From white to black

Sarah Valentine as a girl, with her two brothers.

Raised in a white family, Sarah Valentine was told her “olive” skin color came from her Italian-American mother, who denied she was adopted. As an adult, she learned her biological father was black. “I began the difficult process of changing my identity from white to black,” she writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Coming out” as black cost me my relationship with my mother and some of my closest friends. It cleaved my sense of self in two.

. . . “You’re making a big deal out of nothing,” my mother said when I tried to impress on her the seriousness of what I was going through. “It’s only important if you choose to make it important.”

. . . In my family, it was understood, even if it was never directly stated, that only people of color “had” race; whites were just people.

Valentine is now an English professor.

I think anyone who discovered they were adopted at 27 would have identity issues.

I know a man who refuses to identify by race or ethnicity because it would deny the importance of his adoptive parents. Of course, they didn’t lie to him.

End welfare — but what about the kids?

Abolish cash welfare, food and housing aid, except for the elderly and disabled, writes Peter Cove, founder of America Works, in What I Learned in the Poverty War in City Journal.  We need to “move from a dependency culture to one of work-first,” writes Cove, whose company trains “the supposedly unemployable” for jobs.

The federal government would use the huge savings from eliminating welfare to create or subsidize private-sector jobs, sending money to companies to reduce the cost of hiring and paying new workers. The government could also create programs similar to those run by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, paying workers to build parks, refurbish bridges, clean streets, and so forth. The workers’ wages would pay for the basics—food, clothing, and shelter.

But once we dismantle cash welfare and other forms of aid and offer paying jobs in their place, what about the children of those few people who simply refuse to work? I think that we should seriously contemplate removing these unfortunate children from their irresponsible parents. Under current child-welfare laws, social-services agencies can already take kids away from their parents if their home environment is unsafe. Is it so extreme to extend that policy to homes ruined by willful poverty and neglect? I concede that the alternatives here are not pretty; government-regulated foster care, in particular, has its own risks of abuse. Adoption, however, works fairly well in most of the country. Another solution would be the establishment of government-funded institutions, operated by voluntary and religious nonprofits, to care for the children.

It’s time to think the unthinkable, writes Cove.

When I was reporting on welfare reform, every recipient I met said she wanted to work, if she get safe, reliable child care. My colleagues and I followed five welfare families. All found jobs. Only one quit — the one raised in a middle-class family. She got kicked out of a housing program too for refusing to make an effort to get off welfare. Her child wasn’t doing well. If she’d lost custody, her parents could have taken the child and tried to do a better job the second time around.

Judges redefine parenthood

California courts are redefining who counts as a parent, reports the Sacramento Bee. A woman who never adopted her ex-girlfriend’s children was declared a co-parent by a Sacramento appeals court because she “acted like one – providing for them financially, cleaning up after them when they got sick, and volunteering at their school.”

As a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, the woman couldn’t have adopted the children without risking expulsion from the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the court ruled.

In recent years, courts have assigned parental rights and responsibilities to adults who aren’t biological or adoptive parents, said McGeorge School of Law Professor Larry Levine.

“The state has a great interest in having those who want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood,” he said. “That’s true for straight and gay couples.”

“Now the courts are starting to ask, ‘Who do these children think their parents are?'” said Deborah Wald, who handled S.Y.’s case at the appellate level. “Courts aren’t willing to take children away from people whom they rely upon.”

S.B.’s lawyer, Elizabeth Niemi warned single parents to “be careful about who you allow to have a relationship with your kids.”

Old parents

Is it OK to be pregnant at 53? New York Magazine looks at Parents of a Certain Age.

Births are booming to women 45 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Affluent women in their 50s are using donor eggs to give birth.

Nearly a quarter of adopted children in the U.S. have parents who are 45 and older.

“Since 2008, birthrates among women overall have declined 4 percent, as families put childbearing on hold while they ride out hard times. But among women over 40, birthrates have increased. Among women ages 45 to 49, they’ve risen 17 percent.”