Our society does not do enough to honor and help the many people who are good parents. Also, not enough to recognize, thank and support the noble few who do even more by caring for our most unfortunate and needy members – the children who have been failed by their own parents or been orphaned.
However, volunteer organizations, state and local agencies, and businesses are making a concerted effort to honor and help the foster and adoptive parents the best way: by recruiting more of them. This month they kicked off the You Can Help! campaign in Nevada to reach out to folks who might want to join those great souls who foster or adopt our least fortunate children.
We seem to assume that people will -- of their own volition and without particular support -- birth, raise, love, protect and nurture children to create a next generation of solid citizens, caring family members, good friends, co-workers and neighbors. We provide parents some tax breaks, education subsidies and a few other things, but we otherwise assume that the private joys and benefits of being good parents are sufficient to assure that enough folks will have and raise well a next generation, despite the obvious personal cost to parents of doing so.
For many people, the great private returns to parenthood are enough. But at least since the advent of modern birth control, increasing numbers of folks who might have made good parents have foregone the option. So, we have long had declining birth rates and we face new and serious economic and intergenerational equity problems as a result – and thus we need more good parents to raise more good children. (The ZPG/NPG “population bomb” ideologues are fundamentally wrong – a subject for another day.)
And, as always, some folks – maybe an increasing percentage – become parents and then fail at it or essentially abandon their children. Those children especially need good parents.
So, thanks first to the many good parents. You deserve all the joy and rewards you reap from your children – plus the gratitude of the rest of us for raising them and doing it well.
Second, an even bigger thanks to the few who have taken in other people’s children – including the official foster/adoptive parents and the ones raising their grandchildren and other relatives because those children’s own parents aren’t doing so.
Make no mistake: It’s not easy or always a string of uninterrupted joys and successes to raise other people’s children. I know first-hand of devoted foster/adoptive parents who have had continuing problems with the children they took in. Some of these children are damaged, and raising them entails unusual challenges – challenges that can disrupt lives, homes and marriages. I also know one person who found the experience of helping these children so fulfilling that she has fostered 35 of them!
The foster/adoptive parents and all of us hope that the joys and successes predominate, even as we recognize the risks. Regardless of how things turn out, the foster/adoptive parents deserve our respect, admiration and thanks for what they do. There’s a special place in heaven for them.
I’ve also discussed the fear, the problems and the happy and unhappy outcomes with people who have gone through foster care – from the terror of being abandoned by their parents or taken from them for cause, to the traumatic uncertainty about the future and the treatment they would get from people they didn’t know, to the disorientation and pain of being shuttled from one temporary and difficult situation to another. There are admirable and heart-warming successes in overcoming these hardships – including some who have answered the calling as adults to help children now in the same straits they were – and also lesser outcomes.
If you’ve thought about helping our most unfortunate and needy children, pick up the “Become a Foster/Adoptive Parent” brochure that some businesses and agencies are now stocking as part of this effort. It will explain that you may be eligible whether working, retired, married or single; the many ways and roles in which you can help; and the steps to take to become a foster/adoptive parent. Call Chris Bayer at CASA of Carson City at 775-882-6776, or e-mail him at email@example.com. Likewise, if you want to obtain brochures to share with others.
The need is greatest in our small towns and rural areas. So, and if you are patient, kind and one who understands that all children deserve to be loved and cared for, then You Can Help!
Ron Knecht is an economist, Nevada System of Higher Education Regent, and President of the Board of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) of Carson City.