May 2009


There are certain trends that never change. Neither time nor country nor culture makes them go away. Our need to belong and to find others who are similar to us is as universal as the need of children to be taken care of. Human beings come into the world helpless – almost blind, unable to digest anything but milk, and with extremely limited motor abilities. Evolution has dictated that a child needs almost constant care for at least the first year of their life. Even after that time limit, a child still needs various types of care for at least another decade.

But for a human child, it is not simply enough for a caregiver to provide food and protection. Children also need to be taught language and morals. They need someone who will comfort them when they are hurt or afraid. Aside from pure physical needs, children also have emotional needs. The attachment bonds that children make define the rest of their lives. At the end of the day, does it really matter who provides the care and love that the child needs?

In the United States, foster homes and adoption have changed throughout the decades. There have been orphan children as long as the country has existed. In the early to mid 20th century, adoption was usually used place children born to unwed mothers. Foster homes – where children without parents who were able to provide for them ended up – were designed in a way that promoted the return of foster children to their biological parents. A foster family would specialize in a specific age group, and the child would move from home to home, never bonding or connecting to a single adult. Without strong and safe bonds in childhood, the children would often leave the foster program without a prospective future.

While the foster program has changed today, foster children still end up shuttled from home to home. On average, a child in foster care can expect to live in five different homes before aging out of the system at 18. And that child has a 50% chance of ending up homeless at that point. The other option for that child is adoption.

Adoption allows the child to be taken in by a family who have been previously screened and tested and filled out form after form after form. For a variety of reasons, they want to have a child in their lives and are willing to give time, money, and love to raise the child. The child will have someone teaching them morals, ethics, and social norms. They will grow up with stronger bonds and will have someone to help them face the world when they are adults. In general, adoption is a good option. So why does it take so long for a family to adopt a child?

Most adoption agencies in the United States – both public and private – prefer to have a mother and a father present in the family the child is being adopted in to. They believe that a child needs to have both of those influences in his or her life to be successful and well adjusted in society. However, more and more single parents and same-sex couples are also looking to adopt. The laws for adoption vary from state to state and country to country. The laws have a tendency to reflect the local politics more than look after the well-being of the children.

While legally, single parents have always been able to adopt, practically the preference usually goes to married couples. And when a single parent is able to adopt, women have a much higher success rate than men. The case that is made against single parents has multiple parts. First of all, there are those who still say that a child needs two parents in the home. A mother is needed for nurture and a father to be a moral compass. Often, people are quick to point at a missing father as the cause of a child’s failings. However, with the current divorce rate and decrease in social stigma attached to single parenthood, about half of American children have lived with only one parent – biological or not – at some point before their eighteenth birthday. A single parent can provide for a child as well as two can. Having one person who loves and cares for you is better than having no one. But legislation is always slow to change.

One thing that always makes laws change faster, however, is a large, well-known case. Currently, “Pop Queen” Madonna is making world-wide news as she attempts to adopt an African girl, Mercy. Her adoption is having problems for a variety of reasons – she’s 50, it’s an international adoption, there is uncertainty whether the girl is really an orphan, she has been divorced, she has not lived in the country long enough. Some of the reasons are fairly logical ones. For instance, her celebrity status has allowed her to skip certain steps and time limits in her previous adoption.

However, the fact that she is a single, divorced woman does not make sense. She is most certainly capable of providing for another child – her income is certainly more than large enough to provide a comfortable life for quite a few children. And with the United States divorce rates as they are right now (highest in the world at nearly fifty percent), few people don’t have a history of divorces. As long as she is able and willing to provide the child a stable and comfortable life – and follows the actual necessary procedures instead of letting her lawyers and her fame circumvent the rules – there shouldn’t be any reason to not allow her to adopt.

Another major debate platform hitting adoption forums right now is adoption by same-sex couples. During the last election, Arkansas passed a law forbidding any non-married couple from adopting or fostering children. While the law also covered heterosexual couples, it was mostly aimed at homosexual couples for whom marriage in Arkansas is not even an option. Opponents of adoption by same-sex couples claim that the raised levels of depression and other issues would cause same-sex couples to be less effective parents. Opponents also argue that homosexual parents will raise homosexual children. However, research has shown that children – both biological and not – raised by same-sex couples are only 4% more likely to be homosexual themselves. In addition, children from homosexual households are more open-minded and tolerant.

