Thursday, January 21, 2016

5 Inherent Losses in Orphan Care: A Bio Mom's Perspective

The moment a child is taken from their mom for whatever reason, this bio mom begins fighting a battle for the custody of her children; a fight marked with struggles and losses. Our focus is to holistically respond to the children, a priority which I believe to be correct, but I wanted to share these 5 recurring losses that I have witnessed in bio moms over the past few years. We received some kids last week who do not really manifest a strong attachment to their bio mom and were sent to us due to parental negligence, but when I get a call from this bio mom a few days later, I could already identify the stage of loss she is in as she  has been swept into a battle that will cost her much more than this lost time with her children. It is important for me to remember that God's ideal for these children is to remain with their own families, and in the absence of a safe and nurturing family, a substitute should be available where kids can still grow up with a healthy attachment to a mature, committed and loving adult. So, based on those interactions I have with bio moms that call me almost every single day, I have concocted this short list of 5 losses that most bio moms* experience in some degree or form.

1. Loss of Control: In every interaction I have with bio moms whose children are under our protective care, I am holding all the keys. I have the power to simply ignore a phone call when a bio mom is calling me at 10:30 pm for the tenth time that day or to be short and tough with her spouting out information as if she were talking to a call center regarding her cell phone plan. In the early stages of the custody battle, the bio mom slowly starts realizing that she has completely lost control of the situation. She begins to sense her own sense of culpability and responds in one of two ways based on a variety of factors: she either lashes out like a cat thrown into water, or accepts defeat; demoralized and surrendered before the battle has been fought. She has lost her most prized possession in the world (even if she didn't treat them like that) and there is absolutely nothing she can do right now to change that. For the bio mom, things are truly out of control.
2. Loss of Security: We all have a sense of security that stems from the relationships in our lives, primarily with those that we interact with on a daily basis. Throw a child in a situation with people he or she does not know and interact with on a daily basis and they lose their sense of security. Throw a mom's children into an orphanage, and the last thing she is going to feel is secure. The enemy of security in this sense isn't necessarily danger; it is fear. When I speak to bio moms who are wondering when visitor's day is (information I have already given them 3 times in the past 24 hours....) or just wondering if their child is okay, I now recognize that they are losing a sense of security in their own lives. Now, they worry about the wellbeing of their children more than ever before. Again, this loss is often manifested in anger which gets us orphanage people pretty riled up. I often think, "What do you mean "make sure you take care of my kid." If you would have taken care of your kid in the first place, they wouldn't have to be here with me!" Lack of security means zero control over emotions and unbridled anger is bound to make some enemies. I hope that those of us on this side of the equation that work with the kids and interact with those mamas can choose the higher path and respond in love even when we encounter the most angry manifestations of this loss. I spoke with a mom recently who was weeping on the other end of the line, begging me to help her get her kids back. I assured her that it was not my goal to keep her kids and I wanted to empower her to offer her kids the kind of life they deserve. As her voice broke, she just said "thank you". I know that there were a lot more tears after I hung up. Though there are moments of hope, the sense of security in her life is steadily fading away.
3. Loss of blessing: I believe that children are a blessing from God and should be highly esteemed (Psalm 127:3). When a mom loses her kids because she couldn't protect them, she is losing out on one of the most important God-given blessings in her life. Her situation begins to choke the spiritual life out of her as she is not fulfilling her maternal duties and cannot physically comfort, protect, attend to or even speak with the little creatures she once held in her womb. I have spoken with moms who suffer great losses during the time their children are in protective care. They often have a hard time finding work, leaving that abusive boyfriend and thriving in any area of life. Without intentional help from a third party, the loss of blessing in their lives hovers over them like a dense cloud. As a father, one of the most important ways I receive blessing from God is through my kids (both biological and spiritual). Separation of mom and kids changes things in the spiritual realm and both ends are going to feel its affects. A loss of blessing is a slow and painful spiritual atrophy of the heart of a mother.
4. Loss of Worth/Purpose: One of the latter stages of loss is when the mom has accepted the situation with her kids and it begins to settle in that her most important function in this life is on standby for an indefinite amount of time. She begins to express her feelings that without her kids, she doesn't have the same sense of worth before the eyes of her other family members, before her neighbors, and before an entire society. She feels like she has lost her worth before God. When I have visited some birth moms in their homes and listened to their stories, there is often a strong sense of mediocrity that emerges from a lack of purpose and worth in life. A mom without kids like a cloud without rain. A mom is meant to protect and nurture her babies and as her nest is emptied before its due time, the mom slowly loses her sense of purpose and worth in life.
5. Loss of Identity: I believe the most traumatizing loss that a bio mom will experience when her children are taken away is the gradual loss of her own identity. I got a call this evening from a mom who has been separated from her child for six months. She calls me quite often, but she is slowly starting to fade. She was crying this time and just wanted to know that her baby was okay. She saw him recently and knows he is doing great, but she needed the sense of assurance that we were taking care of her baby TODAY. Her very identity as a mother is slowly being eaten away and fears and doubts have made their home in her broken heart. I spoke with another mom recently who has not had custody of her kids for about ten years and her overall sense of identity as a mom has nearly vanished. She desires the best for  her kids but recognizes her own shortcomings in not being the best option for them even as the embark on adulthood. Her identity as that protector and provider is gone. A situation that for years has silenced this mom has effectively stolen her identity and left her alone in her small, solitary world. She is allowed to visit, but even her kids have come to see her as "some family member"and not as the mother that she is.

I share this list, not to justify abuse or neglect of the precious children caught in the crossfire. Those who know me, know that I spend a lot of time and energy fighting for the rights of these kids and for others whose abuse can be prevented. I believe that in the redemptive being of Christ, bio mamas can find the restoration of these losses. I believe that God longs to heal their wounds, rectiy their horrible habits and reestablish their broken families. I also see that, sadly, for some families it is too late, and the best thing for the kids is not to be with their mom. The kids now have the chance to break the generational sting that one day threw them in an institution and, with hollisic help and support, may become the amazing and whole individuals, spouses and parents they were made to be. I know that God can reach these kids and we tell them everyday. I know that God can also reach these moms, but who's telling them? Who on earth wants to show love to a mom who has made such horrible mistakes? Do we really believe that God's grace is strong enough to reach them? If we collectively do, then who is telling them about it? It used to be one of the worst parts of my job for me. My cell phone number is THE number that the courts give to moms. I have been yelled and cursed at, accused of horrible things, woken up at all hours and have been chewed out in various languages and dialects. But I am learning that God's grace is extended to them through me. For some reason, God chooses us as ambassadors; his representatives to impart blessing, to offer guidance and healing, to be that flow of fresh water in a dry and parched wasteland. I want to bank on grace in the lives of these bio mamas and even when everything is going against them, I want to let them know that Jesus' love is the only thing can make them whole and completely restore all that what was lost.

*If anyone is wondering why I exclusively refer to moms and not dads, it is because over the past 7 years, I cannot think of a single example of working with a concerned bio dad.