The Dark Side of Our Happily Ever After

Nine years ago, my wife and I met two children who would eventually become ours through adoption. Their sister joined us, quite unexpectedly, 11 months later – this element of ‘joyful unpredictability’ has become a trademark of hers.  If you’d like to read more about how that day came to be, I’ve shared it here.

Of course, that’s not the full story…its just the part that easier to share. The harder part to talk about, the one that will continue to haunt my thoughts, is the part that involves loss, systemic racism, and the destruction of Black and brown communities through family separation.

That day, when we felt the joyous, terrifying, wonder of being entrusted with those beautiful souls, there was a mother whose heart had been ripped out.

Adoption is never without loss. This is particularly true of adoption through foster care.

This fact is something my wife and I have always been keenly aware of. You see, we didn’t become foster parents to help kids. We became foster parents to help moms, and strengthen communities. To be the soft place for a child to land while their parent(s) did what they needed to for reunification.

Now I see how overly optimistic and simplistic my view was. Now I see how the system is designed to discriminate and separate. How foster parents are all too often aligned on the side of the state in the us vs them battle that stacks the odds against moms rather than with them.

I recently watched our country cry out against family separation at the border – even joining my voice to that fight – all while wondering why we don’t have the same outcry over the epidemic proportions of family separation through foster care. The hypocrisy weighed on me. How can I shout out that families belong together when three children, born to another, call me “mom”?

I believe my children found their way to me (or I to them) for a reason. I believe that this is true for many families built by adoption. But I would not be doing my job if I did not recognize that adoption is joy AND pain, healing AND brokenness, creation AND devastation. Foster care and adoption are often the consequence of poverty, racial bias, unjust laws and sentencing practices, systemic racism, and the myriad of other ways in which our country is set up to discourage, disrupt, and destroy communities of color. My family’s story is not free from these truths.

On this anniversary of our family’s birth, I celebrate, but I also grieve. As I hold her babies in my arms, my heart is with her. When I see my children’s passion, brilliance, and talent, I see everything that their first community lost when they were removed and placed in our suburban home.

Maybe their story could never have ended any other way, but there is no doubt in my mind that as we confront injustice in our country, foster care and family separation need to be at the forefront of our minds.

More on this topic here:

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