Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thinking out loud about Marian Wright Edelman

I had the opportunity today to hear Marian Wright Edelman speak at a child welfare event. (Actually, I sat next to her--really!--but sadly didn't have a chance to speak to her.) One of the data that she brought was that there are 534,000-some faith communities in the US (note that I could have transposed numbers in my head over the last 8 hours); she said that if just 10% of those communities recruited one to three adoptive families for kids in care, there would be no more crisis of children being left to languish in the system.

Now, I don't agree that simply recruiting more families will solve the problem, but of course this got me thinking about synagogues-as-faith-communities. Based on purely anecdotal evidence, Jews who adopt tend to choose to adopt infants from Russia or Guatemala. Including my nephew, who I love. I don't know of any Jews who have fostered (except for Foster Abba and Foster Eema). Does this mean that I should try to start a trend of peers becoming foster/foster-to-adopt parents? Or should I figure that churches can comprise 10% of faith communities without needing to add in any synagogues?

Again based on no data whatsoever:
  1. there are very few Jewish kids in care, and
  2. where the vast majority of Jewish adults live, most kids in care are minorities (read: cities. Okay, major urban areas. On the coasts. This might not hold in cities in, say, Nebraska).
I suspect that without a need within the community, we're not likely to suddenly choose, in large numbers, to do tikkun olam through fostering rather than, say, volunteering at soup kitchens. And I certainly don't hope for a need within the community.

And then there are the issues that I have addressed and plan to address in this blog. Even for non-observant Jews, there are holiday and cultural differences. Add those to the concerns about trans-racial fostering/adopting...well, is that good for kids when more effort could be given to recruiting families from the kids' communities of origin?

As a side note, at the same event today, I went to a session that was supposed to be about helping youth maintain ties to their cultural heritage. After the presenters spent about a half hour of pitching their own adoption program, I asked if they could address the cultural identity portion of their program. They spoke for about five minutes about research done on trans-racial adoption (75% of kids adopted trans-racially pre-adolescence didn't suffer adverse consequences--not the most uplifting of statistics, as that means that one in four DO suffer adverse consequences, and that's only for kids who are adopted at a relatively young age) and said that it helps to join multi-cultural groups. And that was it. What a waste of my time.

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