Why Foster Care is Important to Pro-Life Work

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Foster Care family

May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and after spending nearly eight years in the Louisiana Foster Care System I understand personally how important both foster care and adoption are to the pro-life cause. I met my foster family at the young age of 16 months with nothing on but a scrappy stained shirt and holding an empty bottle. I was malnourished, a consequence of poverty, and sickly, a problem exasperated by a lack of medical care.

Thanks to my mother’s pro-life choice I was, indeed, alive when I made it into the arms of my foster family, but I was certainly not well. One could argue that my existence was stark, and change was unlikely given my mother’s prognosis; she suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, a complex psychosis characterized by delusions and hallucinations.

My birth mom had a fierce love for her kids but lacked the ability to mother, that is feed, clothe and protect us from peril. Danger was present within the four walls of our home from abusive members who were suffering from mental illness, addiction and familial trauma.

Barring a miracle, my life trajectory would head toward substance abuse, chronic health problems and severe psychotic episodes. This is not a theoretical assumption; it is a well established one since most children who experience childhood abuse in this capacity rarely make it out unscathed, or in some cases, even alive. Thankfully, though, I was granted a miracle.

I found retreat in foster care and was rescued from a different kind of death than the one abortion brings. Abortion ends a human life through the use of instruments, machines, or in some cases, medical negligence, while death following childhood trauma looks like starvation, death from untreated disease, and teenage overdoses and suicides.

The bottom line is both destroy the lives of innocent children, making it imperative that the pro-life community supports foster care and adoption initiatives in tandem with working to end abortion. If we strive to be completely pro-life we must understand that we cannot stop our work after abortion is prevented.

Rather, we need to remember that the child in the womb threatened by abortion and the one suffering from social problems are both victims of a similar predator, with one commonality being they are targeted due to their vulnerable place in humanity’s hierarchy. We protect them because they are exactly some of the most defenseless humans that exist among us.

Summer Update in Pictures

I have barely had a moment to breath this summer between speaking engagements, my work at Louisiana Right to Life and caring for Jesse solo as David was away for six weeks preparing for an upcoming examination. In May, I was honored to speak on a panel with The National Review Institute regarding foster care and my experience in the system in Louisiana as a young child. Click here to read an article about my story, which was published by my new friend Kathryn Jean Lopez.

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In June, I spoke at the National Right to Life Convention in Kansas City along side other abortion survivors and had the opportunity to share about the social dilemmas that sometimes accompany abortion decisions.

Then, last week, I traveled to D.C. again to share my story with the Archdiocese of Washington and on EWTN TV and radio. I plan to write more in depth about my experience there but until then, here is a picture.

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This summer my husband and I also celebrated his graduation from Loyola in New Orleans and our son’s first birthday in June. We are anticipating big changes in our lives as we embark on raising a toddler!

 

 

 

Reflection on Pope Francis’ Recent Exhortation

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Yesterday Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation in the papal document “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad).

Here’s a portion many Christians are referencing: “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”

He continued, “We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.”

Some see this as a rebuke to those prioritizing abortion over other social issues like poverty, but as a pro-life advocate I find the Pope’s words very encouraging. The problems he references are not in competition with one another, and although there are differences between taking a life through abortion or euthanasia and the suffering of humanity, the plight of the poor, victimized and marganilized is not one we can ever ignore. I would argue as he does, that the lives of the destitute are equally sacred to God.

I am thankful that my foster care family saw this reality and brought my birth family food and clothing on a regular basis fulfilling the biblical command to help the needy, which is referenced in scripture over 300 times. They heard Christ saying, “I thirst” not only in my life, and the lives of my siblings, but in the life of my birth mother, a hispanic mentally ill woman who some would consider beyond hope.

The injustices of our day, such as discrimination both casual and conscious, income inequalities in America and abroad, and the plight of refugees seeking asylum break the heart of God. No doubt, abortion and euthanasia does the same. I love how the Pontiff put it back in 2015: “The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature. At stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters.”

My Encounter with the Suffering Servant: What Good Friday Means to Me

Good Friday is one of the most sacred days for Christians because it is the day we remember and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. For me personally, it has special significance because I found comfort as a child, and now as an adult, in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

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Many people ask me how I survived psychologically with the events of my childhood; the affliction, abandonment and abuse. My only answer for them is Christ, both directly and from the hands and feet of people He brought in my life. At the tender age of five years old, I met Jesus on the filthy cold floor of my childhood home. He came to me as the Suffering Servant who was intimately familiar with pain, specifically the pain I was experiencing.

Prior to my encounter with Christ, I was blessed to hear the Gospel at church and make a simple decision in my heart to consider Jesus.  I learned that “God so loved the world that He gave up His only son so that WHOEVER believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” I learned that He did this for me, a child who felt forgotten and entangled in the depths of human depravity.

I sometimes hear from other Christians that children, especially young children, don’t have the capacity to understand the Gospel.  However, after four years of Bible college, I can assure you that even as an adult I have not come (even close) to a full understanding of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Of course, as a child I didn’t understand the Gospel as I do now, but I would argue He was closer to me than ever because of the condition of my heart.

In college, I wrote a paper on the beatitudes found in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the verse “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” I learned that this is not only referring to those who are economically poor, which I was, but also the disposition of one’s heart. As a child, my heart was full of despair brought on by my own family, and I knew I needed miraculous intervention to survive.

I was emotionally vulnerable from the neglect of my mother, physically vulnerable from a lack of nutrition and abuse by my brothers, all conditions that ultimately made my soul spiritually desperate for the need of a Savior. To this day, I believe with all my heart that even the smallest response to the Gospel can save a life as it did mine.

