I don’t know about you, but the past few months feel like they were 300 days long. So many things have happened, so many things have gone viral, so many Justin Timberlake memes have popped up—every little thing that caught my attention for a day is practically erased from my memory. Except—remember those five Kansas kids who needed a forever family? I am sure that you saw them in your Facebook feed—they went so viral that the adoption agency pulled their profile off of the internet to focus on the heaps of requests from prospective families. Their story has been on my mind a lot since I first learned of them, but maybe not for the reasons you may guess.
First off, the article explained, these kids needed a family well-versed in trauma. Reading between the lines, these babies have seen some Big Bad Stuff. That’s heartbreaking, but sadly also par for the foster-adopt course. As this essay heartbreakingly points out, there is a reason that these kids are in foster care. I will admit, it really bothers me that so many people, with their generous hearts and good intentions, “share” a story but balk at funding programs like early intervention, healthcare, therapy, and CASA services that are designed to specifically help kids like the Kansas family.
Next on my mind—do those sharing the story understand how many steps it takes to get from parental custody to ready-to-adopt status? Bio parents (rightly) are given all of the chances to heal, try, and repair relationships. For a court to sever custody it is likely that these siblings have experienced a lot of broken promises, abuse, and heartbreak. Best case scenario—and this is sickening— bio parents are deceased and they have literally no other relatives anywhere in the world. That’s the best case scenario. Do those who shared the story, those who flooded the agency with calls, get how, within their own communities, addiction, and poverty can destroy families, especially when government services are often the first budgets on the chopping block?
Finally, the hardest thing I have been mulling over—these kids are not alone. This situation is not unique, not even close. I ran a basic search for sibling groups of five or more on a popular foster-adopt clearinghouse and came up with NINE. Nine groups of siblings who want to stay together. Nine groups that, as of today, haven’t had a meme or a news article, or a viral message. Eight of the nine groups are comprised of children of color, and I am not naïve enough to think that isn’t a factor. A follow-up article from the Kansas City Star points out that the last time the state publicized a sibling group (who happened to have interracial children) the response was about one-third of what they saw in March. That feels really…uncomfortable. And it should. Sweeping the idea that Americans (on Facebook , at least) feel more pressure to house Caucasian kids than kids of color is something we need to address and deal with.
All in all, any publicity that foster-adopt kids get is great for the over 100,000 kids waiting for homes in the United States. And I am hopeful the Kansas Five get their forever family. But let’s not wait for another cute sibling group to make the rounds before those who were moved by this situation to work for a change.