A few months ago, an uncle called to catch up and see how my daughters and I were doing. I let him know well the girls were doing in school and how much I enjoyed my job. I then gave him an update on my relative’s situation. I reminded him of the personal challenges she’s faced and reminded him that her son, Alan, had been in foster care since January.
My uncle is related to Alan. Alan and I fall in similar spots in our family tree from our uncle’s perspective.
When I began to explain that I had thrown my hat in the ring to adopt Alan, my uncle grew quiet, then began listing all the reasons that this would be a bad idea. I was a single woman. How would I afford it? The child would probably have behavioural problems. I should be thinking about my own children.
I couldn’t explain to him that in my heart, whether I ever see Alan again or not, he holds the place of one of “my own children.”
When I began to talk about how I thought I could make it work and why I felt it was my duty to help, my uncle cut me off. For the first time in our relationship, he cut the conversation short. He hasn’t called back since.
I got a similar reaction from Alan’s grandfather when I reached out to him to try to understand his perspective on what was going on. Alan’s dad had listed his maternal grandfather as someone who would help out financially with Alan’s care, and I wanted to confirm that this was true. I could certainly use help paying for childcare if I adopted Alan. The conversation was a short one. Alan’s mother, this grandfather’s daughter, wasn’t caring for her kid? Not his problem. “That’s too bad,” was his only statement of compassion for the frightened 3-year-old in foster care.
Kinship care would be much more common, I think, if fewer people thought that abused and neglected children in their own families were someone else’s problem.
Alan is my problem, and he will be until he’s in a stable home, whether that’s with me or someone else. You know who’s not my problem? Those relatives who can’t be bothered to step up.