Like My Birth Mother, My Adopted Mom Had An Abortion Too

I often get the opportunity to share my adoptive mom’s story whenever I share my own. This is because I’ve known about her choice to end the life of her unborn baby since I was a child. She, like many women, pursed abortion at the age of 27 after her boyfriend showed little interest in having a baby and starting a family. Tragically, this was her only pregnancy, and now she speaks openly against abortion as the regional coordinator for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

Her story points to a reality many ignore, which is the majority of abortions that take place do so following some form of coercion, that is influence and pressure from a partner, parent or loved one. This means that women are not making the decision to abort because it is actually what they want for their baby; they are having abortions because people in their lives are encouraging them to do so.

Coercion can be subtle or it can be more serious and include threats or force. Either way, women deserve better than a society that tells them their best option for their future includes aborting their innocent baby. For my birth mother and my adoptive mother, abortion wreaked havoc on their lives, and during my birth mother’s time on Earth my adopted mother encouraged her to seek healing. This was because not only did she pursue abortion with me, she had them in the past and always regretted her choices. Although she is not alive anymore, I know she has found eternal healing that only God can provide. 

For my adoptive mother, I am amazed at how much God has healed and brought restoration in her life. I will never replace the baby she aborted, but God in his goodness granted her the chance to be a mother, and now even a grandmother. On a daily basis, I get to watch how God blesses her with the gift of my son, Jesse. There are simply no words to describe the amazing grace of God, so instead I will give you a glimpse of it in the pictures below. 

 

 

Becoming a Mother Changed My Perspective On My Own Adoption

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In June of last year, my husband and I welcomed our first child, Jesse into our family. We loved him immediately. We knew he would get plenty of attention because his grandparents, my adoptive parents, were counting down the days until his birth. They came with us to the hospital and my mom stayed with us overnight the first fews days after he was born.

Those early days of motherhood were challenging, and becoming a mother for the first time made me think about life and adoption completely differently. Like many women, I was emotional after my son’s birth but I also was processing what it must have been like for my birth mother to have me and then lose me, and not by her own choosing. I considered with brand new eyes how devastating that must have been while also realizing that adoption was the only road for me. Of course, I already knew that before my son’s birth but becoming a parent confirmed it even more.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 10.39.31 AMMy mother’s mental health prohibited her from being the mom she wanted to be. She loved us deeply yet couldn’t manage to do some of the basics of motherhood, like protect us from abuse or provide a safe home. I have long reconciled that reality in my heart, which is why I can say with certanity that foster care and adoption saved my life.

This, however, does not make my birth mother a bad person. I would even say she is stronger than me in many ways after considering what it must have been like to walk in her shoes. She did not have privilege like me. She was a poor minority woman with six children, yet she chose life for me in the end. Isn’t that what really matters? Choosing life at the end. For me, that singular choice has helped me forgive her for areas where she fell short as a mother. I am thankful that she is with Jesus now, where I know she is finally free.

Learning About Food From My Son

FullSizeRender-3My son started trying grown up food recently, you know the kind that isn’t pureed in one of those fancy baby bullets. He loves shredded chicken, sweet potato and about every single fruit you can imagine. It’s amazing watching him discover tastes, textures and chewing for the first time; but I have to be honest, I’m kind of jealous of him. He is learning about food in a way I never did.

Food for my little person is everything that it should be. It’s both satisfying and surprising, nutritious and necessary for his development. Food doesn’t need to consume his mind because he’s never experienced a lack of it. He doesn’t know what it is like to go hungry, which by the way is how it should be for every child. He’s brand new here and the first encounters he’s had with food haven’t been restrictive. I simply can’t imagine that.

In my family of origin, we fought over food probably more than anything else. Food was both all we ever thought about and what drove some of my sibilings to desperate measures to get it. To get nutrition, we scraped for discarded food, ate rodents and stole from the outside world. Even worse, we stole from each other and some saw violence as the only way to supply what was needed most: nutrition. The one way in which we were fortunate was that the state and generous individuals provided food for us from time to time. It wasn’t consistent so that luxury backfired often by enticing us more, and reminding us of our need.

Severe hunger, unfortunately, can drive a person crazy, especially combined with parental neglect, abuse and sleep depravation. For me personally, and for most people who experience this cocktail of depravity,  the ramifications of it are long-lasting, and for others even deadly. I am incredibly thankful that I do not have to scrap for food anymore, however, the effects of it still show up in my life. My body is reminded of it when I wake up in the morning some days, when I miss a meal or even when I get one, because feeling full still seems wrong. It still seems like I don’t deserve it.

Then, there are other moments when I’m reminded of the consequences of too much food, or at least the consequences I saw in the four walls of my child-home. Food meant my family, people I loved, would abuse me. We would physically fight for it and they would win. Food meant hurtful words about my image, hurtful words about what I needed to survive. It’s hard to use this food formula in life now because this is what I learned; if I needed food I would provoke violence, if I received food it was wrong even if it was “well-earned”.  And by well earned, I mean sometimes when I would get it, it was because I would comply with abuse.

Fortunately, not every encounter I have with food now is this way, only because of God’s great grace. I’ve been healing and forgiving for years, and will likely continue to do so. Amazingly, one great gift I’ve received as a mother is learning about food from my son. The gift of his life has allowed me to glean new thoughts about it, and see it innocently through his eyes with no strings attached. God’s grace, isn’t it amazing? Somehow, He is still repairing what was stolen from me decades ago through the life of my own child.