Don’t Pull the Rug Out

Photo credit: Rjabinnik and Rounien via / CC BY-NC-ND

I heard the story of Lexi and her foster family as a plea for signatures on my Facebook wall. I read through it sadly, but did not sign. I’m hesitant to sign online petitions.

Good Morning America reported this morning that Lexi was removed from the home she’s known for two thirds of her young life. She is six years old. That’s probably all of her retrievable memory. She was removed from that home, from people who loved her like their own, this past Monday. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 dictates that native children be placed in native families. She is 1/64th Choctaw, and she leaves the only family she’s known for the past 4 years to live with non-native relatives of her criminal father.

I don’t know this family, but their devastation is heartbreaking. Their love for this child is palpable. I don’t know the motivations of the biological family, but this motion seems to be a legal reach.

I do have experience with the heartbreak of childhood familial disturbances.

When I was an adult, my parents opened their home to foster children. They have a big home and big hearts, and the young children who came into our home were loved by all of us. We had a brother and sister in our home for years, and we considered them siblings.

Because my mom wanted the best for them, she facilitated open communication with their mom, who was trying to overcome her substance abuse and parenting issues. When that failed, my parents tried to adopt these kids who knew us as family. They were denied based on that open communication with the birth mother, and the children went to an unknown family. They had their sense of security ripped out from under them. It was traumatic for all.

My parents quit foster parenting as a result.

Through my parents’ time as foster parents I witnessed abuses of the system. I knew of children who were used as a source of income for foster parents. When you open your house to these kids, you receive a stipend that is to compensate for their care. It’s minimal. My parents spent much of their own money on their foster kids, because they believed in opening not only their home, but their hearts.

I also knew of abuses toward children in the system. I know of a child who wet the bed and was forced to sleep in it. I know of children who suffered neglect, who were housed, but not loved.ย When a child finds a good home in the foster care system, it benefits all to keep him or her there.

I see all kinds of children through my job as teacher, including children who face hurdles in life that they shouldn’t have to face. Parents addicted to drugs. Parents in prison. Broken, and I meanย broken, families. Children living in poverty so extreme that they are given backpacks filled with food for weekends when they might not eat otherwise. These children are hurting. They face issues they are powerless to resolve, and learning long division or parsing sentences pale in importance to the heartache they face.

Lexi is 1.5% Choctaw.

She seemed to be 99% a part of her foster family.

She will have lifelong issues because of this decision.

Excuse me. I have a petition to sign.