What Does a Child Deserve?

Do children deserve to suffer extreme poverty?

This is a continuation of thoughts based on a YouTube Comment, the first part: You don’t deserve to be a Mother.

This is the part of the comment that is in the spotlight now:

Growing up in extreme poverty is not what a child deserves

I think that first we have a need to define “extreme poverty”. I immediately get a mental picture of the Save the Children” commercials: toddlers with distended stomachs, the rickety legs, flies buzz about all too still infants, naked school age children among garbage. To me, that is extreme.

The poverty line in this country.. it’s a number. Ahref=”http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/povdef.html”>mathamatical formula determined by the governmentand social services, helped along by the budget and available money. Like I know, in my county of NY, if you are family and you make over $860 odd something a month, then they do not find you in need of assistance and that is for a family of five.

That Fine Poverty Line

According to this Poverty threshold chart, and my 2007 income tax, my family of five lives BELOW the poverty level. You wouldn’t know by looking at us, though. I always blame that on my middle class, blue collar upbringing that I closely maintain, so all basics are covered and I am a thrifty momma. So you can’t really go by the numbers.
But, No, a child does not deserve to grow up in extreme poverty.

Actually no one deserves to live in extreme poverty at all unless you believe some harsh view that anyone different than you deserve bad fortune or something. Do the North Koreans deserve to live under the threat of execution and concentration camps? Did Guatemala deserve to be trashed under civil war and religious oppression? Does the whole freaking continent of Africa deserve to be ripped apart by AIDS and famines and power hungry mercenaries? Of course not.

Now, one could argue that these comparisons are with adults and whole groups of people, and the child is innocent when born. Of course, many a child fits under the “whole groups of people” heading, plus, I am sure many, many , many an adult in these situations is also completely innocent of bringing these plagues of strife upon themselves..they just happened to have the misfortune of being born there… as babies… and growing up there… as children…hmmmm.

Now, while this YouTube commenter might have an idealistic approach to what a child deserves, the wise folks over at the United Nations came up with their own huge list. They call this nice, officially termed and broken down into articles, document The Convention on the Rights of a Child

What the United Nations Think a Child Deserves

From article 24 down to around article 40, there is a fairly detailed list of what the UN thinks a child deserve. The basics, that any logical caring person would assume to be there, are there. The right to education, to medical treatment, to pre natal care for the mothers of the child, the right to be unharmed and exploited in any sexual, trafficking or labor fashion, the right to food and nutrition, to play and be social, to special care if disabled, etc.

Now, they pretty much come right and say that children do have the right to not live in extreme poverty, but not in those words. What they do is make the state the secondary responsible party if the parents cannot find the means:

States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

So wow, if the “states” aka government, did what they were supposed to, then there shouldn’t be ANY poverty for kids. Nice concept. It doesn’t work in this country, well, because the USA and Somalia are, to date, the only countries that have yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of a Child. Pretty sad.

Now, the other thing that the folks at the UN believe that a child has a right to.. know their parents. And not adoptive parents, but you know… the people with whom they share DNA with and birth them.

We begin on Article 7,#1:

The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

Article 8 continues on the vein:

States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.

And then there is more in Article 9 as well:

States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child’s place of residence.

In the “Best Interest” of the Child

Now we do have that nice little “best interest” clause in there, which does seem to get terrible co-opted by many a do-gooder. There are folks, powerful running the government type folks who think that if you aren’t married then you child is being harmed. To them, it doesn’t matter if you gave birth or “saved” the child from the proverbial baby dumpster, as long as it is a MAN and a WOMAN married who are doing the raising. As if the penis+vigina+ring equation= happy child all the time. I doubt that kids really get too too much out of the whole wedding ring thing.

Yes, a child needs stability. They need to know that they are loved and cared for. They need to have food and a warm home (but hey, let’s be eco conscious as well…it won’t hurt them to wear a sweater and be a bit chilly! they need to learn and grow and run about and play. And honestly, if you are doing these things for yourself, it’s not that hard to do them for your child too.

