The Boy Who Had No Home

My heart is very sad as I consider the situation of a little three-year old boy. He is unaware of his position and that is some mercy, but he will continue to grow and come to realize what we adults who are familiar with his history already know: he is a boy without a home, and he is only a microcosm of a much larger problem.

His story is sadly familiar; his mother is addicted to drugs and has been in and out of rehab centers, his father has been in and out of jail and charged with domestic abuse. His paternal grandparents are somewhat available, but are caretakers to their son when he gets released from prison, which means they cannot be legal caretakers of their grandson. His maternal grandparents are neither willing nor able. Extended family members who are reluctant though willing, are not able due to financial and health limitations. And so, it looks as if this little guy will have to go into the state’s foster care system like so many others.

I don’t really know much about foster care and maybe I have the wrong impression. I know there are good families and bad ones, the same as anywhere else. I believe children tend to get bounced around from home to home, which is not ideal but is the same as this boy’s current situation. I fear how the instability of this kind of care will affect this little boy. I fear that as he grows up he will be filled with resentment and anger and hurt and loneliness, and that these will cause him to become one more casualty of risky behaviors. Or maybe not. Perhaps he will be adopted, though I understand adoptions are somewhat rare for non-infants. Do my readers have any insights into foster care?

I am frustrated that there seems to be no “best” answer to this multifaceted problem, but here is at least one proposition I am interested in hearing your opinions on: should American laws force sterilization for convicted drug offenders? For convicted offenders in general? Why or why not? Would this infringe on a basic human right to procreate? Is procreation a basic human right? Why or why not? Would this really solve or begin to solve, or even put a dent in the heartbreaking problem of lost little boys and girls? What can the Christian church do to help these kids? What are your thoughts?

7 comments

  1. handselkoan

    There’s a simple, short answer to whether or not habitual criminals or convicts can be legally sterilized: no. Morally, it’s presumptuous of us to impose such a procedure on others, both because of their own free will and the face we don’t know the future. We have no right to decide for another who should live or never exist. The morality of this question is ambiguous and could curtail valid rights of those who reform and continue to live better than they may have once. If a repeat drug offender shapes up, he or she has every moral right to have children then. By then, though, it is too late if this–what, punishment or preventative measure?–is undertaken.

    Constitutionally speaking, there would be few justifications for forced sterilization, and according to modern American law, even the mentally disabled are legally beyond this measure (though that has not always been the case). It’s a terrible situation, but preventing it entirely by deciding for another person with rights what they are allowed to do exceeds ours. If sterilization was allowed for criminal offense and not public health, we can be sure this federal government would make its own definitions of what medical procedures are necessary for its “citizens” with any form of criminal record. Who could stop it then?

    You could make the argument for public welfare being drained by the situations where the state pays for neglected children. But it is a difficult one. I don’t know enough about foster care or dynamics at play to make an effective position one way or another on that one.

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    • L. Lawrence

      You make some good points. Just to play Devil’s Advocate…someone who has been convicted and jailed has lost a great deal of their rights because they chose to harm others. Is it truly wrong then, to prevent them from harming more people in the future? By breaking laws and hurting others, they have forfeited their rights, which is why we arrest people in the first place. In a sense, haven’t they lost their right to procreate just by being in jail (albeit this is usually temporary)? Jails are consistently overcrowded and some inmates are being set free early, not because they have served their just time.

      Is there a time for such a preventative measure/punishment? For example, if a person has been in and out of jail multiple times? I would not compare this to the mentally disabled, because they are naturally disadvantaged, and have committed no crime, unlike those in jail.

      I guess this argument could also overlap into the idea of castrating sex offenders…It is a difficult situation indeed, but I am not really thinking about who pays for these children, but what kind of life they will have. You are correct, that no one knows the future. My heart breaks for these little ones.

