was to find her a permanent family prior to her aging out at 18. The group home she was in and the system that served her thwarted those efforts at every turn. Rachel left care on her 18th birthday with a “john” who arranged for her to turn tricks all that night. In time, Rachel fell in love with a man who claimed to love her in return, but abused her physically and emotionally for several years. At 24, she became pregnant by this man and suffered abuse during the pregnancy as well.
When it was time for the baby to come, Rachel went to the hospital she was most familiar with. Unfortunately, this was the same hospital that had treated her many times in the past after her partner had injured her, as well as for the anorexia that had become her only means of control over her body. With the knowledge the hospital had of Rachel’s past and present, they decided to alert child welfare and the baby, Beau, was removed from her care before she even had a chance to parent him
Beau, Rachel’s son, is now 5 years old, was in foster care for the first 3 years of his life, and then – unfathomably – returned to an abusive father, where he has lived for the past two years. Rachel has been denied parenting rights repeatedly in court because she could not demonstrate that she can keep herself safe from harm from the father, yet somehow it was decided that Beau could be with this man.
I have spent many hours with Rachel and Beau while they have been on visits. Rachel is a caring, diligent, and responsive mother. Beau is attached to her and she to him. Yet, without the observable support of a permanent parent to help her in her role as mother, the court continues to doubt Rachel’s ability to meet the demands.
Adopted as a teen, Chloe had the support she needed with her family to parent her child.
My other young friend, Chloe, found her adoptive mother as a teen. She also found that she was pregnant just a few years later. As a young, single mom, the statistics were against her. Chloe had yet to finish school, she did not have a steady income, and she did not have the baby’s father in her life any longer. However, she did have something that Rachel did not – a committed, available parent.
Chloe’s mom was an enormous support to her throughout the pregnancy and the early years. Because of this parental support, Chloe has been able to finish school, start a career, and find lasting love. She is now the mother of two, in a stable relationship, and a phenomenal parent. As I watch her with her sons, I do not see that she has any intrinsic skills or knowledge that Rachel does not. What she has is family support and intergenerational connections.
Written by: Kim Stevens, Project Director, Advocates for Families First North American Council on Adoptable Children and ACO board member
See Saturday's Stories: Experiences in Care
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