Gay Parents

August 14, 2008

I found a great site recently – Hulu.com – which brings you legit, full episodes of television and movies with minimal commercials. It is a bit dangerous as it definitely encourages some hard-core procrastination. But it also provides access to some really quality content.

An example is an episode of 30 Days on same sex parents. For those of you remember the brilliant documentary Supersize Me, this is creator Morgan Spurlock‘s television show takes that concept and fits it into an hour. It takes pretty open-minded, yet passionate and dedicated people and has them live the lifestyle that is the complete opposite of what they believe in or are used to, such as a gun control advocate living in a house where guns are a big part of their daily life, and a great episode where Spurlock and his girlfriend attempt to live solely on minimum wage jobs.

In this episode, a woman who passionately believes that kids need a mother and a father as parents and that gays should not be parents lives with a gay couple and their 4 adopted sons for 30 days. And for me, and this woman, the most powerful part of her experience is when she goes and speaks with kids who have aged out of the foster care system. The kids talk about how awful it was to live in group homes because there are not enough foster homes for kids, arguing that prohibiting gay people from fostering and adopting children is harming kids. And it appeared that having this mom live with this family showed her that these parents were just like most other parents – loving, dedicated, and raising wonderful children, although she still clung to the idea that, in theory, she still opposes gays parenting.

It is extremely frustrating to me that people still have these perceptions on professional and personal levels. Professionally, it has become quite clear to me quite quickly, that we desperately need foster parents and the fact that many places (luckily not in my state) deny people from caring for needy children based on who they love is absolutely ridiculous. Not only are gays just as capable to parent as straight people, but we are also in a crisis and desperately need as many qualified people as we can get (it is interesting to me to note how this also seems similar to gays in the military).

On a personal level, as a gay person, I find it extremely offensive that people automatically discount me as someone who can parent based on who I am attracted to. And I know, that even though I live in a fairly welcoming area, that I am still at risk at being accused of false allegations and people protesting against my parenting children. I feel that I am even at risk of this type of complaints just as a social worker working with children. It angers me that no matter how academically qualified, passionate, and dedicated I am to my job, ridiculous charges can still be slung at me. I just hope that this changes quickly.

Advertisements

11 Volumes

May 27, 2008

One of my tasks today was going through a case file – 11 volumes in all (each volume is a large 3-ring binder) and searching for information so I can synthesize it into a report for adoptive parents to have. Not something that I want to do daily, but a good way for me to learn more about how a case is filed, what different documents look like, and a basic sense of how a case went.

Of course, while going through this file, I have lots of thoughts about it. And the big question that I came away from this case was, when does a child’s right to have a stable, permanent home trump a parent’s right to parent their own children? Or simply, how many chances do parents get?

In this case, mother had a long, intense substance abuse history. This lead to chronic neglect of the kids, whether it was putting them in precarious situations (around dealers or locked in a car in a parking lot) or not meeting their basic needs of hygiene and food (never mind, emotional and intellectual stimulation). There were numerous filings made on this mom, leading to her having the kids removed from her care. But some how, she would get it back together enough to convince the court that she was ready to parent again. And it appeared that she did often, but only for a limited time, and then she would relapse and the kids would be taken back into care.

So studies say that kids do better with their biological families, except in extreme situations. But where do you draw the line? I don’t think many would argue that parents should have their parental rights terminated after having one bout of substance abuse and not having a chance of cleaning themselves up. But do they also get 2 chances? 5? 10? 25? 100? This case certainly did not have 100 filings on it, it did not get to that point, but again, where do you draw that line?

I don’t know the answer, but I do think that this is going to be an issue that I will be revisiting often. I can see myself getting very upset when I think that we are on one side of the line and someone with more power than me (supervisors or the court) disagrees with me and wins the argument. I can see myself feeling frustrated that I will not be able to stop or prevent an injustice from occurring. But maybe it is better that I realize this now, so I expect the frustration. Maybe it will lessen the blow, but I doubt it.

But again, the job is trying to figure out what will be best for kids in the long term. And unlike the “hard sciences” there is no sure way of knowing, making this “soft science” much more difficult.


First Monday

May 5, 2008

This morning I returned to court and was anxious to see how a motion that was filed was going to play out. A mother filed a motion of contempt against the Dept./social worker because she had not gotten all of her visits. A mother should have her visits, except that many of the missed visits were due to the mother and most were circumstances out of the social worker’s control. Fortunately they were able to talk about it and resolve it without going before the judge. But it seems that the mom could have handled it better and easier for all by just talking with the social worker.

I then joined my supervisor and another worker as we headed far north to visit a kid who autistic and nonverbal in a new placement. The two heads of the home met with us and talked about how the kid (15 yo) was doing, how they ran their program, and showed us around the house. I did an internship at a small group home like this, only for short-term kids entering foster care, in MA. And there were some similarities, but this place felt a little dingier. But it was adequate and the people seemed to know what they were doing. And then at the end I come to find out that they charged a very large sum of money for this kid’s first month there – more than 10 grand – and I am still in shock about that. I have no idea where that came from.

But it also got me thinking about the need for the state to take care of kids like this. His father killed his mother and is now in jail and has no other family to care for him. Aside his being 15, he has significant delays and needs lots of help. It is necessary for the state to be looking out for him. And I worry about budget cuts and where kids like him would land. Yes, the huge price tag needs to be examined, and is/will by my supervisor. But bigger than that, this case further cements for me the need for the state to protect its most vulnerable citizens.