By Athena Madison
All I have ever wanted was to be adopted.
I have been in and out of the foster care system since I was eight years old. My mother passed away when I was seven and my father sulked in depression so much that he forgot he had kids and we became collateral damage. I became a mother to my siblings at a very young age. My whole life, I have been an adult. I never had a childhood nor was I ever given the chance to be a teenager; I was too busy fighting off the sexual advances of my father’s drunk friends.
I never had parents although I have always wanted some. I still want a family, but at the age of nineteen, no one will adopt me. Every adult that I have met has said, “I’d adopt you in a heartbeat” but no one has ever followed through. That was always the worst feeling –to give me a bright red balloon and then in that same second pop it.
When I was fourteen, my mentor seriously considered adopting me. I cried tears of joy thinking about that possibility, a home, warm meals and a bed –the kind of safety that said I was going to be okay. She researched the possibility and what it would entail. Unfortunately what she learned was she shouldn’t bother trying; she wouldn’t be allowed to adopt me because of her sexual orientation.
I felt the pain and she felt the pain. The tears, anger and frustration held me hostage when I realized I was being denied a happy home with the only person I had ever trusted. I was being denied of a better life, because of logic that was simply discriminatory. The injustice overwhelmed me. I mourned. I have since mourned the life I could have had.
This summer, I am one of 16 individuals participating in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship (FYI) program. As part of the program, we are asked to develop a Congressional report and propose a specific policy recommendation that would improve the child welfare system. I plan to present policy recommendations that remove barriers to individuals who are gay or lesbian adopting nationwide. No child should mourn a life they could have had.
This past Wednesday, the Supreme Court made a monumental step in the right direction when they struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. In doing so, they recognized a simple fact: that the law is meant to protect all people equally. I think that people who are gay and lesbian should have equal rights both as spouses and as parents.
There are thousands of gay and lesbian parents who provide safe and loving homes. Words will never truly explain how much I would have picked two loving mothers or two loving fathers over being homeless and without anyone to claim me as their own. I believe that there is not a child in this country that would say “Oh! Can I have that parent there? Yes, the straight one to your right.” No child would turn down the opportunity to have a family to call their own. It’s about time we had some change.
Athena is one of 16 Foster Youth Interns who will be presenting her policy recommendations at a Congressional briefing on Tuesday, July 30.