Foster Children or Political Pawns?Shannon LC Cate
A West Virginia couple who had been fostering their 19-month old daughter since she was a few weeks old were recently allowed to keep her and proceed with adopting her, after an attempt to remove her from their home.
The little girl’s birth mother lost her parental rights after failing to improve her situation and the child was released for adoption. In spite of the fact that she had been in her foster home longer than her six foster siblings, and in spite of her foster mother’s expressed interest in permanently adopting her, Baby Girl C. was ordered removed and placed in a new home until she could be adopted by someone other than the parents who had fostered her since birth. The foster parents, supported by the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources won an appeal to the West Virginia supreme court, and retained custody of the girl whom they intend to adopt.
How could the child’s guardian ad litem and the initial ruling judge have come to a conclusion so clearly not in the best interest of a child? The foster parents were a lesbian couple. The child was ordered to be placed in a “traditional home with a mother and father” though state law provided for no such move on the part of a healthy, well cared-for child.
While West Virginia does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children together, the state does allow singles to adopt. One of the foster moms has already adopted a child through the foster system and both women have gone on to foster seven children together with the full endorsement of the state. In its ruling on the case, the West Virginia supreme court blasted the earlier decision:
“Despite the number of times that this court has stated the best interest of the child is the polar star upon which decisions involving children are to be based, DHHR did not even consider whether the individual needs of B.G.C. would be best served by removing her from petitioners’ care…”
And though part of the reasoning for the removal was also supposedly that the home had reached its legal limit of children, many of the children in the home had come more recently than Baby Girl C, and were far less bonded with the foster parents. The supreme court also called this part of the decision a violation of the best interest standard:
“The agency simply turned a blind eye to the fact that B.G.C. had been placed in the foster home a number of months before some of the other children then in the home, and ignored any consideration of the impact relocation would have on B.G.C.s emotional, physical and mental development.”
If you have a toddler, you can imagine how tearing that child from your own care and placing her/him in the care of another family might effect “emotional, physical and mental development” I’m sure. Would your toddler happily embrace “new parents” however more socially acceptable than you (perhaps wealthier, living in a nicer house, with a stay-at-home mom or some other “better” social status according to mainstream notions of better)? I thought not. Mine neither.
It’s time for adults to stop using children as hammers to pound their own ideologies and start really basing these kinds of decisions on the best interests of children.