Archive | August 2012

foster parents, the ones who mend little hearts

I started this morning by reading a post about an incredible woman named Sky.  This tiny little lady changes the lives of children every day, by simply being there.   Beautiful, young and a mother bear, protecting these wee cubs who have no protector.   And married to a man who cherishes her, who wrote the post to celebrate her!

Most days at work I learn about little ones who need to be out of their horror filled homes.   Little ones who are molested, beaten, starved, neglected, abandoned, burned with cigarettes …. precious children who get the brunt of an adult’s rage every day.   Until the law or children’s services gets involved, there is no mother bear to protect these children.

We need more Sky’s.   We need families like the Steigerwalt’s and the Epp’s, dear friends I know from the present and the past, who opened their hearts and homes to children no one wanted, only to have some of those children ripped away and given back to the mothers who abandoned them.     Fostering is painful.

These little ones bring their suitcases full of trauma along with them.   They have rarely known the quiet of sanctuary, the comfort of being held and rocked, of being protected.   They have to re-learn to trust because their trust has been shattered.

If you know a foster parent, call them today and affirm them.    If you are able to consider being a foster parent, like my sweet relative, Hannah, go for it with everything in you.

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sky

Sky – A Woman of Valor
By Jonathan C.

It started with an End. An end to all of the fun, that is.

We had been having a grand time at the restaurant, but I said it was time to go, and one of my children disagreed with that assessment. It could have been PTSD; it could have been Reactive Attachment Disorder; it could have been any number of traumas associated with being bounced through six homes in four years; and it definitely could have been your basic four-year-old temper tantrum….but the effect was the same.

My apologies to the kind Chick-fil-A cow; I hope your tail feels better in the morning.

My apologies to the other patrons; I hope you had plenty to talk about after we left.

We did make it to the car. Car seat, infant and diaper bag in one hand, writhing, shoeless four-year-old in the other, four and five year old trailing behind and ultimately fighting over which seat in the van was most awesome that night. That’s when a kind woman flagged me down to say, “You are a saint!”

I’m not ungrateful. Far from it. It was a true kindness from a stranger, and sometimes those are the best kind. But what came into my mind at that moment was my wife, who had been taking advantage of the brief child-free hour to stop at a store and a consignment sale to purchase things for the children in our care.

She doesn’t get anonymous cheers from strangers. She doesn’t have people offer to keep an eye on the baby while she chases down the errant child. I’m not exactly sure what she would have to do to elicit a “good job” in the grocery store. It would probably involve CPR and/or a tracheotomy, although even then someone would undoubtedly think, “That woman spends way too much time watching Grey’s Anatomy.”

She hears things like this:

“You must have your hands full!” (Falls short of encouraging. More of a statement-of-fact.)

“Are you a nanny?” (An acknowledgement of the different races represented in our family, designed to elicit a longer conversation about why our family looks like it does, but only as long as it takes to check out.)

“Are you a day care?” (Do day care workers regularly peel off four of their charges and go to the store?)

Far from a random selection, these were comments given to my wife earlier that same day. The kids were not acting up, but calmly following her as she completed the day’s errands, and yet she received scant more than innocuous observations about the number and/or color of our children.

For three years, my wife has been a stay-at-home mom to over 20 foster children under the age of six, one adoptive son, two soon-to-be daughters, and a soon-to-be son. She has been raged against, spat upon, hit, kicked, scratched, insulted, and ignored. She is isolated by circumstances, by confidentiality agreements, and by her fierce protection of her children’s dignity.

Faced with crippling tragedy, she speaks resurrection to our children. With a passion that rivals the best of gospel preachers, this 4-foot-8 suburban white woman will decry complacency, hopelessness and fear, guiding our children into a vision of healing, restoration and wholeness. She has wept tears of sorrow, pain, anger, frustration, loss, despair and exhaustion. She has raged against injustice, inefficiency, bureaucracy, and cruelty.

