Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's really about the children, really it is.

They say it’s for the children. Is it? Is it really the children they love, or the adults they hate?

The New York Times tells the story of what happened in West Virginia when a newborn girl, TiCasey had to be put into foster care. She was born to an addict, her father was a mystery and the child was born addicted to various drugs. The State decided to put her into the home of one of the best sets of foster parents they had: Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess.

Since becoming a couple, and becoming foster parents, the two women had care for 18 children in total. When TiCasey joined their home they were caring for five other children who had no one else. The infant had to be held constantly as the withdrawal caused her to cry endless. But after three weeks of constant care, from the two women, and her new brothers and sisters, TiCasey was finally coming through.

The infant’s court-appointed attorney showed up one day. He was cold and unpleasant. He refused to hold the infant whose interests he was alleged to be looking out for. He wouldn’t take off his coat and left minutes after arriving. He went to court and filed a motion to have the infant taken from he deemed a “homosexual home” because, he claimed, “children reared by homosexuals were more likely to be sexually or otherwise abused and to become homosexual themselves.” (The evidence does not support any of those myths.) Fast had actually asked the courts to ban “placing foster children in homosexual homes” entirely. He wasn’t worried about TiCasey in particular, he was on a crusade.

Kutil and Hess had already planned to adopt the infant and give her a permanent home. After the two meet and formed a relationship they decided they wanted to help children. In West Viriginia there are 4,200 in state care and one-third of them are in institutions or group homes. A few years ago Kutil had worked for the foster care system, so she knew how daunting was the job they were undertaking. Three years ago they expanded their home to five bedrooms and welcomed their first child, who proved to be violent to their pets and who need more than they were able to provide. She had to be moved.

But over the next few years they handled numerous requests to provide short-term, and sometimes long-term, care to children. It was hard for the women as the children in short-term care had to leave, some doing so in tears and begging the women to let them stay. But the choices were not theirs to make. Last year Kutil adopted the first child who had been living with them. A brother and sister were placed in the home as well and Kutil became their legal guardian. The 14-year-old boy didn’t want actual adoption, feeling it was a betrayal of his birth mother. Kutil listened to his concerns and took formal guardianship instead.

TiCasey’s mother lost all parental rights to the infant because of her continued addiction. And under state regulations it was now appropriate for the couple to seek adoption. At about this time another situation arose. The State begged the women to take in another child, a young girl found wandering around by herself. But according to state regulations the pair had the maximum number of children allowed and the couple pointed that out. They were told that a special exemption would be obtained and told how much this child needed care, so they accepted her.

Just days later they were called into a hearing about the plan to care for TiCasey permanently. The attorney, Thomas Fast, told the court that they must make a decision to remove children from gay families. He told the judge: “Let’s duke it out here, Your Honor, this whole issue of the homosexuality.”

The Department of Health and Human Resources had been supporting the couple. They said they were among the best foster parents in the system. They had found a child psychiatrist who would happily testify on behalf of the couple. And then politics came into play and the Department decided it best not to be seen supporting a gay couple. They dismissed the psychiatrist from testimony and switched sides, suddenly supporting the motion to take the infant from the only home, and love, she had known. The excuse given was that the family was over the state limit for child care, because of the sixth child which the Department had begged the couple to take.

The couple was shocked. The newest child had been with them less than a month, but the State wanted to strip them of a child who knew no other home, a child who had bonded with these woman shortly after arrival. The Judge in the case argued that an infant won’t remember so it was fine to remove the baby from care. And he ordered the infant taken from the women and placed in a “more appropriate” home. And that is what happened. Hess found the separation difficult:
“TiCasey has always been with me. She was with me all day long while the kids were at school. You wake up one day, and all her toys, clothes, crib are still there, but no baby. It’s just you. I couldn’t get out of my head how she must be wondering, Why had we left her? Where were the other kids?”
After just five days the other foster family decided it was too much work caring for an infant and didn’t want her. So the State moved the infant again. It was that day that the Supreme Court of West Virginia granted an emergency stay allowing TiCasey to return to her home with Kutil and Hess.

The couple had to appear in court. It was hardest on Kutil who started crying, telling the court: “We just wanted a child or children and a family. And here we sit today in front of judge and jury. For what? What have we done? We took this baby in that stayed up for three weeks, all night long, and we did without sleep. We’ve done nothing wrong but love this baby and love her with everything we had.”

The state Supreme Court agreed and unanimously overturned the previous ruling which stripped the couple of the infant they had loved. The court said adoption proceedings could begin immediately and that the couple “had to be considered if not favored in the selection of the prospective adoptive home.” The couple has begun the adoption process but they have also stopped taking in other children. They are fearful. Hess explained: “You sit and wait for somebody else to decide if you get to keep her. You’re at the mercy of other people deciding your life.” For now they just want to concentrate on giving TiCasey a permanent home.

So far, the story is holding well for the couple. But the powerful Christian-Right has allied themselves to strip TiCasey of her home, for the sake of the children, of course. The Christian Alliance Defense Fund had filed briefs against the couple as had the Family Policy Council, another religious front group. And the Christian Broadcasting Network warned viewers that: “An adverse decision in this case could also undermine the state’s Defense of Marriage Act…” which protects marriage from people who want to get married.

The Alliance Defense Fund amazingly argues that in giving TiCasey a home with Kutil and Hess, that the State “knowingly deprives a child of a mom and a dad.” Of course, TiCasey had a mom, who was a drug addict. She had a dad but no one knows who it is. She had nothing. But in the name of their religiously-inspired disdain for gay people they prefer to keep TiCasey in the foster care system instead of letting her stay with the couple who cared for her through the toughest few weeks of the child’s life.

Alliance Defence Fund claims to be “a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.” Really? What bullshit! Their faith ends where the nose of other people begins. Apparently “freely live out their faith” means using State power to wreck the lives of other people in the name of God. Apparently living out their faith requires them to strip an infant of the only home she knew and place her back into the state care system because their God tells them to hate homosexuals. What total assholes.

You can read the full ruling here. Also watch for God’s Own Party (GOP) to make efforts to change state law in West Virginia to strip children from same-sex homes and place them back into a system that can’t find homes for a large percentage of the children under its care. Apparently the Christian conservative thing to do is force children into group homes instead of allowing loving same-sex couples to adopt them. But it’s all for the children, really it is. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale, cheap.

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