Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Ethan's Mamas Are His Mamas

I live in a state where some things are done right (no offshore drilling, though now we have our neighbor's oil) and some things are done very questionably. According to the Florida Department of Children and Families own statistics, in November of 2009, 19,229 children were in foster care in the State of Florida. Some will return to their families but sadly, many children will not. The lucky ones will find a new home, in some cases within their own biological family. 

Currently, when you log into the Florida Adoption Exchange, you see this:

According to the statistics in that display, at a minimum we can say that 648 single children, and at least 70 additional children who only wish to be adopted as part of a sibling group, are available for adoption. As a Guardian ad Litem in the State of Florida, I can assure you that many, many of these children are teens and they have been in foster care, in many cases, for their entire lives. I just have had two young women "age out of the foster care system" and both had been in the care of the State of Florida since birth. One did not even have a first name on her birth certificate until two years before she turned 18.

When I open my Miami Herald every once in a while, I see something like this:

(Image Credit: Barbara Fernandez for the Miami Herald)

Above you see Ethan. He's my focus here. The lovely ladies in the photo are Melanie and Vanessa and while I can say loads of good about them, this post is really about Ethan. Ethan was taken into supervised care at birth, in January 2009. In a short burst of events he was born and at only 9 days old was placed with Vanessa, a relative. Ethan has thrived in Vanessa's care. Not surprisingly, since Vanessa and Melanie love Ethan, they wanted to adopt him. But Vanessa describes filling out the overwhelming (and, unless you've adopted a child, you really and truly cannot relate) number of forms to adopt him and coming to her watershed moment.

From the Miami Herald:

"...the application included a simple question.
Are you gay?
Vanessa, 34, said she did not want to begin her journey as a parent with a lie. So she told the truth -- despite Florida's 33-year-old law banning gay men and lesbians from adopting."

Vanessa and Melanie are the only mothers, the only parents, that Ethan has ever known. The State of Florida saw fit to place the child in their care, after being concerned enough to remove him from his biological mother's care. They were good enough to wipe his bottom, soothe his tears, cool his fevers, help him take his first steps and babble his first words. But in my state, they were not good enough to be his forever parents. Until January 2010, that is. On January 14, 2010 a Final Judgement of Adoption was signed by Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia permitting Vanessa to adopt Ethan after an evidentiary hearing about Vanessa's fitness to adopt concluded that the only bar to her adopting the child was that she loved and had sex with another woman. Judge Sampedro-Iglesia found that Florida's ban on adoption of children by homosexuals was unconstitutional. The State of Florida is currently appealing Judge Sampedro's ruling.

I could say a lot of things about the logic of finding that someone is fit enough to be paid to care for a child but not fit enough to be paid far less and to care for a child for the rest of his life as a minor and commit permanently to assisting that child to ford the difficult passage through life that awaits children and young adults today. I could, for instance, mention the recently published article in Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Pediatric Society which studied, in a longitudinal fashion, the 17 year old children of lesbian parents and concluded: "The... adolescents (studied)  are well-adjusted, demonstrating more competencies and fewer behavioral problems than their peers in the normative American population." I could point out that our own Governor, Charlie Crist, now says that he does not oppose gay adoption. I could argue about it being unconstitutional to make a law that gives greater power to child welfare department of the state in deciding a child's welfare than that of its Courts, or to prevent the pursuit of happiness or to invade someone's privacy by asking what gender their lover is. I could talk about the evidence that sexual orientation is hardwired into our brains and that all evidence points to it being genetics rather than choice that makes a person homosexual and that if that's true, you might as well say blue-eyed people can't adopt either. 

But that's not the point to me. The point is Ethan. Ethan has thrived in their care. They are all he knows. They love him and I deeply believe that every child deserves to be loved and have permanency. There are more than 648 children, possibly as many as 3000, in my state waiting for a loving adoptive parent.

Ethan found his parents.

Does our state really have the right to tell this child they aren't his mamas are just because he has two of them?