She has celebrated victories and rejoiced over seemingly insignificant progress, like a cloud the size of a hand that will surely bring relief to the drought.

And yet, she waits. Most of our children have gone to parents or relatives, never to be heard from again. Those that remain have much to grieve, and the object of their grief and anger is as distant as the chance of reconciliation.

As foster parents, the comment we hear most often is, “I couldn’t do what you guys do. I wouldn’t want to give the children up. It would hurt too much.” And while this statement neglects the unique and peculiar joy that our vocation brings, and leaves unacknowledged the inescapable fact that the work must be done anyway. The truth of the sentiment is much deeper than people realize. It hurts to say goodbye over and over again. It hurts to leave a job feeling unfinished. It hurts to live daily with the aftermath of neglect, abuse and trauma in children. And yes, it even hurts to be punched in the face by a three-year-old.

It hurts when she loves well. And that is what makes her a woman of valor. If you should see a short, dark-haired suburban white woman navigating her children of many colors through a public place, do me a favor.

Celebrate her.

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Jonathan and Sky live in the Southeast corner of the United States. They have been foster parents for three years, caring for over 20 children. They have one adopted son and are in the process of adopting three more children. There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted, which leaves 300,000 children that just need a safe place to lay their heads and hopefully find some healing. If you are interested in foster care, contact your local DFCS office or any number of private agencies.

Isn’t it encouraging to see a man celebrate his wife like this? Thanks to Jonathan for capturing the true spirit of Proverbs 31.

raped, pregnant and ordeal not over: a re-blog

Despite the recent ignorant comments of Rep. Todd Akin, the act of rape can and does result in pregnancy.  Imagine having survived a brutal rape, only to find out that you are pregnant as a result of that rape.  Nine months later you give birth to a perfect little girl, and you fall in love with her the moment you see her.   (Research shows that 30% of women who are raped and conceive as a result of that rape, choose to keep their children.)  The “mother bear” inside you growls ferociously, as you are determined to protect this precious little one from anyone who could bring her harm.

Then imagine learning that your offender – yes, the man that raped you – has legal rights as the father of your child!   He can co-parent her!

This was the experience of an incredibly gutsy woman named Shauna Prewitt, who eventually went to law school in order to win the battle for custody of her child:

Raped, pregnant and ordeal not over

By Shauna Prewitt, Special to CNN
updated 12:12 PM EDT, Wed August 22, 2012

Editor’s note: Shauna R. Prewitt is a lawyer in Chicago. She is the author of “Giving Birth to a ‘Rapist’s Child’: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape,” written for the Georgetown Law Journal.

Chicago, Illinois (CNN) — When I was in law school, my criminal law professor introduced us to the crime of rape by reading us a quote from Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century English jurist: “In a rape case it is the victim, not the defendant, who is on trial.”

It was not merely a history lesson. I had lived it.

While a student in my final year of college, at age 21, I was raped. I have dissected that moment — the horrifying moment that I became a “victim” — from every possible angle. I have poked and prodded, examined and re-examined. Regrettably, I have even suspected myself in a desperate, ultimately futile attempt to understand how I became a victim.

Shauna Prewitt

Shauna Prewitt

But blaming myself was neither my idea nor my first inclination. I thought such 17th-century notions were long dead. I was wrong. People who did not even know me were quick to comment or speculate on my rape. What were you wearing? Did you scream loudly? Did this occur in public?

‘Legitimate rape’ reaction, from the Congo to black crickets

As my history lesson said, I found myself on trial, facing the most fierce judge and jury: ignorance.

Eight years after my rape, I find myself on trial against ignorance again. Rep. Todd Akin’s recent comments that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy not only flout scientific fact but, for me, cut deeper. Akin has de-legitimized my rape.

You see, nine months after my rape, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. You could say she was conceived in rape; she was. But she is also so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground. I was wrong again.

It would not be long before I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy. When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising these rights, a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child.