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      • handselkoan

        Your response is well-reasoned. A comparison between convicts and the mentally-challenged is unfair, true, but it was the only example I could think of, and yes, convicts do lose rights already when jailed. I can’t say I would dispute some protocol for repeat criminal offenders of certain types to be prevented from causing economic drain and emotional neglect on society, either. It is true, they are prevented from procreation at least while incarcerated in most cases. So in effect, the basis for this sterilization measure is already there. I would just be VERY careful about the legislation any such law would include. The United States federal government would be the authority on this matter–since it would fall under a First Article right, like abortion is–and this government exceeds authority every chance it gets, especially with the First Article.

        That said, there is a certainty such measures would be put in place when the population of any country becomes more than the system can support. China banned multiple children for decades because of that, under threat of legal punishment. The U. S. is sure to do something similar, and likely to convicts first, if our population gets too big.

        Sorry my input is not much of a solution, but such is life when the thoughtless act and leave the consequences for others. It is just a tragic situation all around.

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        • L. Lawrence

          Hi handselkoan,

          Sorry for the late response, I have been traveling. You are right that this could, perhaps very easily, become a means of controlling law-abiding citizens as well as law-breaking ones. And I agree that it is something to very carefully consider. Would it be an issue of law or an issue of judicial decree? No, you are right, it would have to be a law.

          I do not feel I have much of a solution either, and I agree, “such is life when the thoughtless act and leave the consequences for others. It is just a tragic situation all around.” I suppose the real question is, is there anything more that morally can be done, or are we already doing everything that ethics calls for? Is it more unethical to sterilize convicts, or to see their children in foster care? Or is that a false dichotomy?

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          • handselkoan

            That probably demands a different situation. If we reach a point in the United States when population density demands something like limiting family size, sterilizing convicts may be the lesser of two evils. For now, I think we’ve gone as far as ethics allows. But you know any moral answer is only moral within the scope of those making any such choice. We can’t speak for societies at that point with any certainty–it isn’t us. At least not yet.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Ryan

    This is a very hard topic to come to an absolute conclusion on. On the one hand you don’t want people who can’t even take care of themselves procreating and having these beautiful children come into the world only to have no one but the state to take care of them. On the other hand where is the line on what the government can mandate on what happens to people through sentencing for a given offense or multiple occurrences of an offense.
    Is it a human right to procreate? Well, I don’t know. There was an article about this woman who was paying people to get sterilized who were addicts or multiple offenders. Not sure if it is the same people as the article I read once, but there is http://www.projectprevention.org/ that: “offers cash incentives to women and men addicted to drugs and/or alcohol to use long term or permanent birth control.” At least in this case it is a choice and they are getting something for it.
    I have a feeling that forcing this upon people, even if they are long term criminals or habitual drug users, would have people crying that this would constitute cruel and unusual punishment and should not be allowed. I could see that standing and this not being allowed for that reason. Unfortunately, thinking of the long term consequences of their actions isn’t obviously high on these people’s priority list and children will continue to be brought into the world who no one can really care for the way they deserve to be cared for.
    As for Christians, well, there is a lot more they could do to help this situation. I know it isn’t everyone who doesn’t try, but I know a number of Christians who have adopted or are trying to adopt and they all are, or have been, put on a waiting list because they only want a newborn. This is their choice, but there are many many other kids looking for a permanent home who wouldn’t require any waiting list and would love to be given the same love. I’m sure many of them have some “baggage” from their past but as Christians we are called to help those in need, and I know these kids in foster care and looking to be adopted are in need.

    I leave with this, a very neat family. Not to shame anyone but just as, I hope, an inspiration:

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    • L. Lawrence

      What a unique and special family! Thank you for sharing that video. I am trying to view this in terms of both morals and responsibility. If my child misuses a toy, for example, I take it away for a time. If they continue to abuse it, I eventually take the toy away for good so that another child has the chance to enjoy it, rather than allowing my child to destroy it. This is obviously on a much more serious level, but when are we going to finally begin to insist people take responsibility for their behavior?

      Like

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