Thursday, August 27, 2009


I think I may have mentioned my short attention span in a previous post. (Perhaps it's more of a tendency to be distracted at the drop of a hat--or at the threat of the drop of a hat--than a short attention span, as I can concentrate for hours on games of Alchemy or Bejeweled. On that note, I will say that today is my 11th day in a row without playing solitaire.)

Earlier today I was looking at media coverage of Senator Kennedy's life. So of course I ended up clicking on links to all sorts of very significant stories: Dog rescues owner from runaway hot-air balloon, and the like. (Yes, I made that up.)

But this one is real. Did a Mother Lose Her Child Because She Doesn't Speak English?

Basically, the story is this. (With apologies for any mis-remembered details. I read the article about eight hours ago, it's almost midnight, and I don't feel like re-reading. I'm lazy.) Mom leaves her small town in Mexico where she is a member of an indigenous tribe; Spanish is her second language, her tribe's language is the only one she speaks fluently. She makes it to the US without the appropriate paperwork. She finds a place to live and a way to make money. And then she has a baby. She doesn't speak any English, her Spanish is poor, and there are more students in some state universities than there are people worldwide who speak her native language. So she can't communicate with the folks at the hospital. Add to that the fact that she hadn't bought formula (because of course every new mom plans to feed her baby formula and stocks up on it before the baby is born; it's not like it's expensive or anything like that) or other trappings of an American babyhood, and someone makes the decision that she won't be able to take care of the baby.

Wow. Where to start. With the glaring lack of cultural sensitivity? With the tenuous-at-best foundation for the removal? With the apparent indifference to the child's well-being?

How about this. Mom faces deportation. But her child is in a foster home, and the article implies that the department of human services intends to retain custody. But if Mom is deported, she returns to her town where she speaks the language. And even if not speaking the dominant language were an acceptable justification for removal (just typing that makes me cringe), shouldn't the child be returned to her mother when that reason goes away?

All I know about this case is what was reported in the article I linked to, and I'm sure that there are facts that were left out that would make the real story more balanced and less sensational. But then I wouldn't have read it. Nevertheless, even if there were some reasonable justification for removal, even if the department intends to let the baby return to Mexico with her mother, still this article provokes thought about culture, our values, our assumptions, and what is really best for children.

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