edited: Friday, September 27, 2002
By Carrie M Bolyard
Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002
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When it comes to family matters, the fear of their "embarrassment," and adoption ... where is the fine line between meddling and helping?
Before I get started, here’s a brief background to help you better understand this piece. In my husband’s family, there are cousins (grown adults) who have been married, separated, married, threatened divorce, etc., etc., etc. Their reasons have ranged from adultery to drugs to...well, you name it. Anyway, in the midst of all this chaos, they have two children – a son who is around 12yrs old, and a daughter who is six. Mom walked out at one point (to further her drugs) and left Dad with the kids. He was doing okay for a while, but then everything went downhill and he began neglecting them. Anytime I visit with my in-laws (or talk on the phone, or get an e-mail…), all I ever hear is the bad story of this family. I don't personally know them very well, but I do know their children. Especially their little girl, Sarah. She is currently caught in the middle of a battle of “wits,” I guess you could call it, between family, foster parents, and the Social Services system. You see, the main reason the parents are even “interested” in the kids anymore is because they can get bigger checks each month with them. Since the son is legally adopted right now, all they have to go after is their daughter. … Fast-forward to just the other day. I received an e-mail from my mother-in-law, in which she told me about the latest bit – because of the parents constantly butting in and trying to boss the foster parents, they (foster parents) are considering giving Sarah back to Social Services at the end of October. Now, I know that I am not all that familiar with the foster care system, so please excuse my ignorance about it. It is just that I am rather emotionally involved with this right now. (I am not really sure if this isposted in the proper place or not, and for that I apologize. I just needed to write it out.)
Getting the e-mail this morning has me all in a tizzy. Why anyone would allow a six-year-old child to suffer as badly as Sarah is beyond me. She just recently got the glasses that she has needed for over two years. She has been allowed to move on to first grade, despite the fact that she can't read simple words, she vaguely knows her shapes or colors, or even how to count past ten. Amazingly enough, she is in better shape than her older brother (who has thankfully been adopted by - and is living in - Georgia with his great-aunt). He is malnourished, needs excessive dental work, and has a boatload of other physical problems, let alone the fact that he can barely read. It’s appalling.
Just when we thought things were finally getting better for this little girl, the storm clouds start to dim the rainbow. Her foster parents, who love her dearly, are now at the end of their rope and are considering “giving her back.” (Gee, I personally never considered that to be a possibility once you were responsible for a child??!!) My heart truly goes out to Sarah. At least, for the most part, her brother’s only problems are his “own” – dental, physical, school, etc – and not the product of the ex-parents intrusion. Sarah is still a pawn in the middle of everything; it's just the people that have changed.
What really kills me, though, is how so many family members criticize her mom and say how similar Sarah is to her. Well, go figure – it’s her mother! Monkey see, monkey gonna do. It’s the same way with Hollyann and myself, just without the extremes. I don't know. Maybe it’s simply because they haven't raised a girl in that family since they were all children themselves, so they possibly don't have a full grasp of that mother/daughter bond. But, I feel that there is a part of them that sees things as better now that she is away from her mother. I don't see it that way. Sure, things will improve. But until she is completely away and out of harm’s way, it’s not gone. Add in the fact that she stands a VERY good chance at bouncing around Social Services until she is eighteen, and how does anyone expect her to come out of that? Not very well, thankyouverymuch! I feel that with all the problems she had, even before she was born, she has been given a predisposition to be very similar to her mother. That can change. She just needs a chance. Love. Affection. Health. Happiness. Education. These aren't difficult things, but they are what a child needs to survive and make it in this stinkin' world. I SO wish I could do something about this. But what? Is there a way to help and keep most of the people happy?
I know our children absolutely adore her. From everything I have been told, the three of them get along very well when they are together. Here in New York, our school district is absolutely sensational with the special needs kids. Been there, still doing that. So she has to go back to kindergarten…good! Get her out of the Maryland school district that she is in. I mean, come on! Simply get her out of that town and your ‘ex-parent’ problem is virtually erased. But, does anyone want to “get involved?” Does anyone want to be stuck in the middle of “that mess?” Of course not. All they want to do is sit back and bitch and moan and gripe that things should be better, then turn their backs once a chance to better those things actually presents itself. No, I am not entirely bitter about that. I understand that having the ‘ex-parents’ around and still so close would make things difficult. But, there are so many ways around that. I guess that’s just too much effort on their parts to make the life of a child a little better and safer.
The hearing is in a month. I pray something good for Sarah comes out of this. Throughout all of this, though, I just have one question: when it comes to helping out someone in need, and meddling in another’s problems, just where does that fine line lay?