Friends suggested I listen to the NPR show (March 2014), This American Life, to see what I think about parents who suffered while raising really challenging children.
The one I want to comment on is Act Four. Producer Sean Cole tells the story of a former foster kid who was finally adopted in his mid-30’s, and the reason he was taken away from the foster family he loved more than 20 years ago.
The story is about Lisa and Charles Harris who had biological children and decided to become foster parents. They wanted to adopt a boy named Maurice, but something happened that caused great suffering for all of them.
Lisa and Charles valued spanking as a form of discipline for their children, but couldn’t spank Maurice since it’s against California Law for foster parents to spank. Maurice wanted to be spanked so that he could be like the other boys in the family. Both parents felt strongly that it was important to spank children (especially boys) to help him make it in the world.
As you listen you will hear what happens when the Social Worker finds out that the Harris’s used corporal punishment with their foster child. Maurice didn’t like the non-spanking punishments (they took a long time) and he felt that not getting a spanking set him apart from his brothers. Also, for reasons I didn’t follow in the podcast, Maurice didn’t get to do some of the fun things that the other boys did. Perhaps it was a part of his punishment.
What I also don’t understand is why these parents couldn’t/wouldn’t change their discipline approach and not spank any of the kids? To help Maurice feel like part of the family, they could have used similar non-physical punishment for all of the kids. Yes, I know that the majority of parents in the U.S. think spanking is an acceptable form of discipline, but if you were going to lose your child, would you stop?
Lisa and Charles lost the chance to adopt a child who loved them and who they loved. So this child, who hungered for a real home, was bounced around for years from foster home to foster home, and couldn’t be with the family he had come to love.
Why in the world didn’t the Child Protective Services work with Lisa and Charles to help them develop a discipline system that could work for all the kids??? Why couldn’t they see that what they were doing to protect this child would hurt him. These parents were not willing to stop spanking and they didn’t want to lie. They wouldn’t change their mind. Would they have if someone with compassion and patience was on their side?
We need systems that help parents and children, not punish them when they need more support, training, and a little compassion.
Listen to the show and tell me what you think.
“World Peace Begins At Home”