I had a conversation with my mother about Nana’s biological family. I am uncomfortable that Nana’s mother has no idea where her child is. She doesn’t know that her child been adopted, that she’s being loved, that she’s happy and thriving.
My mother’s response was something along the lines of, well, you don’t really know that she grieves for her, some people prefer to just forget. Besides, if she wanted her daughter, she would have worked harder to get her back.
I don’t know much about Nana’s mother. I just have scattered field reports from a social worker about the circumstances of the incident, her responses to questions, her absences to visits, and what looks like her reluctance to participate. In sum total, the information that I have about her might fit on two pages, front and back. So I have a real hard time making her fit into the narrative that society has created about parents that have their children taken from them by CPS.
In all honesty, I was surprised by my mother’s response. I had expected my mother to be empathetic, considering that her children, yep, my sister and I, spent time as wards of the state. At that point, to anyone looking from the outside in, she was just another poor, neglectful, uneducated and most likely, lazy ass bio-mom. She too had to follow the rules, jump though the hoops and finish a program in order to get her children back. Interestingly, she didn’t see herself in that narrative at all. Perhaps because she had succeeded in getting her children back.
We talked a bit about her experience. It was hard. She had to divorce her husband. She was required to go to parenting classes. She didn’t have any money but needed to get a lawyer. Of course, the lawyer required a down payments with no guarantee of success. But it was her only option. So she worked nights cleaning buildings on top of her day job in order to get money for the lawyer. She said it was one of the most difficult times in her life. In her mind, she sacrificed and worked hard for her children, so others should be able to do it.
Interesting how privilege works, even in the most challenging of times. She didn’t see any privilege that she had in that situation. To her she was a poor, black, single woman, just coming out of an abusive relationship, with no close friends or family. No privilege in that.
So I broke it down: You were educated and could understand the directions that were given to you and the steps you needed to follow. You had stable employment with a defined schedule so that you could attend meetings at night or schedule visits with a lawyer. You had a car to get to classes and to a second job. You were able to find a second job to earn additional money. You owned the house so that you could make your abuser leave versus having to get enough money together and find another place to live that was appropriate enough to meet CPS standards. Your children were placed in the same city and state so you could visit them regularly. You had insurance and access to mental health counseling should you have chosen to use it to deal with your situation.
By the end of my spiel, she was adding on things like how the social worker didn’t treat her badly because she could speak proper English, how she didn’t have to ride the bus at night and she could get to her parenting classes on time. How she could come and pick us up or call us whenever she wanted. She never thought of these as privileges that helped her deal with the foster care system.
I have a feeling that I’ll be having many more of these types of conversations. Most people don’t understand why I’m interested in contacting Nana’s biological family. They already have a story written about parents with children in foster care, a negative one. I have no idea how this story will end. We haven’t started conversations with Nana about her being adopted, let alone decided if we even want to initiate contact with her biological family. Stay tuned.