Anyone who has ever been a parent knows one true fact: raising kids is very, very difficult. Sure, there is love and joy and happiness, but mostly it’s an intense amount of work, frustration and expense. Still, we love our children and wouldn’t trade them for anything in that world, which makes all the sacrifice worth it. Yet there are some parents out there that find that even the basic pain and heartache of parenting their children is nothing in comparison to the extra burdens society is throwing in their way as well.
For immigrant parents, it’s often the hope of a better life for their family that brings them to the country. That hope is weighed against the risks they face coming to the United States, the biggest of which is being separated from their own children in the process. Al Jazeera looks at the plight of undocumented mothers in the country, deported away from their children, and the heartache that comes with the decision of whether to leave their children behind in a new life or bring them to what is essentially a foreign country for them just to keep the family together.
According to the report, some 5 million U.S. children have at least one undocumented parent. Should the parent be caught up in some sort of minor charge, deportation could mean a severing of the child from his or her parent, and instances of forced fostering or adoption even while the parent is still officially in the country hoping for a legal solution.
Losing children is a shockingly easy thing to have happen to a parent, and immigration issues aren’t solely to blame. A new investigation by ProPublica shows that parents who have had mental illness issues are having their children removed as a preventative measure, despite the parent not actually putting his or her child in any harm.
“Under a concept sometimes called ‘predictive neglect,’ Missouri and about 30 other states allow courts to terminate a parent’s connection to a child if authorities conclude a mother or father has a mental illness that renders them incapable of safely raising the child,” writes Seth Freed Wessler. “Officials usually must present evidence that the illness poses a threat. Most cases involve significant mental illness, not run-of-the-mill depression or anxiety. Yet there need be no evidence of actual harm or neglect, just a conclusion that there is a risk of it.”
That a person doesn’t have to actually cause harm, just have an illness that might lead to it, opens up an enormous opportunity for courts to decide to remove children with no set standard to adhere to, just one step above arbitrarily removing children from “flawed” parents to give to “good” parents to raise instead.
It’s an alarming precedent, especially as the definition of “good” varies so drastically. In the U.K., a Slovak Roma Catholic couple is suing the court for placing their children in an adoption with a same sex couple, saying that allowing them to be raised in by same sex parents goes against their religious beliefs since, “The children will not be able to be brought up in the Catholic faith because of the conflicts between Catholicism and homosexuality.” This is apparently harmful to their children, unlike the neglect and beatings that the birth parents administered that caused the court to terminate their parental rights.
Who is more likely to harm their child? The undocumented parent hoping for a new life with more opportunities for their family? The parent with a mental illness that hasn’t manifested into any dangerous, harmful acts against the child and is being monitored by medical professionals? Or the same sex couple who love each other and want to raise a family of their own?
Why are we working so hard to make it even more difficult for these people to parent?
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