Opinion: Wake up, it’s not just Akin

When faced with the choice between a lifetime tethered to her rapist or meaningful legal redress, the answer may be easy, but it is not painless. For the sake of her child, the woman will sacrifice her need to see her once immensely powerful perpetrator humbled by the court.

I know it because I lived it. I went to law school to learn how to stop it.

Having fought this injustice for the past several years, I have come to believe that ignorance is to blame for this legal absence. Opponents argue no woman would ever choose to raise the child she conceived through rape. The only two studies to analyze the choices made by pregnant raped women indicate otherwise — at least 30% of women who conceive by rape make this choice.

Others argue that no rapist would ever seek parental rights. Not only does my experience and that of others I know prove otherwise, but it is not surprising that a man who cruelly degrades a woman would also seek to torture her in an even more agonizing way, by seeking access to her child.

Today, it seems we may face a new and unbelievable challenge: convincing legislators that women can conceive when they are raped.

iReport: ‘Rape is rape’

Make no mistake, my efforts and the efforts of others to persuade legislators to pass laws restricting the parental rights of men who father through rape will be directly impacted by Akin’s recent comments. Whether these efforts will be helped or hurt, however, depends upon us as a society.

Either we will fight ignorance and take steps to legislate for raped women based upon reason and facts, or we will be led by ignorance and continue to make bad laws. Or fail to make good ones.

“go home” message to Iranian female university students

The university students are back.   Our little town just blossoms in size when the troops arrive, complete with U-Haul trucks full of clothing, microwaves and enough clothing to open a department store.  Occasionally you see a first year student with mother in tow, fussing over her last minutes with them under her care.   She has concern written all over her face, and they have “for Pete’s sake, Mom, just go home” over theirs.

Young men and women, all following their dreams.  Some are there because of hard work and scholarships, some because mom and dad are footing the bill, but most are there because they have taken out student loans or they have worked long hours over the summer.   Each of them is eager to get started.

Not for women in Iran.  Their government has now decided that there are certain degree programs that are not suitable for women.  The excuses given include “facts” which report that 98% of female graduates are unable to get employment, but the reality is that the Islamic regime believes that women should be locked away in  their homes, raising children and taking care of their husbands’ needs.

How incredibly sad that a country could discard at least 50% of their more brilliant brains.

Anger as Iran bans women from universities

Female students in Iran have been barred from more than 70 university degree courses in an officially-approved act of sex-discrimination which critics say is aimed at defeating the fight for equal women’s rights.

Anger as Iran bans women from universities

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Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi said the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50%  Photo: GETTY

3:17PM BST 20 Aug 2012

 In a move that has prompted a demand for a UN investigation by Iran’s most celebrated human rights campaigner, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be “single gender” and effectively exclusive to men.
It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country’s religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year’s university entrance exam.
Senior clerics in Iran’s theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.

The Oil Industry University, which has several campuses across the country, says it will no longer accept female students at all, citing a lack of employer demand. Isfahan University provided a similar rationale for excluding women from its mining engineering degree, claiming 98% of female graduates ended up jobless.

Writing to Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, and Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights, Mrs Ebadi, a human rights lawyer exiled in the UK, said the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50% – from around 65% at present – thereby weakening the Iranian feminist movement in its campaign against discriminatory Islamic laws.

“[It] is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena,” says the letter, which was also sent to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. “The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights.”

The new policy has also been criticised by Iranian parliamentarians, who summoned the deputy science and higher education minister to explain.

However, the science and higher education minister, Kamran Daneshjoo, dismissed the controversy, saying that 90% of degrees remain open to both sexes and that single-gender courses were needed to create “balance”.

Iran has highest ratio of female to male undergraduates in the world, according to UNESCO. Female students have become prominent in traditionally male-dominated courses like applied physics and some engineering disciplines.

Sociologists have credited women’s growing academic success to the increased willingness of religiously-conservative families to send their daughters to university after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The relative decline in the male student population has been attributed to the desire of young Iranian men to “get rich quick” without going to university.