family values

Q: "What are 'family values'?"

A: "When one family is more valuable than another family."
-approximate quote from The Cartoon History of the Universe Volume II by Larry Gonick

I was thinking about the future I dream about today, not the gloomy one where my entire waking life is spent working away in a little cubicle and sneakily playing Nethack for entertainment, but the one where I have a wonderful wife and about five zillion adopted and foster children. I'm the eldest of four kids, and I love my family situation, so passing on what I see as my good luck seems right to me, and my religious beliefs lead me to want to pass it on to existing children who don't have a good home or high odds of getting one rather than using AI and bringing new beings into the world. (The process of finding a sperm donor seems uncomfortably reminiscent of eugenics programs to me, but YMMV and I don't presume to apply this belief to anyone's life but my own. Anyway, that's not what I came to tell you about.)

Adoption is a complicated issue. International adoption agencies may be engaging in human trafficking, buying babies from their biological parents and adopting them out for profit. Nor are in-country adoptions guaranteed ethical; the demand for healthy white and Asian babies leads young single mothers to be pressured to give their infants up. Meanwhile, the foster care system is overflowing with older children, black and Latin children disproportionately represented, as are disabled ones, because these aren't the children anyone wants. Where the need is greatest, the people willing to help are fewest.

I want to help those kids. I know it's hard and sometimes very painfully difficult to deal with the problems children who've been taken from their families can have -- I remember two little kids a family friend fostered for a while, who called everyone "mommy" in the hope that someday they would be right and "daddy" when they were angry and who had been locked in a little room most of their short lives and it hurts my heart -- but the thing is, it's not the kids' fault and they shouldn't have to deal with a lack of support on top of it all. And I owe a debt to my parents for the wonderful childhood they gave me, which I can best pay off by spreading it around. The long and short of it is, I fully intend to be a foster parent and hopefully an adoptive one for the kids whose odds of having someone else take them in are low. It's what I want and what I feel called to do in the future.

I want to be the kind of parent every child deserves, the kind who tries their best and learns from their mistakes and never stops loving their kids and showing it. The kind of parent who takes time, no matter what else is going on, to comfort the child who's fallen down and scraped her knee or try to help explain some mathematical concept to the one struggling with his homework. I want to raise my kids to be honest and strong and proud of who they are, dedicated to doing right by others and making the world a better place, hardworking and successful. I want my kids to be able to go to whatever schools they want and work whatever jobs they want, and however hard I have to work to make that happen I'll do my best to do it. I don't care if I never get thanked or if I don't magically produce perfect citizens by sheer power of desire; I just hope I do the best possible job and leave the rest up to my kids and the world. I'll be a good mom, if not a great one.

So I get really twitchy when I hear "family values" politicians talking about banning same-sex couples from marrying or adopting or fostering to protect "families" and "children" from the horrible gays. Because, apparently, it's better to live in a group home than have two moms, or one mom who dates women. Never mind the data showing that children with gay parents aren't negatively impacted by it in any way (nor are they more likely to be queer than children of straight parents.) Never mind that kids who simply "age out" of the foster care system are likely to face severe challenges as adults that strong support from just a few loving adults could radically reduce. Nope. I still shouldn't be allowed to have the family I pray for.

Why don't "family values" politicians spend more time encouraging people to adopt or foster children in need, and less time encouraging young women to put their unwanted or unaffordable offspring into the system while trying to keep prospective parents from taking kids out of it? It's not just gay couples who get restricted, either; single gay people are kept from adopting in Florida and all unmarried couples or individual members of said couples are banned from adopting in Arkansas. This is to "protect the children," as though said children have a huge supply of qualified adoptive parents in heterosexual marriages who want them and gay and unmarried straight people are competing for them. Except they don't, and I don't see a lot of "family values" politicians or religious leaders helping to ameliorate the situation in word or deed. It smacks of hypocrisy, which I don't think Jesus would've approved of:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
-Matthew 23:13

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