The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Baby, Part V

In a comment to my previous baby post, Joe writes about his experience some 30 years ago when an infant was abandoned by its mother in his home. He and his wife cared for the baby for two months before he arranged for a childless couple to adopt the baby. Although things worked out for the best, Joe says that he still feels a little sadness that they couldn't keep the baby.

In a second comment he writes:

...I've been curious about a question that we never had to address. The baby's mother was not Jewish, nor was her father. What would my obligation have been had we kept her. Even though her mother was just astonishingly negligent, would it have been right to have denied her and a father, who was totally absent, from having any say in the religious upbringing of their baby? I should point out that the adoptive parents were not Jewish either. I just don't know what halaka is in this situation.
Joe's comments raise two issues. The first, which a number of people have asked me, is why don't we let a childless couple take care of the Baby. We have already been blessed with four children and we're (relatively) old; wouldn't it be better for a younger couple who can't have children to adopt her?

(The second issue, one of religion, is also important and I will address it in a second post.)

The answer to the first question is actually quite simple. The Baby is not up for adoption. The Baby is in foster care. The initial goal of foster care is to rehabilitate the parents and reunite the child with the parents. Only when it is apparent that the intial goal is not possible does the state move to terminate parental rights and put the child up for adoption. This process can take years and depends on the many factors including the parents' situation (whether it's drugs, mental illness, or simply lack of parenting skills, etc.), who the judge is, and whether the parents put up a fight. The last thing that adoptive parents are looking for is this kind of uncertainty. And, assuming, for arguments sake, that a court would terminate the Baby's parents' rights three years from now and she'd been staying with us all that time, how unfair to the Baby (to say nothing of us) would it be to send her to complete strangers for adoption after all that time?

The foster care system is generally a very sad place. There are no simple answers or clean solutions. As wonderful a candidate the Baby would be for a normal adoption (healthy, cute and biologically Jewish), it simply isn't in the cards.



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