Unfortunately, foster children lose once again to politics. Virginia’s State Board of Social Services voted yesterday (washingtonpost.com) to continue its ban on adoptions by gay couples. It’s hard to know how that vote serves the children who are waiting for a loving family. Through no fault of their own, they have no family to return to. In somecases, their parents may have abandoned them or willingly relinquished them for adoption.
Many children remain in foster care because the state has determined that their parents were unable to care for them adequately and terminated the parents’ legal rights. Those children, too, are free for adoption—by heterosexual couples. No homosexual couples need apply in Virginia or 33 other states.
When states terminate the rights of parents they make an implicit promise to the children that they will provide better care for them than their parents would. Spending years—even an entire childhood—in foster care is NOT better care. Even if children remain with only one foster family, which is the exception, not the rule, they have no sense of permanency. Children need to know that they belong and that the home and family they leave in the morning will be the one they return to in the evening.
Young adults need to know that the family they grew up with will still be there, even when they leave home. It is the memories of the traditions, and the certainty of the unconditional love that allows them to leave home. Virginia has the highest rate of youth aging out of foster care in the country. Fully 32% of youth in Virginia’s foster care system leave without a permanent connection to a family or an adult to care for them.
Turning 18 may mean legal adulthood, but it does not translate into developmental adulthood. And adulthood does not mean that we no longer need the support and love and care of family and friends. Sadly, the state of Virginia has held steadfast in its position that some children are better off without a family than with a family that happens to be headed by two mothers or two fathers.
I wonder what the 1300 children in Virginia waiting for parents would say.
Maybe next time we should ask the children.
By Toni Heineman