If a child is loved, taken care of, and grows up in a warm, nurturing environment, does it really matter who provides the care? A mother or father – or any combination of thereof – are capable of providing such a home regardless of their gender. There is nearly half a million children in foster homes and about half of them are available for adoption. There are also countless couples and individuals looking to adopt through legal channels that sometimes take over three years. Foster care does not offer children an opportunity to have a stable childhood. So then why not allow those who can and are willing to raise children the opportunity to do so, no matter their background?

In case it’s not evident yet, I’m somewhat against abstinence only education. Which is why the news that President Obama has eliminated abstinence only funding from the 2010 budget brings me joy. Now, let’s see if that money gets added to Planned Parenthood and other such organizations.

This is just adorable. Something that helps the environment, and helps couples bond. Doing things together is an excellent way to strengthen a marriage. And having trees that can symbolize the union and its growth is just precious.

I’m not sure about the “50 trees if you get divorced” part, though. Do you have to pay for trees yourself? If yes, then it will punish poorer couples who are trying to divorce. But still, points for a very creative way to help the environment.

As I’ve mentioned before, I learned a lot during my summer as an assistant to a wedding planner. Among the things I learned is the fact that most women cannot pull off the sleeveless look. There is a very specific ratio of shoulder to arm to chest to rest of body that is necessary to not look well, kind of creepy really. Few women can actually do this.

Michelle Obama? Is one of these women. However, the media has decided that apparently, her arms are the only thing worth talking about her. As this kind of awesome video highlights, there are plenty of other things about her that can be commented on. But she has awesome arms, so who cares about her Ivy League education or professional history. It’s far more important that the First Lady appear Lady-like than actually act as a First Lady.

Of course, after the invention and popularization of television, the president also has to look presidential. That’s part of the reason Kennedy “won” the debates back in 1960, after all. Those who only heard the Kennedy v. Nixon speech had thought that Nixon won. However, those who had watched it – a far larger population – thought that Kennedy, the better looking candidate, had won.

Adding to the list of things that amuse me for no apparent reason: bullet proof turbans. The thing is, a few months ago I was actually wondering why there are bullet proof vests, but not much for the head. A bullet to the head will generally kill your or leave you a vegetable. There’s a slight chance of survival with getting hit to the chest at least.

So as I do whenever I’m bored or have a question without an answer, I went looking. The problem with bullet proof anything on the head is that it’s not enough. A helmet (or bullet proof turban) will only stop the bullet from penetrating your skull. The problem is, you will still be hit on the head by a high velocity object. When a bullet hits you in the chest – even if the bullet proof vest stops it – it still will leave a bruise or even break a few ribs. A bruise on the chest and broken ribs hurt. A bruise on the head and a fracture in the skull can be potentially lethal.

Currently, technology to create a functional bullet proof head covering does not really exist. The biggest problem is fighting the laws of physics, and we haven’t quite made it there yet.

But the day we do? I really do want to see bullet proof turbans.

I didn’t even know it was closed. I feel kind of silly for not knowing that for 8 years. I feel even sillier for feeling silly about not knowing about the status of a national landmark.

I have certain issues with baby names. As someone who has a strange, unpronounceable name that causes people to pause and stumble – or change into something else on the fly – I have gone through it all. There were many years in grade school that were spent using a different name just to stop the horrible butchering of my birth name.

So yes, I’m a big proponent of naming your children something that will not make you – or your kids – look back and cringe. I’m also a big proponent of both parents having to sign off on the name before it becomes official (if both parents are available) – that would have saved me a lot of name headaches.

I never understood naming your child after a political leader. What if they have different political views than you? What if the politician does something you would rather not have associated with your child? I also don’t understand giving your child a pop star’s name. There is even a greater chance of your child hating your – or the pop star – as they get older. Why torment the child?

And apparently, American baby names generally do agree with me. The top names are all easily pronounceable and don’t have definite ties to one specific person. Of course, there were a lot of Miley’s and Barack’s born this year. And Elvis’s. Let’s hope the children are fans?

I did find it interesting that while male names seem to not change much and stick to Biblical names, girl names are more likely to follow TV fads.

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