But somewhere along the way, we got the notion in our head that if a kid does not have ballet classes, and a motorized big wheel, if they don’t do reading assistance, and go to baseball camp with the pros, if you can’t manage Disney once a year, provide them with a cell phone, a new car and Hannah Montana tickets, then you are a crappy parent and your poor kid deserves better.

This very memorable Time Magazine article made me feel like a really good mom when it came out. Basically, it said that all these really spoiled privilege kids who only think about themselves… they turn into really rotton lazy adults who cannot make it later in life.

Suddenly, telling my son that “No, I can’t afford that this week” was not my default, but a real lesson in life and budgeting. Making him get a job to pay for his own recreational fun and lunches, was making him be self reliant. And I wonder, don’t kids deserve to learn to think for themselves, to try to achieve, to do for themselves, to actually work for something good rather than be supplied with instant gratification? I know for sure that after his dad buying the first IPod (stolen), and then I supplied the second (lost within 2 months), the the third IPod, bought with his own money earned from working in a coffee shop… well, that one still lives a year later. Coincidence or values of appreciation?

I think that there is real value to real life preparation. And I don’t know if hugely privilege kids are getting those self sufficient life lessons. It kind of contradicts that good old American value that we do have to work hard to deserve good things? And plus, look at our own history…don’t we hold Abe Lincon to a high regard for walking to borrow books? Don’t we all have ancestors that scrimped and saved their whole lives, working to the bone, for the American dream? Was it wrong for children to share rooms…or beds even? And if so, how come Ma Ingalls didn’t get the bad parent guilt?

It’s just awful weird when we expect all these adults to know how to work hard to be deserving, but we are not teaching these skills to our kids.

Is Extreme Poverty a Reason to Surrender?

And then, shall we look at the threat of “extreme poverty’ for children relinquished to domestic adoption?

Yes, often adoption is pressured when a unplanned pregnancy reaches crisis type mode and the mom does not have the resources lined up to either her own mental listings, or often, based on what society has pushed on her, or an agency has, or a family member, etc. The great majority of the time, a relinquishing mother surrenders to be able to complete what she feels necessary in life…as part of having it all.. so school, a better job, a better relationship, and a better place to live… they are all on her own personal agencda. Basically, she’s not loser and has no plans to be a loser for her whole life. She does however, become to believe that parenting a child at this point in her life will condemn her to the loser status forever.

While there really isn’t a typical “birth” mother, historically they are middle class, with higher education, and already parenting a child. It kinds of throws the threat of extreme poverty out the window.

If our original commenter, or any other of the legions who hold these typical uneducated stereotypes to heart, would bother listening to the voices of adopted persons, then they would see that often, while not all the time, what is lost by an adoptee in terms of trust, identity, ancestry, self awareness, confidence, etc. is considered a greater loss then the material possessions assumed “required” for positive financially affluent parenting.

What it comes down to, and what I have been saying for all too long, the relinquishment and adoptions of many of the children from our countries domestic adoption machine, is not saving our children from anything; not from extreme poverty, not from abuse, not from a miserable life….all it does is separate them from their mothers and fathers and sister and brothers and grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles, often forever.

And that’s not often a good thing, nor is it what child really deserves.

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

2 Comments on "What Does a Child Deserve?"

  1. Agreed.

    It could also be argued that adoption actually puts a child into a state of poverty – even if emotional poverty.

    If poverty is defined as “Any deficiency of elements or resources that are needed or desired, or that constitute richness” one could easily suggest that losing your mother, your name, your heritage, your family puts you into a state of poverty.

  2. Anonymous | May 7, 2008 at 1:17 am |

    the truly unselfish thing to do would be to help the mom in need instead of encouraging her to do the “unselfish” thing.
    Really do people know what they sound like when they say “their” birthmother was selfless. Well, or you selfish because you decided to take instead of help

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