What Makes a Family

Family.  We are taught from birth that “family” should be at the center of our lives.  For those fortunate enough to have a strong, tight-knit family unit this is one of the greatest blessings of life.

For others, families are made, sometimes the birth unit isn’t ideal and we seek outside circles to complete that all important bond.

I was fortunate to have both.  My birth family is tight-knit, I grew up with both parents in the home and while we experienced tragedy, our family remained strong.

Today, my inner-circle is my family, my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew.

I also have extended family consisting of cousins that make for an idyllic picture.

When I moved away to Florida, I was fortunate enough to find a group of friends who became my Florida Family.  These people shaped my adulthood and have carried me through many of the happiest and most difficult times of my life.

I am blessed and I know I am blessed.

Families come in all shapes and sizes.  I have lesbian friends who adopted a beautiful daughter of another race when her mom died shortly after childbirth.  This family is as strong as any I have ever known.

A friend has guardianship of a distant nephew and makes sure he is raised in comfort and love.

Another friend has a home filled with children of multiple races, starting as foster parents and eventually adopting the children when they become available or often times being ordered by courts to return the kids to the people who birthed them.

Families can be strengthened by “The Brady Bunch” syndrome when parents of children marry after divorce or loss.  The blended families can be strong or difficult, it depends on the parents.

Many people don’t have this same gift that I do and unfortunately sometimes our system fails those who need it most, betraying the family unit created through love and responsibility.

I have no children, I will never have children and that is my greatest regret in life.  I think I would have been a pretty good dad, but alas that wasn’t in my cards.  I make up for it by trying to be a super Uncle or supporter of my friends kids.

Families come in any shape and form and unfortunately for the most important members of the family, the children, adults often screw it up.

Case in point…. a child I will call “Henry.”

Henry is a foster kid.  He came to live with his family when he was 5, he is now 7.

At five years old, when Henry came to live with his new family, he joined a large rambunctious, fun-loving home filled with support, kindness and love.

At five, when Henry came to live with this family, he received his first pair of socks……. EVER!  Yes, at 5 he had never even had a pair of socks.

I don’t know where the dad is, but the mom was addicted and in and out of jail.

Over the past two years, Henry has thrived.  He is an adorable little boy, a bit shy, but totally a love bug!

He has a sweet smile, he has participated in school and excelled, played organized sports and been an active member of the family he now calls his own.

Henry knows he is loved and spreads that love with his parents and siblings.

Several months ago, the woman who gave birth to Henry decided she could care for him and wanted him back.

The woman who gave birth to Henry has a mother who is financing getting him back.  She doesn’t want him, she wants her daughter to have him back, like a new doll to show off.

The family that Henry has become a part of knows that he is best served by being with them and fought to keep him.

After many court dates, some the woman who birthed him didn’t even attend, the courts ordered Henry be returned to her.

Next week, Henry will be returned to a woman he doesn’t know as a mother, a woman who will be raising him in a half-way house, a woman who lives hundreds of miles from his FAMILY.

While we like to think our court system has the best interest of those who are the weakest among us, it is hard to comprehend how this is the best for Henry.

A child who never even owned a pair of socks until he was five, is being stripped from a family that has showered him with love, taught him responsibility and provided him the only real family he has ever known, will now be given to a woman who birthed him simply because she birthed him.

Are Henry’s best interests being provided for?  We can only hope and pray that he will adapt and continue to thrive, but it is my fear that this child will again be lost, a victim of a system that was designed to protect him.

Henry’s family did all they could, I pray they will one day see him again and he will be able to remind them they are HIS family and they did their job well.

Henry is one of thousands lost in the system each year.

Families come in all shapes and forms, Henry has a family, unfortunately he won’t be allowed to continue living with them after next week.

I pray for Henry, and I pray for the thousands of other children like him who fall between the cracks.  I pray that Henry knows he is loved and part of a FAMILY.

 

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