Headline news this week: A mom walked into a Houston Fire Station, and announced that she was using the Safe Haven Law to leave her three year old and fourteen month old children. She told the firefighters that she could no longer take care of them.
The details are sketchy, but apparently the father of at least one child had informed her that he would no longer be involved in their care. Two days later, Children and Youth Services and the police are “trying to locate family members who might want to take the children.”
This mom is potentially going to be charged with child abandonment, and the internet comments about her status as a human being are not very kind.
I don’t know her, and never will, but, I can make some assumptions. I can assume that she is young. I can assume that she is poor. I can assume that she lives in a big city, because the incident happened in Houston. I can assume that she is exhausted, and overwhelmed, and feels like life has given her a dirty deal. I can assume that she is depressed, and not being treated. There is an excellent chance that she grew up in poverty, and potentially the foster care system. How do I know that? Because, after two days, the authorities cannot locate her family members.
While the courts of public opinion are vilifying her, I feel overwhelming compassion. It’s possible that she is the worst person on the planet (although I doubt that, given serial killers, rapists, abusive spouses and politicians), but chances are good that she is a lost little soul in terrible pain who just gave up.
She did the right thing. When she got desperate, and felt that she couldn’t cope anymore, she took them to a safe place where she knew they would be cared for. Like way too many other parents, she could have drowned them in the bathtub, or smothered them with a pillow while they slept. She tried to provide them with safety.
Unfortunately, she was apparently not aware that in her state, the Safe Haven Law only allows for dropping off an infant up to two months old. Apparently, some old geezer in Congress has randomly decided that a mom should be able to figure out within 60 days whether or not she can cope with child rearing. Most of us ask ourselves for eighteen years whether we are doing it right and if we can continue to do it for another day.
So many of the internet trolls comments are similar to this: “She shouldn’t have had children if she couldn’t take care of them. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could figure that out BEFORE they had children?” Well yeah. It would also be nice if you had a crystal ball and knew that your job at the factory was going to be taken away from you fifteen years out. It would have been nice to know that the person you married was a lying piece of crap who was going to drink away every penny you ever earned BEFORE you married them. The last I checked, most of us don’t have ESP, and most of us have things we would have done differently, if we had only known….
What is this world coming to, people are asking?? Seriously, you can just get tired of raising your kids and drop them off somewhere? Well, readers, I have news for you. This isn’t “new.” In the Great Depression, 1.5 million men walked away from their wives and families. 50% of children did not have enough to eat. Three million children left school. 200,000 children “rode the rails” with their families when they became homeless, while another 200,000 documented children were abandoned. There is no official documentation of how many people handed children off to relatives or family friends who were better able to feed and care for the kids, but it is estimated to be over half a million. My point – back in the day, it was just understood that if you could no longer feed your children, you gave them to someone who could. It wasn’t a crime, there was no CYS involved, and it certainly wasn’t presented in the media. This desire that some parents have to “give their children a better life” is not new. It’s just that today it is a crime.
Here’s my question though: Where is daddy? Or daddies? (It’s not clear if both children have the same father.) Where is his name in this media frenzy? Where are the threats that he is going to be charged with child abandonment? How about we take a look at when the last time was that he changed a diaper, or gave those kids a bath? How about the investigation looks at when the last time was that this mom got a child support check. Did she ever?
We, as a society, have allowed this to happen. We, as a society, have made it perfectly permissible for people to produce children, and then walk away from them with no responsibility. There are many, many parents who pay their child support every single time, on time, religiously. I am one of them. But, there are also tens of thousands of parents who don’t. One mom wants to hand her kids off to someone else. She is a vile, uncaring, selfish human being. Hundreds of thousands of men over the years (and 1.5 million during the Great Depression) go, “Oh, you’re pregnant? Well, no, I’m not gonna a part of that.” Ten years later while mom is raising her ten year old on her own, she’s had to have a court ordered paternity test, pay for a lawyer, go through court, and still, on the fifteenth of the month, no check.
Women are expected to be less violent. Women are expected to be kind and compassionate. Women are expected to pick up the pieces and handle it when things go awry. Women are expected to show unconditional love and devotion to offspring. When they fail, it is news.
Can we get real? That woman who dropped off her kids was dealing with two toddlers. I don’t care who you are, a three year old and a 14 month are a handful, all day, every day. Just getting groceries for her must have been a huge, life-sucking ordeal. She’s poor, she’s living (most likely) in public housing, and there is probably no car (she walked them to the fire station). Every time she needed groceries, she most likely had to walk them to the corner store – not Walmart like you and I do. She had one kid in a stroller, and one kid by the hand, while she bought what she could carry or hang on the stroller – at outrageous prices, probably lacking nutritional value.
Just thinking about her life exhausts me. If they can’t find her relatives in two days, she didn’t have relatives helping her. Who was helping her? I’m afraid that nobody was helping her.
We should not be outraged that a mom wants to hand off her toddlers for someone else to raise. We should be outraged that the daddies of these kids are seemingly invisible, that these kids are living in poverty, that the mom has become despondent, and that there is no help for her.