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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Focus on Fostering: Senseless Deaths

For the last week it has been very hard to be a foster parent in Maine. This is May... National Foster Parent Month... a day to celebrate the work we do, working to give children a safer childhood and better future. And then the news.  First there was news of a 10-week-old baby who had been thrown by his frustrated dad into a chair and was on life support.  By the time baby Ethan died, his twin brother and 3-yr-old half-sister had already been taken into custody by the state. The 23-year old dad's slumped shoulders were on every news channel as he was arraigned and charged with depraved indifference, etc. etc. That was bad enough.

Then the news revealed that the dad had himself been a abused as a young boy and had been in the foster care system through several homes before his final home at 8 where he was adopted at 9 years old. His foster then adoptive parents are heartbroken.  They have lost a grandchild and now also face the immeasurable pain I wrote about for my book [in a meditation I will share in this Sunday's Caring Heart post].

They also grieve for the young boy they adopted and raised, dreaming and planning a much different future for him. Ironically this same man, now in shackles, had been the focus of a news story 14 years ago when his adoption at 9 and grinning face signaled and celebrated a "happy ending" for a child who had struggled in foster care. [ Read Bill Nemitz's recollections and article. ]  It would be easy to despair.

But my point today that is that we must not despair! There is no way to make sense of a senseless death. Sadly, senseless deaths happen all the time.  Sometimes they come at the hands of noteworthy disaster such as a tornado or a hurricane or a tsunami. Sometimes they come randomly, as when a tree branch falls without warning on a playing child. Sometimes they come through careless, impulsive, human behavior, as in drunken driving, or substance mixing, or lashing out. Sometimes they come from that split second loss of control or rational thought  as in many suicides, murders, and child abuse deaths. We can [and should] study them. We can [and must] do our best to prevent them.  But I think we delude ourselves if we think that we can even control all the factors that come into play.

In a way, how arrogant to think we can.  As parents, we would never take all the credit for what our children accomplish or for all of their good traits. But we are quick to feel to blame for their mistakes, big or small. To feel we should have been able to predict or to prevent.  To feel that what we did was not enough. That we should have done more.  That doing more might have made a difference.  Sometimes we are faced with the pain of senseless death.

Image credits and thanks to: mindful,  my photos re the Portland Sunday Telegram and Bill Nemitz's wonderful article  and Edward Murphy's background article.

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